Editor’s note: This piece contains references to the sexual abuse of a child.
See the kid in the picture? That is me, just a child who didn’t have a voice, or so she thought.
I can’t remember when it started but I do remember when it ended. I was 14 years old, and in the biggest 14-year-old voice I could muster, I threatened the man who had sexually abused me. I told him if he ever touched me again I would kill him. I didn’t know how, but I would.
Two days later, he dropped dead of a heart attack.
I mourned his death because even though he was abusive, I did love him. He was my grandfather and I still loved him for the times that he was just Papa and not a monster.
I didn’t tell anyone in my family until I was 18; I can’t remember how it came up but I was happy that I finally had a voice. You see, when you are a child, the devil whispers in your ear that if you tell, you will hurt your family. That you will break Nana’s heart and she will be mad at you. That if you tell, you are a bad person and no one will believe you anyhow. I felt guilty, shamed, and embarrassed, so I did as told and never spoke a word of it to anyone.
I started college and took a psychology class from one of the greatest teachers I have ever had, and through his class my “ah-ha” moment happened. I learned this was not my fault and I did have a voice and, though my grandfather was dead, it was time my family knew. That day was one of the most liberating moments of my life and has made it possible for me to share my story and heal. I have since counseled many and while I am not a professional, I have been thanked for just listening. Not only had this brought healing for them, but it has for me as well.
A few months ago, I was changing my little one’s diaper and noticed he had a diaper rash. I tried everything to clear it with no success. I read another mom’s solution that she used a touch of Vaseline on her little one, so I decided to try that. I opened the container and went to scoop a touch out only to find myself paralyzed with fear. It took me a minute to figure out what was happening and I quickly closed the container and washed my hands. This was a trigger for me, and though I had put it in the back of my mind it was still there. I took a deep breath and put it back in the cabinet. I told my husband what happened and he said to throw it away. I explained I didn’t want to throw it away because it is a great first aid ointment and I would work through it. I haven’t opened it back up since, but when the time is right, I will work through it.
My point to all of this is your memory can be very selective when you have been traumatized and the smallest thing can bring all of it back. While I remember certain things in detail, smells, sounds, etc., there are others I have apparently forgot. So when a person speaks up and can’t remember details, that person is not lying. Memory repression is a coping mechanism and he or she is not eliminating details by choice.
While my childhood experiences were traumatic, I chose to never allow them to control me.
I refuse to be a victim, and while I have moments that trigger the experience, I will breathe through and work through them. I will continue to pray that God heals me completely.
No child, male or female, should have to endure this and my heart hurts for anyone who has a similar story to mine. I pray you are able to find peace and use this to make you a stronger individual. I hope reading my story will allow you to speak up if you never have and that you will find peace.
Remember: this was not your fault. You are a survivor and healing can happen.
If you believe you have witnessed a child being abused please speak up. You can be that child’s salvation! Click here for phone numbers by state.
Childhelp® is a national organization that provides crisis assistance and other counseling and referral services. The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with professional crisis counselors who have access to a database of 55,000 emergency, social service, and support resources. All calls are anonymous. Contact them at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453).
If you need help with personal or family situations, please visit childwelfare.gov.
This post originally appeared on the author’s blog
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