Lee Willis, a courageous survivor, told a sad tale of being abused by his father and later by day-care workers. They were only the first. Until he was 16, he was molested many times.
He wrote this (and I have his permission to quote it): "Once we're abused, it seems that we wear the mark for other perps to see." His comments make it clear that something happens when we're abused—something that preying individuals sense, even if family members or friends don't.
I gained insight on that recently while I was working on Stolen: The True Story of a Sex Trafficking Survivor, a book with Katariina Rosenblatt on human trafficking. Kat escaped from traffickers three times and now works with federal authorities to help other girls and boys, who are victimized as she was.
In relating the account of her first traffickers, Kat had been molested by her father and sexually abused by older children. She was recruited by a woman named Mary who befriended her.
Looking back, I now know she chose me even before she talked to me. I'm sure she spotted the longing in my eyes and the loneliness that I projected out of my hurts and agony. As I would learn later, when we're chosen, they watch us before they target us. They especially seek the lonely and abused children who display their vulnerability by the way they walk, their clothes, general demeanor, or the helplessness in their eyes. They sense their lack of family support or their susceptibility. Only later could I see that my own identity was fragile and distorted. Then I would realize she had chosen me because she knew I was defenseless and lonely.So, yes, Lee, we were marked—and vigilant perps watched us and they knew. But as we heal, those markings disappear. They're replaced by our inner peace, self-assurance, and the knowledge that we're no longer "just survivors." We are overcoming the pain of our childhood. And most of all, we finally like ourselves.