So, it’s been just over a year now since I sent that fateful letter and started this blog. In that year I have learned so much about myself and have really been forced to take an honest look at everything in my life. Sometimes the answers that I’m looking for hurt to the core when I find them but sometimes they set me free. It’s also been a bit of an emotional roller coaster but I think I’m about ready to get off of it.
One of the things that I have had to take a hard look at is my relationships and why I have them. The main reason why I kept my parents in my life for such a long and unnecessary amount of time was that I wanted them to be happy despite the lack of my happiness. I know, I know… that’s so screwed up, right? Why on earth would or should I ever care about the happiness of people that continued to rob me of my own? I dunno… Stockholm syndrome? Who knows! I realized that I’ve been this way with a lot of people. I was a doormat. I didn’t think that I was because I thought I was blunt and spoke my mind but I really didn’t. I mean, I did when I knew it wouldn’t hurt anyone’s feelings.
The biggest blow that made me take a step back and look at my relationships from another angle was the utter lack of support from people that I thought cared about me. Some family members, some friends. My coming out about being abused and writing this blog has opened my eyes to those who give a shit and those who don’t. It surprised me. It surprised me a lot! On a positive note, some people have come out of the woodwork, in my list of friends, that I now have a deeper connection with so it’s not all bad. In fact, I take this awakening as a blessing in disguise: I now know what people I should invest my heart and soul into and those who don’t deserve it.
It does make me sad that so many people just don’t care or don’t want to know about the abuse that could be going on right under their noses. I realize, though, that people generally don’t care about things until it affects them directly. It’s like people who have never been anywhere near poor but think nothing of it to cut welfare programs. People who have never been to third world countries in person aren’t as inclined to give a rat’s ass about the starving, sick children drinking shit infested water. Sure, they might throw money or bibles at a good cause, but do they really care. No. They aren’t emotionally invested in those people or situations. They lack empathy toward anything outside of their little bubbles. As long as the money keeps rolling in and grocery stores are open and gas stations fill their giant SUV’s and their kids never suffer…. why bother? It doesn’t affect them.
I realized that most of the support that I have garnered from my story comes from other survivors and people that have been directly affected by child abuse and/or sexual assault. This is a good thing! We need to stick together! We need to let the next person know that they aren’t alone. The process of facing a lifetime of sexual abuse is HARD. It will make you question everything. I have questioned it all, right down to my marriage. What are the lies and what aren’t? Who wants the best for me and who wants to sabotage me? Who is going to be there for me when I need to figure it all out and who is conveniently going to be busy and not there?
I think I’ve figured it out and I’m ready to get off the ride. I’m also ready to face life as an adult that is confident and not lacking in meaningful relationships because she knows she is worth it. I’m worth it. You are worth it. Don’t let people dick you around because they don’t “get” you. Also, don’t let anyone tell you that your mac and cheese is way too cheesy. You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life. 🙂
I think that it’s very important for people from all corners understand how to approach others when they reveal that they have been abused. Some people are well meaning but don’t understand how their comments can be very insensitive and sometimes also justify the actions of those that abused us.
- You need to forgive that person and move on with your life. The problem with this thinking is it’s not that easy and the “forgive and forget” mentality lets the perpetrator off the hook. Not all of our abusers have faced punishment and in my case, probably never will thanks to ridiculous laws. I don’t equate forgiveness to the idea of letting it go. Forgiveness gets rid of any punishment and life continues on as normal. Letting it go is something that happens after the victim is satisfied with the amount of therapy and release of mental tormenting caused by the abuse. They are able to not allow the abuse control who they are as a person and don’t use it as an excuse to hurt others.
- Let it go (aka. Get over it). No. No. No. Don’t ever say this to someone that has been assaulted, abused, molested, raped, etc. This sort of thing doesn’t just happen on command and can take years and years for a victim to recover from. How about you just get over your grandma’s death? Oh, you’re still sad about that? Get the picture? Sexual abuse can seriously paralyze some people emotionally and sexually. They don’t just “get over it.”
- Why didn’t/don’t you call the police and turn that person in?
