Tag: survivor

I Know Because It Happened To Me

“So often survivors have had their experiences denied, trivialized, or distorted.  Writing is an important avenue for healing because it gives you the opportunity to define your own reality.  You can say: This did happen to me.  It was that bad.  It was the fault and responsibility of the adult.  I was — and am — innocent.”

(TCTH, p.27)

I know people who don’t have any comprehension of what it means to have been sexually abused as a child/youth, and in their ignorance they somehow (almost always) leap to “why didn’t you tell anyone?”  There are many answers to that question, but one of the things that is so offensive about it is that it possibly implies the continued abuse is the fault of the child/youth because, in not being able to tell someone or to get an adult to believe/understand them, then maybe some of the fault is with the child/youth.  Why isn’t the first question adults ask in the face of abuse stories, “who was the jerk?” or “where were the adults who should have stopped the pervert?” or “why is society so blind (and to some degree complicit)?”.  Or better yet, rather than ask a question that would put the victim on the defense or responsible for explaining perverted-adult-behavior, simply say  “I am SO sorry you experienced this terrible offense against you!”

I will be writing much more in future posts about my experience of having my experience trivialized/ distorted, but for now I simply want to say to my peers, my fellow-survivors: now as an adult, I am so sorry you experienced this heinous offense against your sacred, innocent person.  And I am so grateful you survived.  I pray you will find the strength within to advance your healing; I pray you will find wholeness.

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I am a Survivor

I was a victim of abuse, but I have survived.  I am now a survivor, and I am working to thrive.  In The Courage To Heal Workbook Introduction (page 3), Laura Davis writes about the importance of language and what we call ourselves.  In my experience, a victim of child abuse often continues to feel like a victim long into adulthood, and to some extent or in various situations for the rest of their life.  And it’s true that once you’ve been abused, you are more likely to be abused again in some way or another.  Even so, it’s important, in fact essential, to recognize that that first abuse is no longer happening.  As Laura writes, if you were abused as a child and are now an adult, you have survived, you are a survivor.  To say you are a survivor doesn’t say much about where you are today in your healing process, but it says a great deal about you, a great deal about your spirit.

In my own case, I have come to realize that I have too often thought of myself as weak or powerless because as a victim that was a significant experience of my victimization, but the equally significant truth is that I am also extraordinarily strong and capable.  My strength or power of the highest order is that I want to live, that I value my life, that I recognize my being as unique or distinct from others and it is right and good that I should favor my existence.

When a child or youth is abused in any way there is often a false-shame that comes with the abuse.  This is because the child/youth isn’t able to recognize that the adult is responsible for their bad behavior and it is not the child/youth’s fault they have been abused.  The shame is false because the child/youth is not responsible for their abuse, yet it is a powerfully debilitating component of the experience and it is a huge challenge to over-come it.  Yet, hidden within that ugly lie of shame is a kernel of truth: the child/youth is experiencing somewhere within themselves how wrong it is that they should be experiencing the abuse — even though they think about in a wrong way.

Today I recognize that the shame I have felt from being abused is now an energy/perspective I can embrace and convert into tenderness for my younger self — I imagine my adult, motherly, self wrapping my arms around my child-self and saying “Yes, my dear, you are so right: that ugliness you experienced is ugly, but you didn’t create it; it didn’t come from you.  Your innocence was taken advantage of, and you suffered abuse, and I am so sorry.  But your beautiful spirit is still alive and vibrant.  You, my dear, are beautiful.  You are truly amazing.  You are courageous.  You survived with so much original-goodness still intact.  And you can heal.  You will become whole.”

Because I am a Christian, because I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, my healing process naturally involves the companionship and healing power of my Lord’s Presence.  So I will often end these reflections with a verse from Scripture or a prayer that expresses my experience of the Lord’s healing work in my life.  But if you are someone who is not a Christian, I invite you to seek and find deep within yourself the God-space we each have in our Being.  I’m not trying to be “new-agey” or “tolerant” or “politically correct” or what have you.  I simply recognize that every human-being has within them a Sacred Self.  I believe our Sacred Self is the Image of God, our Loving Creator.  If you currently have a different belief system about this reality, fine, I respect it.  The reason I can is because my faith in Christ reveals to me that everyone, Everyone, has access to the path to God.

So, for today’s conclusion, I simply invite you to find that space within yourself where you cherish your being.  Let your adult self sit with your child self and love her/him, thank your child self for surviving, and embrace her with the grace of recognizing her goodness.

I can’t be silent any longer.

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