I remember the first time I tried to tell about my sexual abuse. The torment was horrendous trying to figure out what to say and who to tell. I labored over not knowing the words to use to describe what he was doing to me, words an 8 year old doesn't even have in their vocabulary. The abuse started at age 3, so by age 8 the iron walls of the silent prison were inescapable. I just knew I wanted it to stop but it never did. The force and threats to tell no one were seared in my little mind. The consequences of harm to my mother if I told loomed over my little head. Witnessing the daily abuse was too much to endure, so causing her more grief was unconscionable. So for 14 years the silent cries for help would stay choked in my throat, like vile ready to spew at any time. We, survivors of child sexual abuse, don't know how to cry for help. Fear chokes us daily, when the secret, the deep dark secret of our abuse stays trapped churning between our mind, our heart, our stomach, our tongue and our lips, riddled with fear of the devastating consequences of it traveling past our lips. Some real, some imagined, but always the absolute worse plays over and over in our minds.
I tried twice in elementary school, telling my 3rd grade teacher I had taken a bottle of medicine and I was going to go to sleep forever, then my 4th grade teacher, sharing shocking news that my classmate Michael had raped me on walk home from school. My parents were called in, the verdict was that I was a very dramatic child who watched too many soap operas was the conclusion. Finally when I told a friend in 10th grade, she said my grandfather is doing it to me too. My fourth disclosure was the nail in the coffin, when I told my mother after a suicidal binge night, first taking 64 sleeping pills washed down with a bottle of vodka straight. I woke up covered in my vomit and horrified that I had failed, tried to jump off the Talmadge Bridge, lacking courage to let go of the beam, I found myself driving 90 miles an hour over the Talmadge Bridge on the wrong side of the road. Disclosing to my mother the next morning, after 10 hours of trying to kill myself was the worst day of my life. I would have rather died than to than tell her. Before the sun set I was banished from her life, given a trash bag and 10 minutes to pack my belongings, and that day died emotionally. I was 17 years old. Many years later I would get one breath of disclosure from my mother that said "when you were 3 you said some really strange things about your private parts." She saw the look on my face and never repeated it again.
I am vulnerable in sharing openly for one reason and one reason only. That perhaps my words can help another. I am honored to be the founder of VOICE Today, an organization that ministers hope and healing to victims of child sexual abuse and exploitation. During a recent support group, our discussion question was "WHAT DO WE, AS SURVIVORS OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE NEED OR WANT FROM PEOPLE?" I share these answers in hopes that those that love and support a survivor of child sexual abuse can better understand our struggles.
- We want to be heard, really heard and to have our feelings taken into consideration.
- We want to be accepted, even if you don’t understand. We don’t want pity, we don’t want what we divulge swept under the rug.
- We want to belong – we have felt as outsiders most of our lives.
- Do NOT say, “you just have to move on,” “get over it,” “God has healed you,” Are you still……?”
- We feel dirty and do not know how to clean ourselves up.
- We need support; we should not have to walk this alone.
- We need you to appreciate the effort it takes us to do something that may be easy for others, but is out of our comfort zone.
- We need you to be patient; we have a lot to process.
- We need you to be educated because the effects are not only emotional, but physiological too.
- We need to be willing to be present and show compassion.
- We need you to be honest. If this is not a conversation you can handle, say so in love.
- We need to be believed by our family, not ostracized as if we are the bad apple.
- We need to never hear the words, "Why didn't you tell?"
- We need you to stand in the gap with us, fight in our justice system for victim's rights.
- We need you to support the cause of child sexual abuse prevention and healing.
- We need to hear the word, "You were a child, the abuse was not your fault, you have NOTHING to be ashamed of now."
I have passed "need" but I do truly "want" for my Mother to believe me and not spend the rest of my life questioning me, my integrity, my truth. I don't now if I will ever have that gift, but I praise God above for my healing and that I can live my life in truth an honesty for me.
If you are a survivor of child sexual abuse VOICE Today is here to help you. Please consider attending a support group or a weekend healing retreat. Some information is listed below, and you can always call 678.578.4888 or email email@example.com. If you love a survivor of child sexual abuse, please read the 12 statements above again and support them with compassion and love.