There’s a piece of my story I haven’t shared yet. Not doing so has made me feel a bit like I’m hiding it or not being true to myself, which is the complete opposite of what I’m all about here.
NOTE: Just a head’s up – pieces of this may be difficult to read.
I was sexually abused as a child from the ages of 5 to 8.
I feel compelled to share this for 2 reasons:
1 – Lily is entering the potty-training/learning-about-her-body stage, and I want to be able to share how we’re addressing that and teaching privacy, etc. in general but also within the context of my abuse.
2 – Maybe sharing this will give someone strength in knowing they’re not alone or the ability to speak up about something usually suppressed by silence and shame.
When I was a little girl, I had a friend whose parents were not super attentive or watchful and who was probably exposed to some things that she shouldn’t have been. We were the same age.
I am not going to go into detail. I will simply say there was no understanding of or respect for privacy, and what we did, what happened, was completely inappropriate.
This went on for 3ish years. The thing is, it wasn’t just this one friend. There was an incident with another girl in our little group and then another incident with a friend I had who was a few years older after my family and I had moved to a different town.
That is one of the things that made (makes) me feel like it was me…like there was something wrong with me. To my knowledge, I did not initiate any of this behavior. So why did it keep happening? It’s like it followed me.
I do not blame my parents at all for what happened to me. I know they were doing their best at the time. Was I angry and hurt then? Yes. But I was too young to understand why. I didn’t even realize it was sexual abuse until I was 26. Here’s what I’ve learned, though: privacy is a vital piece of the puzzle; knowing how to communicate effectively about the body and these issues is essential; and communication will not happen without validation.
Here’s the really tricky part for my brain: my primary “abuser” (I’m having trouble thinking of an appropriate word here.) was a friend. A girl. Someone my age. Because of this, I had to be told by my counselor that what happened when I spent time with this friend was not normal and was, in fact, sexual abuse. I think we often associate sexual abuse with rape, but it takes many, many forms.
Dr. Dan Allender defines sexual abuse as “any contact or interaction whereby a vulnerable person (usually a child or adolescent) is used for the sexual stimulation of an older, stronger, or more influential person. Sexual abuse is much broader than forced, unforced, or simulated intercourse. It includes any touching, rubbing, or patting that is meant to arouse sexual pleasure in the offender. It may also involve visual, verbal, or psychological interaction where there is no physical contact.”
Even this definition makes me want to minimize what happened, to be honest. But I know it includes what happened to me. I know it because of what it stirs up in me. I know it because I remember what happened and how it made me feel. I know it because someone I trust spoke that truth into me.
Please let me be very clear about a couple of things –
I’m not sharing this for pity or attention or to air my business on the internet.
And, while the abuse does infiltrate many, if not all, aspects of my life, I’m okay. I’ve been seeing a counselor for several years and have done a lot of work to heal and to learn how to deal with my triggers. It hurts and it makes me angry sometimes and it makes me sad and it is…difficult…to write this. But I’m okay. I’m proud of who I’ve become, and I know this is all part of it – my story and who I am.
Again, I’m writing because I feel called to share this and because we’re approaching the time where I’m going to have to teach my daughter about privacy and her body and how to communicate and be safe. (Of course, we will also teach our son these same things when it comes time to do so.)
Lily will have friends soon. She will have playdates. She will be in another’s care, either at school or at a friend’s house.
I’m terrified. But I can’t keep her home. I can’t stunt her social growth because of my fears and triggers. What I can do is teach my girl about privacy, that her body is hers, and that she can talk to me about anything even if it’s scary or uncomfortable. And I can teach her the words in order to do so. I can take care of myself – my heart and my brain – to make sure she’s getting my absolute best.
Thank you for reading this bit of my soul. I can only pray that it reaches the right people at the right time and that what I’ve learned might be helpful to someone else.
These are affiliate links.
The Wounded Heart by Dr. Dan Allender
The Wounded Heart Workbook by Dr. Dan Allender (I can’t even put into words how helpful this was…hard, but helpful.)
Hiding from Love by John Townsend (This is the book I was reading as part of a class at church when I realized that something was wrong and that I needed help.)
If you have been abused or if you feel you may have been, please seek the help of a counselor. You can’t heal from this alone. I called my church to get directed towards a Christian counselor in my area, but I’m sure you could do some digging online or ask a friend to help find one that would be a good fit. Most insurance companies cover counseling. You just have to pay a co-pay. If your insurance doesn’t cover counseling, don’t let that stop you from getting help. When I called my church, I told them I didn’t have much money, and they helped me find counselors who would be willing to work with me on the financial part.