I am a survivor of child sexual abuse by a very close family member, from the time I was a preschooler through age twelve. The trauma and shame from these experiences was so deep and so complete that I no longer wanted to live, struggled to love myself, and battled with intimacy. Through over a decade of therapy and the loving support of family and friends, I finally arrived at a place where I no longer needed substances, food, or other “highs” to mask the pain resulting from the abuse.
All of us have the capacity to work through the trauma we have experienced and to begin to live a joyful and full life.
For those who are coming to optionb.org feeling fear, depression, trauma, hopelessness, and shame, I say with 100 percent confidence that there is hope, that all of us have the capacity to work through the trauma we have experienced and to begin to live a joyful and full life. Healing is possible if we find the courage within to do what we need to do to seek and find it. If you are a survivor and you are struggling, you are not alone, just like I was not alone. None of us are alone. We are all part of a web of men and women who share the same feelings, the same shame, and the same possibilities for a life of happiness and worth. Working through our rape and sexual abuse experience requires two things: a long-term commitment to therapy with a skilled counselor, and disclosing what happened to people we can trust. It is when we tell that we validate what we have gone through and assert to the world that we matter.
I have learned many, many things from my experiences as a sexual abuse survivor—and I imagine that in the years ahead I will learn even more! I want to share with you what I have learned, to encourage you never to give up on your path to healing, to never give up on yourself.
I have learned that I MATTER.
My feelings, my needs, my desires, my trauma—they are important and deserve my full attention. When I begin to act as if I matter, others begin to treat me that way, and I start surrounding myself with people who value me and all I bring to the world. When I start to doubt, I call it out for what it is—the voice of my abuser, trying to silence me, and the world, which would prefer to ignore abuse.
I have learned that people will close their eyes to experiences that make them feel uncomfortable. When one of us somehow finds the courage to speak up and say “no more,” people will begin to listen—as they really have no choice.
I have learned that what happened to me is real and that I am telling the truth. No matter how hard someone tries to sweep it under the rug, deny it, or tell me I am “misinterpreting,” the abuse is real and its effects are lasting. Often the world tries to minimize the deep wounds of sexual abuse by saying, “Get over it!” Yet I counter, “I will get over it in my own time and in my own way.” This begins by speaking the truth of what I have been through and shutting out those who try to shame me for speaking up.
It is my right and responsibility to heal from this trauma and emerge on the other side even stronger than before.
I have learned that others who have been abused or raped deserve my support and validation. Because this world still shames survivors for what they never caused, it is up to me, other survivors, and those who love us to be conduits for acceptance and healing.
And finally, I have learned that my experiences have been a gift. This gift has taught me to put myself and my healing first. It has made me stop dead in my tracks and acknowledge that it is my right and responsibility to heal from this trauma and emerge on the other side even stronger than before. It has afforded me the opportunity to be a catalyst for change and to help others through my work with fellow survivors. It has made me resourceful, a force to be reckoned with. Every day, this gift gives me yet another chance to be a “yes” instead of a “no,”to have a supportive heart instead of a judgmental one.
If you are struggling with your own personal trauma, you are in my thoughts and prayers. May you have hope for a future full of life and love!