When I first came forward about being sexually molested as a child, one of the first questions I was asked was, "Why now? Why wouldn't you have said something sooner?" and while some may think it should be a simple answer, it's really not. It's actually a loaded question and it's honestly a question that haunts me more days than I would like.
You see, being sexually molested or abused can be very scary, traumatizing and confusing and for myself and other survivors who have gone through it, it's one of those situations that completely shaped who we are as people and how we have lived our lives. I mean looking back on it, there are just so many questions I have that I will never get the answer to. What if I would have told my mom (or someone else) sooner? What if I had told my abuser, "no" and that I didn't want to go with him? Would he have made me go anyways? Would he have physically hurt me? If I had told someone as soon as it happened, would he have admitted it? Or would he have denied it and called me a liar? They say you aren't supposed to live your life based on what if's but it honestly still makes me angry that I didn't see it for what it was sooner, which was a man who preyed on young girls. This individual took complete advantage of my innocence and used it against me and for that, I will never forgive him.
So instead of saying something as soon as the abuse or molestation begins, why do survivors wait one week to tell someone? Why do they wait one month? One year? Five years? 10 years? Or in some cases, why are there some that never say anything at all? As I mentioned earlier, it's a loaded question but trust me when I say it's not necessarily because we want to keep it a secret; it sometimes just seems like the best option at the time or maybe even the only option and below are five reasons that might give you some insight as to why.
In the dictionary, denial can be defined as "failure to acknowledge an unacceptable truth or emotion or to admit into consciousness, used as a defense mechanism." To be completely honest, I had absolutely no issues admitting to myself that I had been sexually molested as a child, just as long as no words were actually spoken. I could say it to myself in my head all day long and write what happened on a piece of paper but I couldn't for the life of me admit that I had been molested out loud. If those dreaded words would have come out of my mouth years ago, I knew I would have to explain what happened and that was something I wasn't ready to do. Heck, until I started seeing my most recent therapist in 2018, I couldn't even say, "sexually molested" out loud in a sentence. I simply referred to the situation as, "it."
Being ashamed of yourself is a tough pill to swallow and when I failed to realize for years that what my abuser was doing to me was wrong, I was completely humiliated. Looking back on it, I am confused by a few things as well. I mean, when I finally realized what my abuser was doing was wrong, why didn't I speak up then? Why did I continue to let him abuse me?
When I was six years old, my abuser invaded my body in such a personal and intimate way on numerous occasions and the thing is, I willingly went with him and let him do it. What's even worse is that there were times that my body would, I guess betray me in a sense because when I got older, it sometimes seemed to respond to the touch of my abuser and that absolutely sickens me to say because I have never been able to admit that to anyone before, not even my therapist.
So with all of that said, I sometimes find myself wondering if it was really abuse. If I willingly went with him and my body did respond to his touch at times, does that mean I actually consented to it? That it was my fault after all?
When I think back to what I went through as a child, I so badly would like to just move on but there are still a couple reasons as to why I still feel so hurt and angry that I can't seem to get over. First, I absolutely hate that this individual took my childhood away from me, which is obviously something I will never be able to get back. The thing is, he never even cared that he took it away from me. He denied me the same carefree childhood that most of my friends had all because he was selfish. These days, I tend to be a "kid at heart" and when I mention that to people, I always wonder if it's because I never truly got to be one.
I have also been hurt by one of my abuser's family members through this entire situation. Growing up, I was relatively close with this particular individual but when I finally came forward with my story, she decided to tell my grandma that I was a liar, which was hurtful and even made me doubt myself to a certain extent. However, when she continued to trash talk me behind my back long after my abuser went to prison for a few years, well now that just made me downright angry and it honestly still does.
As you can see, asking a sexual molestation or abuse survivor, "why didn't you come forward sooner?" isn't always going to have one simple answer. It's not a math question. In fact, there are quite a few reasons as to why survivors may not speak up as soon as something happens and only a few of those reasons are described above.
For so many years, I hid behind a secret and it ate away at me until I literally just couldn't take it anymore. Now that I have finally shared my story, I have received so much encouragement and support and for that, I am truly thankful.
Do I wish I would have been strong enough to come forward sooner? Of course I do, but as with anything else, I had to do it in my own time.