My childhood looked perfect from the outside. Small town, family of four, parents happy and in love, surrounded by relatives and friends. I don’t remember when it started. Some of my very earliest memories are those of my abuse. I knew it wasn’t normal, but it was MY normal. It was a big part of my life and I just lived with my secret and coped with it the best I could.
I was being abused sexually by my mother’s uncle who lived across the street. The abuse was occurring probably 3 times per week. Everyone loved and trusted him and the family was very close. He would tell me that if I ever said anything, he would deny it and no one would ever believe me. I felt trapped, alone, sad, and dirty.
I always felt dirty and could not get clean no matter what. I became obsessive about it. I would shower for an hour until the water would run cold and my parents would make me get out. I always washed my hands until my skin was dry, raw, and bleeding. I ate- a lot, and I still struggle with weight as an adult. I couldn’t sleep at night but I honestly didn’t know why. I would often cry myself to sleep. My parents couldn’t understand and would get frustrated and often “threaten” me with counseling.
I finally was able to tell my mother at the age of 11. I gave her very limited knowledge because I felt that she wasn’t strong enough to handle it. She met with her cousins and her uncle was moved out of town two days later. Charges were never filed and no one else was ever told. It has been the family secret ever since. The only reason I told my mother was because a television movie was on, and it was about a similar situation. My mother saw me crying and would not allow me to get away without an explanation.
After telling mom, I felt guilt for not revealing more to her, and I still felt trapped. I thought many times that I would rather be dead than to live in the hell I was in.
Over the years, a lot has changed. I have found my voice, and a passion to help others. We all have a different story to share and I don’t think that anyone’s story of abuse is worse or more traumatic than another. Whether it happened one time or over the course of years, it can be life-altering. You are not alone, you did nothing to deserve what happened to you. You have no reason to be ashamed. Abuse happened to us, but it DOES NOT define who we are.
My faith in God, talking with others who struggled through a rough childhood, and writing down my story have all been things that have gotten me through. Writing down everything- every thought, questions you may have, things that you are conflicted about, memories that seen so insignificant to others. Writing it down was very therapeutic for me, even if no one else ever reads it. Faith has helped me to forgive. My abuser has since died, but I know that I worship a BIG God who has balanced the scales of justice for me. I feel like it’s now my job to live life and let others know they are not alone.
I share my story in hopes of helping others find hope in their futures. The more I share my story, the more I hear people saying “me too”. I feel a bit more powerful each time I speak up. It helps take the stigma and shame away from sexual abuse and hopefully people are becoming more aware of the signs and how to protect their loved ones.
You can live a healthy, happy, normal, and important life that has meaning. Hang in there, you are not alone!