It Happened ….
When I was about 4 years old. I don’t know exactly what happened, as my mind has repressed almost all memories relating to my abuse. I remember I started sexually masturbating when I was about 4 years old. I grew up in a very Christian household. Right and wrong were very clearly defined, and somehow, at 4 years old, I knew my masturbation was wrong. It was a secret I’ve never told anyone except my husband and my therapist. I was so afraid of getting caught, I was so embarrassed and ashamed. Still to this day, it’s incredibly difficult to acknowledge.Aside from that, my childhood, from what I can remember, was happy. I’m told my parents fought often and my dad left many times (though they always reconciled later). They had a very volatile relationship, but I seem to have repressed those memories as well.
It Was ….
My grandfather. I remember I had certain thoughts about him, so that is how I know it was him. He was very involved in my life growing up, babysitting me and my siblings, attending family gatherings, holidays, and later, sporting events of mine as well as my siblings. It is because of how involved he was in my life that I believe my mind repressed the memories regarding the abuse.
It Made Me Feel…
Dirty and ashamed. I was afraid something was wrong with me, so I was too afraid to talk to anyone. My abuse has also had many other negative effects on me. I have been diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and PTSD. I dissociate in any and every intense or uncomfortable situation. I have a very hard time trusting others, but I tend to trust women more than men. I get extremely nervous and uncomfortable around older men, and I get triggered often, mostly by children’s movies from my childhood.
Sometimes I get so angry because our abusers have no idea the amount of trauma they put us through. It’s not something that takes a few therapy sessions and a certain amount of time to get over. We will deal with the effects our whole lives. Triggers, body memories, flashbacks, anxiety, depression, insomnia, nightmares. The list goes on. The truth is, they change us, and they change our lives. I know personally, I will deal with this my whole life, and I don’t think I’ll ever get my memories back, though most days I don’t want to anyway.
That is why it is so hard for me to admit to others that I was sexually abused. Because how do you tell someone you were abused when you have no memories of it? Most days, I even doubt myself.
I believe my shyness and people pleasing tendencies are also partially, if not completely, due to my abuse at such a young age. I hate conflict, and I will go out of my way, even my own comfort levels, to avoid it. This is why I still have limited contact with my abuser. I don’t have enough strength to tell my family that I will not attend any gatherings where he is present, though I wish I did.
Because of my repressed memories, I actually had no idea I had been sexually abused. The thought first came to me when I was 21. I was camping with my husband and our infant. Our last night camping, I told my husband about my masturbation starting at age 4, and if he believed I had repressed memories of abuse. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, telling somebody for the first time what I had done for years. I was so afraid he’d think I was dirty and a terrible person. But he was so supportive, never once said anything negative and continued to believe in me. Though we couldn’t come to a definite answer, the thought had been planted.
When I was 25, I sought counseling for trust issues in my personal life (no known cause aside from my parents ugly divorce 7 years prior), depression, and low self esteem. It was in my later sessions that my abuse was really discovered. I still have no memories of it, but there’s more evidence. I cannot watch the children’s movie Thumbelina without crying, especially during the song Let Me Be Your Wings. It breaks my heart, and I have no idea why. Sometimes, I’m triggered in a certain way, and it’s like a memory is at the tip of my brain, but I can’t grab it, no matter how hard I try. And I try so hard, I give myself migraines and I dissociate.
I tried telling another person close to me about my abuse, but I was not believed because I have no memories. It broke me, and it truly made me doubt myself even more. It is because of this reason that I never told anyone else, and my family continues to be in my abusers life. Unfortunately, I have some contact with him as well. I try to avoid him when I can for my children’s safety, but it doesn’t always go as planned. But I never put them in danger, and they are NEVER left alone with him.
with help. My husband has been my biggest supporter. He has never judged me, always believed me, and has always helped any way he can. My therapist gave me some great tools to help combat my depression and PTSD, and help me heal, too. I also got a tattoo in honor of myself, someone else very close to me who is also a survivor, and all survivors out there. I used this tattoo as my picture I’ve included because I’m very proud of it, and it has so much meaning. The 2 feathers symbolize I will never be alone in my fight. I’ve heard that a feather represents our life, with the fuzzy bottom being our childhood, and the tip being adulthood. So the one feather ends in birds, symbolizing that, although we had something terrible happen in our childhood, we thrived and grew wings. It’s in ribbon form for awareness, teal for childhood sexual abuse and PTSD. And “Fly with me, I will be your wings” because that is a direct quote from the Thumbelina song that is my biggest trigger, and I will overcome it.
of a world that isn’t afraid to openly discuss childhood sexual abuse. I want to see celebrities speak out against it and do everything they can to spread awareness. I want the president to condemn it, and offer support to survivors. I want my children’s pediatrician to give me fliers on ways to prevent it, how to discuss it with my kids, etc. not because I don’t know how to as their mother (because I’ve educated myself on it, so I do), but because it would mean that all the other parents that go to our doctor also get that information.
I dream of a world where survivors are not silenced, but heard, believed, supported and helped. I dream of the eradication of shame felt by so many survivors. To help these dreams, and for the safety of my kids, I educate them on body safety, as well as having open communication with them. I try to share as much information as I can on social media to bring awareness to others. And I hope that one day, my shame goes away enough to enable me to help bring my dreams to reality even more.
other survivors to know that no matter who supports you or believes you, you are never alone. As survivors, we are in this together, and the shame we feel is not ours, and it doesn’t belong with us. We survived the abuse, we can survive the recovery. We are warriors, and we should never let the naysayers bring us down. It’s an incredibly long, hard road, but we’re in it together, as brothers and sisters.
I want those who have never been affected by abuse to know that it’s ugly. We were violated on such a deep level. It messes with us every day, from intimacy fears to extreme sadness to zero self worth. It’s not something we can just “get over”, and we need extreme love, support and understanding. And more than anything, we just want to be believed.
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