Breaking the Silence
Before getting into today's post, I would like to tell everyone that my blog won an award. A while back, I submitted my blog to Feedspot and they selected my blog as one of the top 15 blogs about child abuse so I would definitely like to thank them for that. I definitely did not expect it at all considering I only launched Living Behind A Smile about four months ago and because it's not strictly about child abuse but it encourages me to keep going. I'm trying to be as consistent as I can be but I truly underestimated how hard it was going to be to run a blog in addition to having a full time career in the sports industry. If anyone wants to check out the list on Feedspot, please click here.
Now onto today's post.....
When I first broke my silence at the age of 18, I had been holding my secret in for 12 years. I was never one of those victims that repressed the memories of what happened and they suddenly came back. I actually have always remembered most of the awful situations I was put in and those memories will probably never completely go away, no matter how much I would like for that to happen. As I was growing up, I didn't even realize that anything was out of the ordinary because I had no idea that sexual molestation was even a thing. As horrible as it is to say, I thought that what I went through was just a part of getting older and something that everyone went through. To me, it was normal and then later on, I realized that wasn't the case at all.
I have said this before but when I finally told my mom that I had been molested growing up, I actually had no intention of doing so. It got to a point where I simply couldn't hold it in anymore and I lost it. I was absolutely terrified of sharing my secret because I didn't know what the ramifications would be but when I look back on the day that I finally said something, I never realized how much pain I held in for 12 years and how much stress I was allowing my abuser to put on both my mind and body.
If you are a victim of child sexual abuse, no one can make you say anything about your abuse or the experiences that stem from the abuse. The decision to come forward and share your story can only be yours and yours alone. One thing that I have learned from all of this though (even if it took a while) is that giving your abuse a voice and talking about it out loud instead of in your head or on a piece of paper can certainly be scary but it can also be freeing. I'm one of those people that is incredibly stubborn and refuses to ask for help but once I came forward, I realized the situation I was in was way bigger than me. I hated burdening others with what I was going through but I quickly learned that I had a great support system and that they didn't want me facing my abuse or its effects by myself anymore; they wanted to help me get through it.
Even though I came forward by initially telling my mom, it doesn't necessarily have to be a parent that you confide in. You can also talk to a grandparent, teacher, friend, sibling, aunt, uncle, cousin, therapist, etc. - just someone that you know you can trust and feel comfortable talking to. If you feel like you have nowhere else to turn, you can also visit Rainn.org or call 800.656.HOPE (4673).
If you happen to be someone that a survivor confides in, please just listen to and be there for them. You don't need to try and fix it because let's face it, the damage has already been done so there really isn't much you can do in that regard. However, simply talking about being sexually abused or molested can be incredibly difficult and terrifying for a survivor so if you are able to just give them an outlet to talk freely without feeling judged and like they are going to be the next gossip subject, that will do more for them than you will ever know.
I have seen two therapists in the past three years (I met my first therapist in 2016) and while the first one ended up not being the right fit for me, he was the one that encouraged me to start writing about my abuse. I wrote about specific memories that I remembered going through, what it felt like to go through something that difficult at such a young age and how staying quiet for so many years affected me. It was like I couldn't write fast enough. I also decided to write letters to my abuser and his relatives that called me a liar and even though I knew I wasn't going to mail them (not sure what good it would have done), it made me realize that I was holding onto more anger than I thought.
As I was going through the writing process, I started wondering what it would be like to make my abuse public knowledge. At that particular time, very few people knew the story and I was tired of living behind my secret. That's when I decided to write a letter to one of my best friends that I have known since second grade. She had absolutely no idea what I went through growing up but if there was one person that I wanted to tell that didn't already know, it was her. At that point, I knew that I couldn't verbalize everything just yet but simply writing everything down on a piece of paper with the intent of sending it to someone felt like a step in the right direction and when I put the letter in the mailbox, I felt so much lighter and like I wanted to do more.
In mid-2018, I began seeing my second therapist and my time with her was short (she left in May of 2019 to take a job closer to home), emotional and sometimes frustrating but I am so grateful for her because she made me realize things that I never even thought about. Among other things, she helped me understand why I was feeling the way I was, gave me coping tools to help with my anxiety and even had a hand in me starting this blog. Most importantly though, she helped me verbalize my abuse and helped me understand that with the more I talk about my story, the better I am going to feel.
There are some that think that because I came forward 14 years ago, I should be healed by now but the reality is I still have a long way to go. Healing doesn't have a time limit or an expiration date but I am no longer terrified to talk about my abuse with others. In fact, the more I talk about it and the more questions I am asked, the better I feel and that's obviously a step in the right direction if you ask me.