It was a bleary Tuesday afternoon and I sat awkwardly in a metal folding chair, trying not to squirm. There were six other folding chairs placed in a semi-circle beside me, filled with other women who looked at least as uncomfortable as I was. A woman with strawberry blonde hair, graying at the temples, and wearing a tweed jacket with leather elbow patches entered the room. She welcomed us to what felt like a sad sewing circle: the Tuesday Trauma Group. Kathryn, the group leader\u2014a licensed social worker with an emphasis in trauma therapy\u2014began by asking the group, \u201cHow many of you would say that you experienced childhood trauma?\u201d What an odd question, I thought. Isn\u2019t that why we\u2019re here? Every hand rose. \u201cNow,\u201d she said. \u201cHow many of you are here in part because that trauma included childhood sexual abuse?\u201d I thought this was an uncomfortable means of inquisition, but I vaguely raised my hand. When I glanced to my left, all but one other woman had raised a hand as well. It seemed a lot. \u201cAnd how many of you would say you\u2019ve struggled with addiction in your lives?\u201d Again, all but one raised her hand\u2014this time, a different woman. It took a while before I became comfortable sharing my stories with others\u2014I\u2019d been conditioned to hide them for too long, even from myself\u2014but I learned that opening up to the truth wouldn\u2019t be the Pandora\u2019s box experience I\u2019d feared; it would be a liberation. It took years, and truths poured out slowly, but as they came, I healed, and I witnessed others heal the same way. It happened like this: Truth: I was sexually abused as a child, but that\u2019s not the whole story. Truth: My mother accepted drugs and money in exchange for me, but that\u2019s not the whole story. Truth: My mother was one of my sexual abusers. Truth: I was using drugs and alcohol and sex\u2014and was binging and purging\u2014before I was grown. I needed to forget the truth. It took me years to learn another way. To remember what I\u2019d never truly forgotten and find a way to write my truths differently\u2014not to change the past, but to change the present. The future. Addiction and Childhood Sexual Assault The fact that I\u2019d experienced childhood trauma marked by sexual abuse and had entered a life, even a functional one, riddled with addiction did not make me unique. It turns out that a staggering number of women experience similar realities. According to the American Journal on Addictions, 75 percent of women who enter treatment programs report having experienced sexual abuse. And according to the Journal of Traumatic Stress, an alarming 90 percent of women who become dependent on alcohol \u201csuffered severe violence at the hands of a parent\u201d or \u201cwere sexually abused during childhood.\u201d And there is not only a strong correlation between childhood sexual abuse and addiction, but one exists between later incidences of sexual assault and addiction as well. The Revolving Door Sadly, the statistics flow in both directions. Women who have experienced childhood sexual abuse or who experience incidents of sexual assault and rape in adulthood stand a strong likelihood of encountering problems with addiction, suggesting that abuse and assault may lead women toward addictive behaviors in a search to dampen their pain. But it is also true that addicted women\u2014particularly those with substance use disorders\u2014stand a higher likelihood of finding themselves at risk for sexual assault. \u201cFor illicit drug use, findings support a vicious cycle relationship in which substance use increases risk of future assault and assault increases risk of subsequent substance use.\u201d And on and on it goes. This is not meant as victim-blaming, and the research should be well considered. Women addicted to drugs and alcohol don\u2019t find themselves more likely to become victims of sexual assault merely because they are \u201cdoing bad things\u201d and \u201cget what they asked for\/deserve.\u201d A deeper look into the lives of such women should be taken, as well as an understanding of the nature of addiction and the desperate hold it places on individuals who suffer from it. Women and girls have long been vulnerable to crimes of sexual abuse, though men and boys are certainly victims of these crimes, too. Although we do not have the power to change our pasts, we can find the power to alter our futures. What happened to us then does not have to dictate what happens to us now; we can heal ourselves in a way the illusory tincture of alcohol or drugs never could. That healing often begins in finding, and telling, our deepest truths. I was abused. and My name is _______, and I am an addict.