The problem with sexual abuse and assault is that it’s not talked about enough. Most victims are terrified to say anything. In my case, I was plagued by guilt on so many levels. I also didn’t know that the clock was running out of me. The statute of limitations ran out in my state over 4 years ago. Back then, I was still trying to convince myself that everything was ok, but it was definitely not. In other cases, the victim feels like no one will believe him/her or perhaps they feel threatened. I recently found out that my stepfather molested and raped another family member for years. He had threatened her that he would kill the entire family if she told anyone. Given that a rapist or molester will only serve a relatively small sentence, any victim would be terrified of what could happen once that prison sentence is over or they are out on parole. In my case, I was told that my mother would be the one to kill everyone and herself. He played on her mental instability and knew exactly what he was doing. I still have that irrational fear. Others may lose their entire family in the process or even to greater lengths, their entire town could turn against them depending on who the abuser is. Just look at the Stubenville case.
- Gross. That was too much information! I got this once after revealing that I had been molested to a close friend. I was shocked. I expected a little more sympathy than that. Seriously, though, if child sexual abuse grosses you out consider the fact that one out of every seven kids you know is probably being abused. This statistic is only based on what is reported. It could be higher than that. So consider that there are victims that sit next to you at work or church and run the register at the grocery store. There are a lot of us. It’s too common. If you are going to be grossed out about it, then stand up and help do something to stop it. Apathy isn’t what we need and making you comfortable shouldn’t be our top priority.
- That person doesn’t LOOK like a child molester/rapist. News Flash: just because a guy has a tan wind breaker and weird mustache does not make them an automatic candidate for sexual violence! There are people leading churches, schools, colleges, military, organized sports, etc. that have been convicted of sexually abusing children. These are people that the community looked up to and respected. Most of the time they have good taste in clothes and are very charismatic. If they aren’t leading, they are infiltrating organizations that have weaknesses so they have easy access to their victims. There have been attractive, young female teachers that sexually abused male students. This is just as wrong as a male teacher having sex with a 12 year old female student. They are still predators and manipulators. Looks can be deceiving. Don’t let yourself be fooled! Other predators are right under your nose. In my case it was my step-father. Most kids are abused by someone that has access to the living quarters like close friends or family members.
What does all of this amount to? When someone confides in you that they have been abused, the best thing you can do for that person is to believe them. If they are a minor and you feel that the abuse is ongoing, you have an obligation to report it. The other thing is to be genuinely there for that person. When I finally came out about my abuse earlier this year, I talked many ears off on top of writing this blog. It was the best thing for me. Knowing that others cared enough to listen and understand me and be a sounding board for my thoughts was such a gift!
They are everywhere. You probably know some. They are friends, family, neighbors, fellow church members, church leaders, teachers, doctors… you name it, they have filled those shoes. Yes, Virginia, child molestation is a big problem in our country. It’s a bigger problem worldwide especially if you throw in child sex trafficking and child brides. It’s 2013, folks! Children are not worthless pieces of property anymore. I say all of this because I find it disheartening how little people give a shit about the subject. There has been interest in my story but sometimes I feel like it’s because it’s a sideshow for someone else’ entertainment. This is a serious topic that affects millions of people, not just me. Yes, it’s uncomfortable to talk about. It’s gross to hear. It’s sad when you find out that someone you know or love has been victimized. It’s also maddening when you find out that you know someone who was the perpetrator, especially when it’s someone you have been emotionally tied to in a good way. It’s hard to look at that person different or imagine that they should be in prison for the rest of their lives. I get that, I really do.
I know it’s a difficult subject. I understand that it’s a hard pill to swallow that you probably know a child that is being repeatedly violated by another person you know. You want to know how we get them to stop? We start talking about it. We bring it up at the dinner table. We talk to our kids and other parents. We get the word out that we know how to spot a pedophile and we know what to look for in a child that is being abused. Turning a blind eye or a deaf ear is not the right thing to do. If you can put your energy into fighting for or against gay rights, abortion, the environment, animals, etc. then you can put a tiny bit of effort into this subject. The good news for you is that it doesn’t cost any money or time, just your attention.
Here’s what I want you to know. I want you to know how to spot a potential pedophile. They aren’t always that creepy looking guy with a pencil mustache and Coke-bottle-bottom glasses. They can be as good-looking as Brad Pitt, as successful as a top university’s football coach, a spiritual leader or even female. I also want you to know how to recognize that a child is being violated, especially your own children. We also need to understand how to protect our children without causing unnecessary fear or being a crazy helicopter parent.
The next few posts will address these three topics. It’s a sort of research project for me. If any of my readers would like to add their two cents on how to spot pedophiles, victims or how to talk to kids about it, please leave a comment or private message me and I’ll add your words with credit into these posts.