By Colleen Sparks
A North Central mother of two is hoping her new memoir about suffering extensive abuse in her youth will empower other survivors.
Terrah Hancock, 41, wrote the book, “It Never Took,” which is being published this month in honor of National PTSD Awareness Month. The book is available to buy on Amazon.com.
Hancock, a married mother of sons ages 17 and 21, said it was painful but important to write this book about suffering physical, emotional and sexual abuse as a child, as well as being raped as a young woman. Later in life, while in therapy she was diagnosed with Complex PTSD, which describes a condition that occurs from severe, repetitive trauma that typically occurs in childhood at the hands of caregivers.
While spending her early childhood with her parents and older sister in Texas, Hancock said she received “terrible spankings from a very young age” at home. Her parents attended a Southern Baptist church and labeled her as “the bad kid,” she said.
The abuse was not limited just to her father hitting her with leather straps at home. Hancock attended a religious school, where she said her mother would bring her to a preacher when she did poorly in school. The preacher would pray over her, then physically abuse her, Hancock said.
“He would pray over me, which is the religious dysfunction for forgiveness and ask Satan to release his grasp of me, then lift up my plaid skirt and hit me with a paddle,” she said. “It was really confusing. I didn’t understand why Satan wanted me. I was just a little girl.”
Eventually a neighbor reported the physical abuse from Hancock’s father to authorities. Hancock said her father stopped physically abusing her but was still emotionally and verbally abusive.
Another form of abuse also began at home. Hancock said her uncle, who lived with her family, began sexually abusing her. Because of the trauma, she said she is not sure exactly what age she was when that abuse began. Hancock told her parents that her uncle was dangerous and she did not like him but they did not stop the abuse and her mother denied it had happened. When she was 17, two boys she attended school with raped her, she said, but her parents did not try to help her.
After running away from home as a teenager, Hancock lived in San Diego, where she got into a romantic relationship with a young man. She became pregnant and gave birth to a baby when she was 18, giving up the baby for adoption.
Hancock moved back home with her parents a few times and said they treated her better when she was an adult but her father still would refer to her as being “dangerous.”
Eventually Hancock moved to the Valley and started working on a bachelor’s degree in English literature, but she left midway through her studies to accept a good job offer in marketing for a financial start-up company. She is now completing that degree.
Hancock was married a few times and divorced but finally found a happy, healthy relationship with her current husband. Years of abuse made relationships challenging as she said she would go “into fight or flight mode” during disagreements and arguments. Therapy helped her understand how the abuse impacted her behaviors and patterns, as well as reveal why she often suffered from anxiety and depression. Medication, yoga, gardening and journaling also have assisted Hancock with coping with memories of the abuse and living a fulfilling, happy and productive life.
She had known since she was a little girl that she wanted to write a book and eventually left her job to spend time writing it. Two authors, a publisher and others she met at a women’s empowerment conference inspired her to take the leap and work on her book.
Hancock said writing the book was difficult as it triggered memories of her traumatic youth but she hopes the memoir will help erase the stigma of obtaining mental healthcare and help people feel comfortable taking medication when they need it.
“I’ve gotten really great feedback from people who also suffered child abuse,” she said. “A lot of people are saying, ‘Oh, that’s abuse; that’s why you behave in X, Y, Z way because this is what you learned. It’s all very full circle. A lot of child abuse survivors are like me, high-functioning, Type A and just haven’t really dealt with it.”
Hancock said her immediate family is “really proud” of her for writing the book. Her father committed suicide two years ago after apologizing to her when she was in her 30s for the abuse she suffered as a child and teen. Hancock does not communicate with her mother and sister or other relatives.
She urges others who suffered abuse to trust themselves that the abuse occurred.
“So many abusers manipulate you with gaslighting…where you don’t trust yourself,” Hancock said. “Your body knows. Your body remembers. You just have to trust yourself somehow that it happened, that it was wrong, seek some type of counseling therapy, even if it’s yoga, meditation.”
To learn more about Hancock and her book, visit www.terrahhancock.com.