You Are Not Alone
By Crystal Anthony
I remember the first time I heard the words “You are not alone” from another survivor. I was around 16 years old and at a women’s conference at my home church. To be honest, I can’t remember the story behind her abuse or even what all she spoke about that night. I just remember hearing those four words and for the first time letting them sink into my soul. “You are not alone.” I realized I was not alone in my fight to survive, to be normal, to even know what normal actually meant. I was not the only survivor of sexual abuse. Someone else… someone successful and beautiful… has been through this too.
That night was the first night I started to heal a little. It was nearly 3 years after that night that I told someone about the sexual abuse I survived as a child. And nearly 5 years before I told a mandated reporter knowing she would have to report my abuse to the court system. It’s been about 19 years and still to this day I remember those words, “You are not alone”, when I need them most.
I often tell people I appreciate empathy but not sympathy before I share my story. So today, for those of you reading this post that have not survived child sexual abuse, I ask this of you: Do not be sad for me. I am a strong and successful woman, mother, and wife that has survived Hell and came out on the other side alive. I am a survivor. I do not need your sympathy. I need you to hear my story and when the day comes that you hear a story like mine from someone close to you, have empathy. Tell them they are not alone.
I will give you the condensed and unemotional version of my story: I was sexually abused by my step-father from the time I was seven until I was fourteen. I learned very early how to compartmentalize and shut down emotions so no one would know I was different. And no one did until I was ready to talk.
I was asked one of the worst questions a survivor is always asked by the court system (cops, investigators, etc): “Why did you wait so long to come forward”. That was an easy answer for me. “I can handle my own issues from being abused, but I cannot allow someone else to be hurt because I stayed silent. The guilt would be too much.” Shortly before I spoke with the mandated reporter I found out that my step-father was getting remarried. I had heard that his new wife had a handicapped child in the home. This was rumor and second hand knowledge but it scarred me enough to talk.
My step-father pleaded guilty with very little fight and was sentenced to 24 years in prison. Laws were a little more forgiving during the time my abuse occurred so he is only required to serve 12 of those 24 years and is due out of prison this year. I’m not sure how I’ll handle his release but I know when the time comes, I’ll survive because I’m not alone in this fight.
To those that have survived child sexual abuse: You will have good days and bad days. You will wonder why this happened to you. You may hate the world, yourself, “normal” people, and a million other things. You may grieve the innocence that you never got to experience because it was stolen from you. Just know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. You are a survivor. You’ll always figure out a way to survive because that’s what you’ve always done. On your worst days when it feels like life itself is just too much to handle, know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Even when it feels like you are the only one suffering this pain, know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
Please hear my words. I have fought to survive, to live normal, to be healthy mind, body, and soul. I still fight to do all those things. I am there with you in this fight…
YOU ARE NOT ALONE.