I was sexually abused throughout my childhood and I kept the secrets until I was 38 years old. I started seeing a counselor and one by one the secrets finally came out like pieces of a puzzle. It took over three years of weekly sessions to process it all.
I still cringe inside and out when I hear anyone ask, “Why didn’t you tell?”
Or “Why didn’t you say something sooner?”
“Why are you just saying this now?”
While it was incredibly difficult to even admit that I was abused, it is even more complicated to explain why I didn’t tell.
But, this will be my attempt to try.
Why I didn’t tell: This is why
I was terrified.
I didn’t want to be in trouble.
I didn’t want the police to take me away.
No one would believe me.
I believed everyone would be angry with me.
One of them said he would kill himself.
I believed really bad things would happen.
It would be all my fault.
I would lose everything and everyone.
I saw pornography which reinforced the idea that this is what women are, it’s what we do. It’s normal.
It also made me hate my body and everything about it.
I heard conversations about rape that would include discussions about what the victim was wearing, whether or not she was drinking etc.
I heard at least two other children speak up about abuse and they were promptly silenced, even dismissed.
No one said it was wrong or bad.
All of the shame made me feel like I was wrong or bad – like it was my fault and there was something wrong with me that made it happen.
I was groomed, brainwashed and manipulated into silence.
I dissociated, which is like an out-of-body experience.
I thought it was just me.
Again, no one said it was wrong or bad.
I did not know it was abuse.
As complicated as that can be to understand as an adult, can you imagine carrying the weight of all of that as a child and at the same time desperately trying to appear okay?
The only conversations I had about what was happening to me went on inside of my little mind, with it’s very limited understanding.
As hard as it was to endure and survive, it truly seemed easier to stay quiet and never tell because too much was at risk and it was up to me to hold it all together.
Fear, lies, shame and denial kept me quiet for many years.
And today, lots of people are coming forward like never before and saying #metoo.
Before you dismiss any of them, or minimize their experience, or offer your opinion on whether or not you think they are telling the truth – please consider that someone you love may be suffering in silence and longing to whisper “me too” to you.
Be a safe person and lend an ear to their pain. Listen. Believe them. Thank them for trusting you and sharing with you. Ask them what you can do to help them.
Don’t be upset with them for not coming to you sooner. Eventually, they will share their own #thisiswhy with you, but for now just let them know that you love them, and tell them the abuse was never their fault.
Let them know they are not alone, anymore.
Eternal One: As a woman fiercely strains to give birth, I will gasp, pant, and cry out.
I have been quiet for a long time; I have held back in the face of it all.
Well, no more.
If you experienced abuse, what kept you from telling? Share your #thisiswhy.