Being an Adult Survivor of Childhood Sexual Abuse
This post is going to be a bit different and more than likely the hardest post I will ever write but it's also a huge reason why I wanted to start this blog in the first place so here it goes...
Being a number or statistic can sometimes be fun and exciting. Other times, it can be shameful, haunting or even embarrassing. My post today is to admit that I am in fact a statistic but it's one that I am not necessarily thrilled to admit. According to Anxiety.org, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused or assaulted by the time they turn 18 years old and this is the statistical category that I am always going to be a part of, whether I like it or not. From the time I was six years old until I was roughly 12 or13, I was sexually molested by a former family member. This is especially difficult to admit because if I had to guess, 90 percent of the people I know probably have no clue as to what I went through as a child and for the longest time, I wanted to keep it that way. I was always selective of who I confided in because I feared what people would think and how they would treat me once they knew. As I have gotten older though, I am tired of living as a victim. I'm ready to move forward as a survivor. This individual already took my childhood away from me and I am tired of him letting him control my adulthood as well.
Before the molestation began, I was what you would call a typical and happy child as it was the only time I really never had to worry about anything. I was the goody two shoes of the family - a people pleaser if you will - and enjoyed being outside, especially at my grandparent's lake house where I was constantly in the water or on my grandpa's pontoon boat. I loved animals, watching TV, riding my bike, country music, playing board games and learning how to play cards with my grandma. I never got in too much trouble but if I did, it was for something trivial like staying up too late when I was told to go to bed or not cleaning my room up to my mom's standards.
When I was 6 years old though, I remember things starting to change. While I honestly don't remember when the molestation started exactly or how many times it happened throughout the years, I remember that instead of worrying about whom I was going to sit by at lunch at school or whether my homework was correct, I had to wonder what was going to happen to me when I got home from school on a daily basis. Being sexually molested is something that a six-year-old little girl should obviously NOT have to worry about. I mean let's face it, I didn't even know what sexual molestation was at that age and the whole situation honestly still makes me angry to this day. At six years old, we are still learning right from wrong and are taught to trust the people that are in our lives. I was simply too young to know what was happening and this individual took complete advantage of that. He didn't seem to care about the long-term effects that his actions were going to have on me - including severe anxiety, panic attacks, mild depression, intimacy issues, low self-esteem and massive trust issues - he just cared about himself. Because of how "well" he treated me when I wasn't being molested, he was able to manipulate me so I wouldn't say anything to my mom, grandparents, teachers or anyone else that would have been able to help. While I realistically know that what happened was not my fault, I sometimes can't help but blame myself for not seeing what it was.
When I was 18 years old (roughly 5 years after the molestation stopped), I finally told the first person what happened and that person was my mom. While admitting that I had been molested felt like a massive weight being lifted off my shoulders, it was easily the hardest thing I have ever had to do. It was the day before my senior prom and my mom and I were in the car heading to dinner (RIP to my all-time favorite restaurants, Chi-Chi's) and to get our nails done. After running a couple of errands before dinner, my mom made a few comments about some things that were going on (I will not be revealing the contents of that conversation here), I completely lost it and finally admitted what happened to me. I think it was the out that I had been waiting for and at first, I remember feeling so amazingly relieved but not very long after, I started to panic because everything started happening so fast. My mom began making phone calls to a neighbor who was a former detective and the women's shelter house to try and figure out what we needed to do next and I remember wanting things to slow down and thinking to myself, 'Why didn't I just stay silent?"
Almost immediately after coming forward, I began meeting with a number of different people at our local courthouse and I can't say enough about 99 percent of those that I spoke with. Going through the court process was definitely eye-opening and emotional but they were able to at least make the situation bearable. I never felt alone and always felt that someone had my back. However, there was one individual that irritated and frustrated me to no end. He was the detective that I met with (for all my fellow Law & Order: SVU lovers, he was no Detective Stabler) and while I understood that he had a job to do, the way he asked his questions made me feel like I was the one in trouble. One question he asked me especially made me angry though and I have learned to absolutely hate this question with all of my being. At one point, the detective asked, "Why did you wait so long to say something?" It's a logical question but the way he asked it just didn't sit well with me. Unless you have been through something like this, you have no idea how incredibly shameful and embarrassing a situation like this can be to go through, both physically and emotionally. Honestly, it's almost more difficult to deal with the mental aspect of it because when you wake up every day and feel like you have to re-live the situation over and over again, it can be downright exhausting.
When it comes to something like this, saying something just isn't as easy as one might make it out to be. I mean, how was I supposed to look someone in the eye (let alone my mother, whose goal is to protect me no matter what) and tell her that I had been sexually molested for the majority of my childhood by an individual who was a part of our family? It's just not an easy situation to discuss with someone and so many questions went through my mind on a daily basis: what will people think of me if they find out? Will everyone believe me? Will I be the one that's blamed? What will this do to our family? Did it actually happen? Or was it all just a horrible nightmare? What will people think because I didn't say something immediately? My brain was constantly on overdrive (and to be honest, it still is to this day) and it made me feel like staying quiet and pasting a smile on my face was just the easiest option for everyone. In the end though, it wasn't.
In the end, the individual that sexually molested me was sentenced to prison for five years. I decided to accept a plea bargain because in my heart, I knew I was not stable enough mentally to testify in a court room where a number of family members and strangers alike would be staring at me while I told my story and answered questions. Looking back on it, do I wish I would have testified against him? Of course I do. However, I also don't necessarily regret my decision either because I simply did what was best for me at the time.
Up until now, I had only told a select number of people about what happened to me as a child. Looking at it now though, I am ready to stop hiding behind a fake smile all of the time and letting the perpetrator control my life. I of course still have bad days but I am in my second stint of therapy and while the sessions certainly aren't easy, I think I am finally starting to accept and deal with my past. I have learned that it's okay to not be okay all of the time. I still have panic attacks from time to time as well as some pretty serious anxiety and trust issues but it's something that I continue to work through every day.
If anyone reading this have gone or are currently going through anything like this, please know that you are not alone and it really does help to talk about it.