I was 10 years old when my ongoing sexual abuse at the hands of a male relative finally ended. I don’t remember how old I was when he began molesting me, only that I was too young to understand what was happening and what it was called. Or that it was criminal and demented and anything but ok.
My abuse ended not because I spoke up and told someone what was happening to me, but because my abuser was caught abusing another little girl.
I so wish 6, 7, 8, or 9 years old me had been able to speak up, to put an end to the damage he was doing before he could do it to another.
I don’t recall the specific tactics my molester used to ensure I wouldn’t talk. Only that they worked for years. Had I not been asked point blank if he had touched me or hurt me I’m not sure if I ever would have disclosed the abuse of my own volition.
And here’s why. Being sexually abused felt shameful to me. It made me feel disgusting. Worthless. Disposable. I was so ashamed of what was being done to me I didn’t want anyone to know about it.
To the child I was, having someone know what was happening to me seemed worse than having it happen.
The child I was did not comprehend that telling someone was the thing that would stop the abuse and instead, I was trapped by the shame it silenced me with.
There are untold reasons why girls and women don’t tell anyone when they are abused or assaulted, why they wait years to tell someone if they ever do. These reasons protect their abusers and I promise you victims do not realize this at the time.
Shame is blinding. Deafening. Muting. It’s boss when it comes ’round. Especially over the young and defenseless. Today, it doesn’t make any sense to me why I would feel shame over a crime committed against me.
Today, I still rarely talk about my abuse though my reasons have changed.
When I talk about being sexually abused for years as a child, I get angry. Incensed. Livid. And then I relive it.
I’m right back there in that house, in that chair and it’s happening to me all over again. I spin out in rage over how the abuse altered the course of my life and shaped me. I wonder who I would be today and what I might have accomplished if I had been protected and treated the way every child deserves to be. I don’t like where talking about being abused takes me and so it’s seldom that I do it.
So when a woman comes forward to explain how a man hurt her via sexual abuse or assault, I believe her.
I know why she waited.
I know why she still doesn’t want to talk about it. And I know she’s finally doing so because she feels she no longer has the false luxury of keeping her trauma buried so that it can’t hurt her anymore. She’s thinking of others, now. She doesn’t want even one more girl, woman, any kind of person to suffer the way she was forced to.
And that goal has finally won the day. That is why she speaks. And why we must listen to her, believe her and stand with her.
I was 10 years old when my ongoing sexual abuse at the hands of a male relative finally ended. I don't remember how old…
Posted by Utter Imperfection on Thursday, September 27, 2018
Thank you Jodie for writing an article that explains the complex reasons people don’t talk about sexual abuse and assault that go beyond whether you will be believed. I regularly work with women who start talking and getting treatment for their trauma experience in their 40s. They have sometimes told nobody else or just one person. Almost no one has reported their trauma and sadly for those that have the process to get any justice is way harder on survivors than it should be. Always there is shame present, even when they have done nothing wrong. that is just the nature of sexual trauma. Thank you for sharing this very real part of the problem.
I am in total agreement with you. I too had the sexual assault/rape from my own brother. It last from 6 years of age until I left home. I know one fear that actually came true for me. When my mother found out she said didn’t believe a word that I said even though she saw me naked and my brother was just in his underwear but yet scolded me and called me horrible names and treated me something awful for about 2 weeks. So unfortunately I was one of those that told but wasn’t believed by my own mother. In one situation where one of my closest relatives told her that it was true because she experienced the same thing by the hands of my brother her only response was “well she was just asking for it the way she used to dress”. My relative got angry told her that “that reasoning was stupid for one. Then the other was that can’t even be close to the reason because you always dressed her where she didn’t show any of her body. You made sure that no one would ever see her that way. You made her ashamed of her own body.” Even after that my mother continued to support my brother instead of the daughter that it happened to. She kept with that response even as she passed away 3 years ago. I am 46 years old now and still don’t talk about it much because you are absolutely right when you said that it takes you back there and makes you relive all those years of abuse. I have forgiven my brother, NOT FOR HIM, but for myself. I refused to be a victim and I knew if I hadn’t forgiven him, then he would have that awful hold on me and that would have defined me for the rest of my life and I WAS NOT going to do that. I realized years ago that he was never going to admit what he did and sure wasn’t going to apologize for it. I’ve done alright. I do have PTSD from it and always will. It ruined sex for me completely which isn’t fair to the wonderful man I’ve been married to for 28 years. He has stood by me Thru it all and has never treated me as damaged or tainted. Thru his support, my children’s support and the support of some of my relatives I have been able to get thru it. I’ve never been to counseling over it. I’ve never had the funds to do it and really don’t want to do it now Because I have moved on. But I do encourage anyone that as had anything like this happen to them to speak up and continue to speak up if someone doesn’t want to believe it. I hope my story will help someone to be brave and tell someone about what you’re going thru. Never give up! If there is anything I can do for anyone that reads this and is/was going thru it please don’t hesitate to contact me.
This. All of this… thank you for sharing your story. It’s so similar to my own & I also hardly ever speak about it. Over 30 years have passed, yet every time I think of my abuse, I’m right back in that room. Like it was yesterday. No one can understand how terrifying that can be! I still feel shame, even though “I know” there could never have been anything I could do to stop it & it absolutely wasn’t my fault.
I’ve learned to forgive my abuser, but how do I forgive myself for not speaking up? How could my life have been different if I had? And to speak publicly about it now… it could ruin so many relationships. It’s very dark when I think of it. I pray that no one would ever have to experience this.