Is admitting being a victim of
child sexual abuse courageous?
There are times I doubt this power as I look at myself in the mirror. I am still remarkably human. The hair fades in color and quantity. The waist still expands as if my stomach had a mind of its own. I still have flaws, including discovering the bottom of a bottle a bit too often.
What makes me different than all the other fleshy fun-bags out there? Why is it a huge deal for me to admit I was molested twice by the same man? Who cares about my past when there is so much suffering in the world?
These questions have an obvious answer, and it isn’t because I am a bitter old man with thinning hair. No, the stigma of surviving child sexual abuse is real and potent. We teeter on the edge of darkness, daring ourselves to jump into the abyss. We never see ourselves as humans, but as broken toys for demented demon.
Any voice is as strong as the wind obliterating the single cloud on a glorious day.
I was abused twice. Once when I was seven, after my parents divorced. I trusted my family, and I was burned. My grandfather molested children for forty plus years, and I was one of his victims. My mother was another one.
The second time happened when I was thirteen. I was traded to my grandfather for about $1000. It almost destroyed me. However, other factors came into play to accelerate my youthful demise. I lied to my father about my abuse when I was fifteen. It would be the last time I talked to him. I lost the only home I knew on a lie. Everything I learned when I was a child was a lie.
I isolated myself from the world. The treasured burden was mine alone. I wasn’t human. I was a monster. I was a glitch, ready for the scrap heap. I was unlovable, and I had the emotional scars to prove it.
When I was nineteen, I accepted my fate. I stared at the dark abyss and blinked for a moment. Suicide was the best option for a monster like me. It was time to erase the mistake and patch the glitch so the world could be better. I decided the ultimate solution was the best.
I made it out of that dark night with a vision, a promise, and a new way to look at life. It took me 20 more years to claw out of my isolated mindset. I faced the very question I asked at the beginning of this piece.
I sat on a bench three years ago, fired from another job and well aware I needed to change if I ever wanted to find peace. I explored the roots and saw I wasn’t a glitch, but a mirror for the stigma my family carried with it for generations. We cherished it. We allowed it to ostracize us from those who loved us.
We didn’t even love each other. We loved things more. We were obsessed with objects and money. We based our meager existence on the wages earned through tears and sorrow. I pressed into the fearful forest. I found I could hack away at the diseased branches and expose subtle truths about my upbringing.
I am only speaking up about my trauma now, but it is never too late to add a voice. My voice is needed, as is yours. We must stand for what is right and speak out against the stigma we have. No one should feel ashamed of their past. They should never be imprisoned by their fears and silenced by their shame.
You may not even believe you have the power to do something about the stigma. You might go through the same ritual in the mirror as I do. You might hope the steam from your morning shower hides enough of your face that you don’t have to stare at it any more.
You are lost in the isolation. You believe you aren’t worth the effort. You still fall into the trap of losing something important. You fool yourself into thinking you can overcome this on your own.
I am not asking you to go out and seek help if you do not want it. I am not pointing you to a therapist as a magical cure for everything you’ve experienced. You have every right to stand in solitude. You have every right to carry on with what you are doing.
I chose the hard way to walk through life. I carried a stolen burden for two decades. My spiritual back was almost broken by the time I realized I couldn’t carry it any longer. I had to give back what wasn’t mine and move on with a lighter load. I speak about my two molestations and being traded for money because it helps me get rid of guilt that wasn’t mine.
No matter what happened to you, you don’t need to protect it any more. The only thing you will lose is releasing the horrible truth you continue to hide. You might embarrass yourself with admitting it to start with.
The bravery you show by speaking can save a life. There is someone just like you staring in the mirror. They are asking themselves the same question I did when I came to grips with my stigma.
“Is admitting being a victim of child sexual abuse courageous?”
Yes, my friend; yes, it is.
This essay was originally featured on Stigma Fighters