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Holli Marshall & Niki Delson on "Survivors of Sexual Abuse", Online Conference Transcript

Bob M is Bob McMillan, editor of the online magazine CCI Journal at Concerned Counseling.
Holli Marshall: Is a sexual abuse survivor.
Niki Delson: Licensed Clinical Social Worker specializing in treatment of children and adult survivors of sexual abuse. Her website is here.
The people color-coded in blue are audience members who had questions.


Bob M: Good evening everyone. Our guest is here, so we are ready to begin. Our topic tonight is Adult Survivors of child abuse. Our first guest is Holli Marshall.. You may have seen her site entitled "Holli's Triumph Over Tragedy". Holli endured many years of abuse and fortunately sought out treatment and according to her she has made a significant and successful effort towards recovery. Our second guest tonight, coming in about 50 minutes, will be Niki Delson, LCSW, who works with survivors of abuse. In fact, I believe that constitutes almost her entire practice. So again, I want to welcome everyone to the Concerned Counseling website and say good evening to our first guest, Holli Marshall.

Holli Marshall: Thank you Bob. Good evening everyone. I'm glad to be here tonight and thank you for the invitation. I'm appreciate the opportunity to share my story and to hopefully let everyone know that you can recover and lead a reasonably happy life.

Bob M: Thanks Holli. Can you start off by telling us a bit about yourself and give us some background on the abuse you have suffered?

Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse conference on child abuse and sexual abuse issues, treatment. Transcript.Holli Marshall: I'm 27 years old. Obviously I'm female. I'm disabled because of the abuse. Before I became disabled, I was a professional television engineer. I live in Minnesota now. At 5 years old I was raped by an 18 year old male babysitter. Since then, in separate incidents, I was abused, raped, and incested by my brother and several neighborhood boys. This happened between the ages of 5-13. My mother has dissociative identity disorder (DID). She was physically, emotionally and verbally abusive to me while I was growing up. My mother constantly tried to commit suicide. So, she couldn't take care of me, much less herself. I'd go days without food, having my clothes changed, and without being held or nurtured. My father was an alcoholic and verbally abusive. My sister, used to be a drug addict and ran away when I was very young, so I don't know much about her. So you can imagine, to sum it up, I had a nightmare of a childhood.

Bob M: Holli, you mentioned that you are now disabled. In what way?

Holli Marshall: I have stickler's syndrome. It's a tissue disorder. I was born with a cleft pallet. I am deaf because of the abuse I sustained. I also have had to go through many types of physical therapies because my bones aren't healthy. In addition, I became anorexic because I felt I needed to be fit and perfect in order to be loved.

Bob M: So, your earlier life was horrific and you live daily with the reminders of your abuse. Initially, as a teenager, how did you deal with all this?

Holli Marshall: I think I went "out of my head"...or I would've gone mad. Listening to music was very important. Being involved in track. And because there was simply no way out, suicide wasn't a choice or option, I just had to deal with it. So mentally, I tried to "step outside" of my reality. My diagnosis is post-traumatic stress disorder (ptsd). It's as if I've been through the Viet Nam war and I experienced all the symptoms of ptsd. For instance, I had nightmares, flashbacks, hot and cold sweats, anorexia, abdominal distress, stomach pain, migraines and I'm a very nervous and anxious person.

Bob M: For those of you just entering, we are speaking with Holli Marshall, from the website "Triumph over Tragedy", about her experiences with abuse and how she has dealt with it. In about 30 minutes, our next guest, Niki Delson, licensed clinical social worker, will be along to give us her professional insight into abuse issues. Most of her practice consists of working with survivors. We will be taking questions for our guest in 5 minutes. Holli, can you tell us a bit about the treatment you have received over the years and how effective was it?

Holli Marshall: I've been through "talk" therapy, doing some hypnosis, meditation, relaxation and breathing techniques. I've also been put on medications, prozac, klonopin, vistoril. All have been very helpful combined together. I also have a wonderful psychologist who specializes in working with those with post-traumatic stress disorder (ptsd). The therapy, the healing process, creates safety about you and teaches you how to create a support system. You learn how to cope, nurture yourself, build self-esteem and confidence, build better relationships and boundaries within those relationships. You learn how to live with the feeling of "impending doom". Basically you learn to live a better quality of life. It's the quality that counts. I AM NOT A VICTIM. I AM A SURVIVOR!! It's the empowerment. And I like living my life that way, rather than considering myself a victim.

Bob M: How many years of therapy did it take to reach this point? And are you still in therapy?

Holli Marshall: I started 5 years ago and I'm still going.

Bob M: And would you say that you are "recovered" now? And could you have done this on your own without professional help?

Holli Marshall: I would say that I am deep into the recovery stage, but not done. Probably a few more years to go. It's hard to reverse 20 years of abuse and neglect overnight. I could not have done this, or gotten as far as I am now, without professional help. I strongly believe people have to talk to one and other, and be heard, to aid in the recovery and to heal.