I’ll be honest, I just didn’t know any better. At the time I thought keeping silent would hurt less than recounting aloud the graphic details that still haunt me. The first time I remember feeling violated I couldn’t have been more than nine. The bulk of the abuse happened when I was in high school, barely sixteen. He was over twice my age. I was abused by a family member, someone I loved. It was extremely difficult for me to separate the abuse from the grooming I experienced for years. I love his kids and his wife. I felt like it was my fault. I didn’t know who to tell. I was unimaginably ashamed. I was afraid my family would hate me. Not being believed, scared me. Going through a trial, petrified me. I felt alone and not supported.
If you’re underage and tell a therapist you were sexually abused, they report it. So I didn’t get help for a long time. It wasn’t until my first marriage was falling apart that I really confronted the issue. I found myself in therapy in the midst of a messy divorce. Surprise, surprise sex wasn’t exactly something I was all that excited about. The abuse entirely derailed my sexuality into something that was entirely clouded with pain, avoidance and self destructive behavior. Often I jerked away when my ex-husband touched me. My body remembered the abuse long after I tried to forget.
There’s a Rupi Kaur poem that reads.
“I flinch when you touch me, I fear that it’s him”
Nothing could describe having sex in my early 20’s better than that poem. I cried all the way through the first time I read Milk and Honey. If you haven’t read it, I encourage you to.
Did you know seven out of ten victims don’t report? Every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. And every 8 minutes, that victim is a child. Meanwhile, only 6 out of every 1,000 perpetrators will end up in prison. We MUST do better.
It took me two years of therapy for my therapist to convince me to sit down my family and tell them what happened— six years after the abuse, just so I could stop seeing my abuser at family events. She ensured me, I didn’t have to see him ever again, and I definitely didn’t have to smile through Christmas dinner—while my heart broke and my insides screamed! SIX years! And know it felt just a gut wrenching telling that story as it did experiencing it. I physically trembled as I told each person individually. I cursed my therapist under my breath because it was really really hard. I repeat. WE MUST DO BETTER!!
Be aware, in light of recent events, many of the sexual abuse survivors in your life feel triggered and are closely watching how you react and who you support.
If you’re thinking, what can I do? Allow me to suggest:
•QUIT making excuses for abusive behavior.
•QUIT blaming the victim.
•QUIT perpetuating rape culture.
•Call people out who are doing those things!
•Support Erin’s Law
•Know what qualifies consent.
•Intervene if necessary. Make a scene!
•Expect the men and women that run our country to do better.
I struggle daily knowing that my lack of reporting could mean someone else is going through what I did. And that doesn’t always make it easy to look at myself in the mirror. It took me 10 years from when the bulk of the abuse started to share anything about the abuse publicly. Under no circumstances does my lack of reporting or my waiting to tell my family or the public mean it didn’t happen.