Inspiration March 22, 2017
Stories of girls being sexually abused by male relatives are sadly all too common. But on some occasions the predator in the family can even turn out to be that most trusted confidant of all – the mother.
That was the case for Nikki DuBose who carries mental scars from the trauma of her own late mother sexually abusing her for several years. Now an activist and author, the 31-year-old ex-model is bravely sharing her story with ENTITY.
ENTITY: Do people assume that because someone is a woman she is not capable of such abuse?
ND: Sure. That’s all the more reason why it’s critical to speak out and educate that child sexual abuse happens anytime and anywhere. A child predator can be a father, family friend, babysitter, uncle, aunt…or mother.
ENTITY: Was there a mode of manipulation your mother, Sandra, used to bind you to her actions?
ND: It started with me taking baths. When I was around eight or nine, my mom would (as she called it) ‘take my temperature’ a lot in the bathroom. There were other things that happened. Her sexual behavior escalated until I was 13. It was a very confusing time for me.
ENTITY: How did you cope with the trauma at the time?
ND: I didn’t understand what was happening at first. I escaped into an idyllic fantasy world to relieve the pain. I suppressed those memories of the sexual abuse for many, many years. They created a negative cycle in my life. I developed eating disorders, depression, self-harm tendencies, addictions, psychosis and so forth.
ENTITY: When you came to grips with the abuse you suffered as a child, how difficult was it explaining to others that the predator was the mother who had raised you since divorcing your father?
ND: When I first realized my mother had sexually abused me, I felt shame. Telling people didn’t feel good at all. But the more I’ve spoken out since, the more I see others are being helped.
ENTITY: Did people believe you?
ND: Most people have believed me and if some don’t, I don’t care. The larger issue I’ve encountered, with my story and other cases of child sexual abuse, is the denial and silence. People get uncomfortable. Some in my family haven’t ever even talked about the abuse with me even though I help other people publicly. Silence and denial is a serious problem in our society and it starts at home.
ENTITY: How can we help other women that are suffering the same fate?
ND: Please reach out to someone you trust and disclose the abuse. Speaking also with a trained therapist is very important as they understand the particular needs of an individual who has been traumatized. It wasn’t until I went through recovery at 27 that I finally was even able to recognize the scope of my abuse, and then start seeing professionals who could help me. You can also visit peacefulheartsfoundation.org and get help. It will always get better.
ENTITY: Your posed for Vogue, Maxim, Vanity Fair and many others, why did you want to be a model?
ND: Because I had a huge hole inside, and modeling was a way to gain attention and acceptance and hopefully fill that hole. The abuse I suffered as a child had really left scars, and I was looking for a way to feel beautiful.
ENTITY: You’ve said the pressure to look beautiful drove you to anorexia, how bad did things get?
ND: At times I struggled to survive, beginning to abuse diet pills as a way to achieve the figure that my agents were pushing me to have for fashion shoots.
ENTITY: How easy was it to walk away from the modeling industry?
ND: It was one of the hardest things I have ever done because it was an identity for me. Our careers are often what defines us, and for me, that was definitely the case. When I left the fashion business, I left what I thought was my life, but little did I know that my life was just beginning.
ENTITY: When women see pictures of flawless models, what would you like them to know?
ND: The modeling industry is a business. Period. You are always looking at an image meant to sell you something. Always remember, the photo does not reflect reality. There is a lot of photo shopping. Do not idolize a model, celebrity or image. Look inside and harness your own talents.
ENTITY: A big part of anorexia is about keeping secrets. So how challenging was it to open up about having suffered with that eating disorder?
ND: For most of my life I was addicted to it and wanted to hide it at all costs. I could feel myself dying but I couldn’t break out of the prison that I was in. I knew that I had to come clean about my eating disorder because I wasn’t going to live if I didn’t. In 2012, when I finally quit modeling and came out about my eating disorder, it was very scary but I had to “let go.”
ENTITY: How exactly did you abuse diet pills and other methods to lose weight?
ND: Let’s just say that I was a very sick person and abused any method I could. Now I don’t care how much I weigh. I live my life based around my inner happiness and know that my weight will fluctuate. There are so much more important things to think about than how much I weigh.
ENTITY: When you are lecturing at campuses and mental health facilities, what type of questions do you encounter?
ND: All types but many questions about eating disorders, family dynamics and letting go of anger. I learned it’s important to be transparent and vulnerable because that helps others. It’s very important to me that I pass on what I’ve learned. That’s why I do speaking events. Mental health, child abuse prevention and advocacy work are such important topics that I think everyone can benefit from them.
ENTITY: What was the most difficult part of writing the new book about your experiences, “Washed Away,” and how did you deal with some of those old emotions resurfacing when telling your story?
ND: There were certain parts of “Washed Away” more difficult to expose than others, such as memories of my mother. Every time I think about her for too long I get emotional. She had a lot of mental problems.
ENTITY: Where do you see the younger generation needing the most direction?
ND: Technology and mental health issues can go hand in hand. When you spend hours on social media and the internet, you are not living a balanced life. An unbalanced life opens the door for mental issues such as depression, eating disorders, social anxiety and so forth. Too often I’ve seen or heard of young people committing suicide over what was said about them on an app. There’s been a big rise in bullying on social media. Technology is just a tool, not life.
ENTITY: What are some of the lessons you would like people to learn from your experience?
ND: That they are never, ever alone in life. That they can accomplish anything they set their minds to, regardless of what has happened to them. The good news is that you can get to a place in your life where you don’t let your past define or control you.
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