Conquering Incest: My Life as a Trauma Survivor is a candid description of the sheer agony that victims undergo as a result of familial rape and trauma. Ms. Champé's book brings to light the victim's struggles by writing from the perspective of the broken child whose emotional state crumbles in her adult years. She also backdrops her book with her family's success; the face shown to the public can be very different from the internal dysfunctional truth. In doing so, she debunks the myth that highly successful people cannot be child abusers. Ms. Champé also demonstrates how child abuse is a systemic problem in families that can exist for generations. Her tenacity is commendable in winning a lawsuit against a Fortune 20 Company for mental distress under the Americans With Disabilities Act. Her story provides new understanding into the struggles of adult survivors that will hopefully open the channels of communication in this field.
The bottom line is until the sacrosanct belief in the “right” to parent children without any training, oversight, or accountability is challenged and changed, America will continue to grow homegrown domestic terrorists, who in turn will go on inflicting physical, emotional, mental, and sexual abuse on millions of innocent children every year. Their silent partners – the ones who are aware of the abuse but don’t report it or stop it – are just as guilty.
Ms. Champé’s fight will continue until our country steps up to this insidious behavior and puts an end to it.
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Incest Survivor Speaks Out
Conquering Incest is the saga of my recovery from child abuse and neglect that I suffered at the hands of my parents from 1947 to 1968, the first 21 years of my life. I was their captive for 7,665 days before I left home on my wedding day. My childhood and adolescence became consumed by my attempts to understand what I had done wrong.
When I left home, not having figured out the reason for their behavior, I thought I could put everything behind me and begin an entirely new life. I had no way of knowing how far-reaching the effects of their abuse would be. My parents’ psychological torture set the stage for the rest of my life since they had brainwashed me into believing I was only allowed to act and think in a certain way.
The Fortune 20 Company I started working for in 1965 had very clear methods to follow. Having been indoctrinated from birth not to disobey any rules, I performed my professional duties in an outstanding manner.
Because my psychological programming as I grew up was reinforced by violence, my behavior in my marriage and during most of my career was that of a robot, dutifully performing my required functions in life without questioning what I wanted or desired. My parents had been successful in not allowing me to grow emotionally or intellectually beyond the decision-making capacity of a child. Whatever my controlling husband or demanding supervisors asked became my immediate goal.
I self-managed (as so many other survivors do) by splitting off all my rage and most of my emotions. I was totally focused outward on excelling at work and exercised iron-clad control over my feelings. I had told myself that my parents could beat me, put me down, and even rape me, but they would never break me. I had no idea, however, how much damage they had actually done.
I worked diligently and within 12 years rose from one of the lowest jobs in the corporation to a management position. My marriage and quality of life improved greatly, and I thought I had successfully separated from my parents.
I was thriving for the first time in my life.
By 1979 I realized my husband’s behavior was not normal. I began challenging his perceptions of household duties and intimacy issues. On the outside, we seemed like the perfect couple. At 32-years-old we had a nice home; I was flying all over the country on business and stayed in the best hotels. What people didn’t see was my marriage was in shambles.
I began therapy in 1981 hoping to get answers about how to make my marriage work and to deal with my abuse history. I had no idea what to expect. I thought it was a place where I could talk to an objective person about my problems, and we would come up with some solutions. I had no idea my past was totally intertwined with the present. I was also completely unaware that I had survived by developing about 20 personalities/alters.
I did not understand the concept of “psychological” work, nor did I realize the therapy process would center around my capacity to challenge and to be challenged, to be able to struggle with and to alter my entire belief system.
Even though the stress of my marital problems and intensive therapy presented monumental challenges, I continued working in an outstanding manner, and within only seven years, I was in an upper management position.
Despite my valiant struggles to hold my life together, I experienced several new traumas, and the pain and rage from my child abuse burst into my consciousness. In the process, my entire world fell apart. I ended up spending 23 years in therapy and was hospitalized five times.
Without a doubt, the greatest asset I had during my healing process was the unrelenting dedication of my psychologically healthy therapist. One of the most crucial aspects of my recovery was her modeling of appropriate behavior all along the way. The whole time I grew up, I kept thinking, I don’t know what I am supposed to do.
By the way, my doctor took care of her own needs she helped me learn the importance of appropriate self-care. She acknowledged when she was tired, mistaken, frustrated, and even when she needed to take a break. She helped me learn to pace myself with the traumatic material and recollections, and to turn my attention to other aspects of my life to gain sustenance, rather than focusing all of my energy on the past.
With the long exposure to corrective modeling with the same therapist, my comfortable lifestyle, and my capacity to integrate all the behaviors I had been taught, I was able to work through my enormous trauma.
Even with all the support, extensive therapy and financial resources, I was 50-years-old before I stopped feeling the threat of being psychologically annihilated, a growing fear that if I followed my own conscience and spoke up about what I didn’t like, my mind would completely shatter into total oblivion. It was not until I was 55-years-old that I finally stopped seeing the world through the eyes of a traumatized child.
My traumatic experiences had affected my entire life. Each and every incident of my parents’ abuse contributed to how I viewed other people’s behavior and how I felt about myself.
I wrote Conquering Incest to show the patterns of inter-generational abuse, the struggle to overcome the long-term impact of psychological torture, the lengths families will go to in hiding the secret, and the complete frustration survivors feel each time we confront what I call society’s “brick wall of denial.”
Through my experiences, people will see why child abuse and neglect is so destructive and the sheer perseverance it takes to separate the truth from distortions. Conquering Incest conveys my history and the successful recovery process we used to overcome all the obstacles and to give hope to other child abuse survivors. I believe the hardest thing to do in life is to look at reality and then do something about it. This book is my way of doing just that.
Your determination to stop this madness is what is needed. Our website www.edcinstitute.org will provide you more information about our work and has a section where you can contact us for further information.
About the Author
Diane Champé is retired from a Fortune 20 company where she was a Marketing/Sales Strategic Planner on the Regional Vice President’s staff. She is a Subject Matter Expert (S.M.E.) on issues relating to child abuse and neglect. As a survivor herself, she dedicates her efforts toward working on behalf of adult survivors, publishing books/information and speaking publicly about the long-term effects of child abuse and neglect. Ms. Champé’s nonprofit, the E Diane Champé Institute, will begin providing services in Baltimore, MD this year with a mission to provide survivors a safe haven, education, training and resources. Conquering Incest is available at Amazon Books.
This is an early release article that is part of Volume 5, Issue 1, Summer 2016 of Cancer InCytes Magazine.