“That’s so horrible! His family must be devastated.”
“It will never happen to me or my children—not in our family.”
“We live in a safe neighborhood with safe schools and churches.”
These are the things people tell themselves. It won’t happen to them. When a man loses his life in a car accident or a mother gets cancer, their families are left devastated and were unprepared for such a hard hit. No one wakes up in the morning and wonders if this is the day that will ruin their life.
Abuse is no different.
People hear stories on the news and read articles on social media about deranged abusers who plot to groom and molest 3-year-old children. They hear awful stories of rape and sexual assault where victims are not believed and abusers are given a free pass. They try to sympathize, their heart breaks for a minute, and then they get back to their lives—usually thinking, “Well…that won’t happen to me”.
I was that person. My heart has broken a little bit each time I read a news story on Facebook about a young girl who is abused and not believed or when an abuser isn’t held to justice because a judge doesn’t want to “ruin their life.”
Behind this heart hurting for others was a dark past of my own. A past I never considered to be abusive, but considered to be my fault filled with dirty choices that I made. When I was a teenager in the workplace, a grown man convinced me to do and say things I didn’t want to do. At the time, I thought I was a horrible person. I know now it was sexual assault. In my early twenties, I met and became friends (I use this word lightly) with a man who emotionally, verbally, and sexually abused me for almost 6 years—to the point where I thought this behavior was normal. I was so desperate for love and attention that I couldn’t see what was happening right in front of me.
I blamed myself for all the “choices” I made. For all the decisions I made to stay and to participate when I didn’t want to, and to not hold these men accountable for their behavior. This wasn’t abuse. This was a dirty part of my past that I needed to just let go of and ask God for forgiveness. Isn’t this what most of us do when we are looking at our own story? When we don’t want to admit what we’ve been through? I made a few attempts to halfway acknowledge the situation and put proverbial band-aids over my wounds.
When I realized that I was one of the people I had always felt sorry for and my “dirty choices” were actually years of abuse that started in my adolescence, my world came crashing down around me. I became anxious, felt like I was going crazy, and suddenly felt like I couldn’t trust anyone. I didn’t want to be a statistic! This couldn’t be happening.
Four months later, my healing has started and, let me be the first to say, it has been the hardest and best thing I’ve ever done.
I was seeing my therapist last week and she said something to me that shook me to my core. She told me that, despite what choices I thought I should have made, I was abused and I didn’t deserve it.
Read that again, folks.
I was abused and I did not deserve it.
Maybe you need to say that to yourself or to a struggling friend. Maybe a child in your life needs to hear this.
Thanks to my therapist, a core group of safe friends walking with me, and the grit I didn’t think I had—I believe this now. What was done to me was not MY fault, but the fault of the men who tore down my life. What they did has NOTHING to do with me, but EVERYTHING to do with who they are. I was mistreated and I did not deserve that. No one does. No matter what they said or what they were wearing. No matter where they went or what choices they made. Nothing excuses abusive behavior. If you are a survivor reading this, please hear me loud and clear: the abuse you suffered was NOT your fault. Not a single bit.
It took me years to get to this place. It feels like that bad dream where you are wandering around in the pitch dark. You can’t find your way out, you are all alone, and the fear rises up.
But then you see a tiny beacon of light. Even if it's far away, you see a sliver of light—giving you hope that you will find your way out of the darkness. That’s where I am now and I’m here to tell you—please keep searching and taking the steps. Take the first step. Do it in whatever way or pace you need to. I’m still struggling to make sense of my story and reconciling the pieces, but I have some truth and tools now.
My dear sweet survivor—whether you have acknowledged it or not, this is a hurting space to be. Healing is hard. Surviving is hard. Whatever your story is, I believe you. You are not alone and healing IS possible. Take the first step—you won’t regret it.
"A" is a survivor of abuse currently working towards her healing. Her posts are her thoughts as she walks through this process, hoping she can inspire and help other survivors in their own healing process.