There is so much in the news these days about sexual abuse against children and youth. Every time I see or hear one of these stories my body goes into excruciating tension and my stomach hurts violently. I want to vomit. I want to turn my body inside out and reject the whole world.
I was sexually abused by a teacher for seven years. I was 10 years old (soon to turn 11) when it started, and 18 before I was able to say a clear “No!” The abuse started as unnecessary and inappropriate touching during clarinet lessons. The abuser gradually advanced to more explicitly sexual acts.
My parents, my community (school, church, town) didn’t know much if anything about what was going on until I became suicidal. And then, whether they knew that part or not, they thought of it as “an affair.” To this day there are people who think a teacher can have an “affair” with a student. That makes me so sick to my stomach. I need to vomit out (reject vehemently) the lie that anyone who has power or some form of authority over you can have “an affair” with you.
When a teacher or boss or anyone with power/authority over you makes sexual advances on you, that is NOT any kind of mutual relationship. Even if the child wants some form of attention (in my case, I wanted a music teacher who would help me develop my talent), it does NOT mean the child/youth wants or agrees to everything the abuser of their vulnerability does. That’s the initial abuse: the pervert takes advantage of your innocence, naiveté, vulnerability.
Before adults voice idiotic opinions about adult behavior perpetrated on children or youth, they should learn about predatory behavior, they should read about sexual abuse, they should learn about how those of us have been abused during formative years suffer for the rest of our lives. Even if we survive, even if we figure out how to “thrive,” the abuse from those years has damaging effects for the rest of our lives. The psychological damage is often hidden, but extremely painful. But too many adults don’t want to know about these matters; it’s just too ugly or too awful to think about. Or for some adults, those who have experienced some form and some extent of abuse, they don’t want to think about these things because they aren’t ready or able to face their own pain and issues. For some adults, they don’t want to learn about abusive behavior because they realize they do some of the same crap, but they think it isn’t “that bad.” For too many mostly-healthy and for-the-most-part intelligent adults, they don’t want to face the facts about abuse because they don’t know what they can do about it, and it’s just easier to ignore or deny the reality that children and youth in their community are being abused by trusted adults, some of those adults being people they know!
For the longest time I have been silent. There are all kinds of reasons I have been silent. But I can’t be silent any longer. I have to begin. I have to speak. That was my first problem. I couldn’t speak out. For the longest time I was completely alone. My voice was paralyzed, shut down. By the time I got any help from caring adults, my story was narrated as a “sinful” “affair.” I was made to confess my “sin.” I went along with that because it was a way to get away from the abuse and a way to survive, a way to literally live.
Can you imagine knowing a 10-year-old girl who is being touched and conditioned to receiving more touching by a 23-year-old teacher, and thinking that’s okay? Can you imagine knowing a 13-year-old girl who has never been kissed on the lips before being forcibly kissed by a 26-year-old teacher, and calling that some kind of mutual relationship? Can you imagine a 14-year-old girl being sexually violated by a 27-year-old teacher and calling that an affair? Can you imagine discovering your daughter has been secretly cutting herself and has attempted suicide several times, and when you investigate how to prosecute, a judge tells you “it takes two to tango”? Can you imagine that the only thing you can do is to keep your daughter at home and to have a restraining order issued against the abuser? And the abuser continues to teach??? Can you imagine? Maybe not today. But that’s how it was for me and my parents.
It doesn’t matter how mature the child seemed intellectually. It doesn’t matter how gifted she was musically. It doesn’t matter how much she wanted a father-figure’s attention to help her advance in her potential as a human-being. It doesn’t even matter if she learned to experience some physical pleasure in the unwanted sex. That experience of combining pleasure with abuse is one of the most debilitating forms of abuse there is. When you are abused in your formative years, the abuse is not just a series of acts you experience; the abuse is that you are formed by perverted behavior, and that no adults in your life managed to protect you from it.
The fact that ALL of the adults in my life failed to protect me from sexual abuse is part of the profound pain that I have to overcome. The fact that some of the adults were completely inept and even did further harm to me has made the abuse that much more complex and difficult to address. The fact that the abuser continued to attempt to contact me every where I lived, and was able to do so BECAUSE they had been embraced into my former religious community and had access to my information, should tell us all so many things: and I will be telling them. I’m done being silent.
There is so much more I have to say, that is my story to tell and that I must say. There is so much more I will say. There is so much more that must be said. I will be silent no longer. I am no longer a victim. I am a survivor, and I will tell my story.
I will try to provide some links for those who want to learn more about these issues, for those who need help for themselves or loved-ones, and for those in crisis. I will provide those links in a future post and will make that post an easily accessible page. For now, I recommend ASCA: Adult Survivors of Child Abuse. http://www.ascasupport.org