March 10, 2011, 10:43 am
One of the most difficult things in my recovery was having to actually say the words: “My father raped me when I was 13 years old.” It conjured up, even in my mind, such yucky and uncomfortable visions that I wished there were a nice way to say it. But there wasn’t and say it I did. What gave me the courage was a meeting I attended with a group called Alternatives to Domestic Violence. I was newly in recovery and had only recently found out that contrary to what my abusive husband had said, I was not the abuser, I was the victim. It was still a shock to me when I walked into that room full of women with my box of tissue, sat down and began listening as they, one by one, told their stories. When it came to my turn I began sobbing and said, “You are all married to my husband.” The realization that I was not the only one, that others who were in domestic violence marriages had started out in their young lives being a child sexual abuse victim was so startling that I could hardly take it in. Why did I not think there were others out there that had suffered as I did?
But I know now. I know that one in four girls and one in six boys has been sexually molested and 90% of them knew their perpetrator before it happened. You would think that statistics like this would cause people who were sexually abused to want to come out of hiding. Think of the relief of talking about it, of releasing the shame, the anger, the fear. But no, what most think about is exactly what I thought about, “I cannot bear to think of what happened that first night when I lay in the bottom bunk with a rosary under my pillow so how can I possibly bear to describe it to others.” Even then, as an innocent who still thought you bought babies at a hospital, I could not describe it; I had no words to put to the picture. By the time my mother finally heard my screams for help and came into my bedroom my father had hurridley managed to stand outside the room clutching his robe. All I could babble was, “Help me, please help me. Someone was on top of me and they were doing something so terrible I thought I was dying.” I felt as if a steamroller had crushed the life out of me. My mother told me I had had a nightmare and to go back to sleep. I never screamed for help again. Is it any wonder that I stayed silent for the next 33 years?
It is totally understandable to me why someone would not want to come out of hiding. I’ve heard many versions of all the following excuses: “I’m not sure it really happened so I don’t want to accuse someone falsely, It hasn’t impacted my life that much so I don’t need recovery, If I told what happened to me my family would disown me, It was probably my fault, I must have done something bad to make it happen, The whole thing is so disgusting I would just make people want to vomit, My father was a Catholic so I know he couldn’t have really done that.” That last excuse was mine when I first began recovery and my best friend, Peggy, asked me if I thought my father had really done that.
If those who had been sexually molested knew that children of an untreated child sexual abuse victim stand a five times greater chance of being abused themselves, they would come forward. If they knew there were a chance to go through a recovery program and get healed, they would come forward. If they knew that they were not at fault, they would come forward. If they knew that in not coming forward they were allowing the perpetrator to continue on his path of molesting other little girls and boys, they would come forward.
There are ways to say it without being graphic. You can tell your husband, your mother, your therapist, “Someone did bad things to the private parts of my body,” is one. Once you get out the initial words it will be easier to follow with how it made you feel, what your life has been like because of it, how you need help in healing and so on. If only those who are afraid to talk about it understood that it had nothing to do with them. They were pawns on a chessboard, set up by a family system, one that no doubt was a multi-generational problem. They just happened to be in the path when the perpetrator came along. They, no doubt, had probably already been set up. No one had taught them about boundary setting. Their self esteem had disappeared a long time ago if they ever had any at all. Their family was so dysfunctional already it’s a wonder they even existed.
Had they been raised in a healthy family system, had their been no perpetrators lurking in their family history, there would be little chance of being molested as a child. They were literally a puppet with evil people pulling their strings. It was not their fault.
Come out, come out wherever you are……………….