My story of sexual abuse.
It’s been over a year since I finished therapy.
A few months after I stopped going though, I realized something: having someone in my life who was a third party, someone who could give me outside perspective, and could push me to continue to grow was valuable. One of my biggest fears is that I will become stagnant, and I realized that one way to ensure that I stay focused on moving forward and challenging myself is to have someone else pushing me outside of my comfort zone. So, I decided to go back to my therapist once a month. I think I moved from “therapy” to “counseling” at that point. Our sessions went from digging into my past hurts and healing to looking forward to where I wanted to be, and then challenging myself to get there.
Over the past few months, I have felt a nudging to write out some of my story. But I’ve hesitated. As those promptings have grown, I’ve felt like running the other way, like I was clawing my way out of a lava-filled canyon. I’ve hesitated because I haven’t ever publicly written the words, I was sexually abused. I hesitated, because even after healing, I am ashamed and embarrassed by those words. I hesitated because I still feel guilty and humiliated even though I know it wasn’t my fault. And I hesitated because I don’t ever want to come across as a “poor me” person, someone with a victim mentality. But a heavier, more forceful push in me desired to normalize the conversation about sexual abuse.
It’s not a comfortable topic.
In fact, I would say, it’s a very uncomfortable topic. I cannot read, see or hear a story of someone who was sexually abused without feeling physically ill. I can’t even watch movies where a woman is victimized in this way. But when 20% of girls and 5-10% of boys are victims of sexual abuse, it’s not something we can just look away from and pretend doesn’t exist.
I want to normalize the conversation.
I want to share the uncomfortable because it’s uncomfortable. I want to banish the awkward, unpleasant, thorny discussion and dissolve the shame felt deeply by someone who has to say the words, “I was sexually abused.”
And so, I want to share my story of sexual abuse.
It’s not going to be enjoyable. There’s no flowery facade here. I’m not softening details or mincing words. So if you aren’t comfortable reading about this difficult subject matter, you may want to head out now.
I was sexually abused.
My exposure to sexuality started as a young child, as far back as I can remember, with my dad showing me pornographic magazines. He would sit me down, show me photos of nude women, and point out their private parts. He would share what was “good” about them. He would share what was “disgusting” about them. He shaped my thoughts about my own body long before I even developed physically myself. I learned what was “pretty” and what was “ugly,” and I longed to be someone my dad approved of, someone “pretty.”
Longing for approval
My dad’s perversion and mishandling of my trust moved to more than just pornographic magazines, and there were many dark moments for me. I felt a deep sense of ambivalence; I desperately wanted the approval of my dad, and as his “favored” youngest child, felt a responsibility to please him. But at the same time, I was mortified, disgusted, and repulsed. I knew it must be wrong, but as a young girl, couldn’t grasp why if it was wrong, my dad would be doing it. He had so many wonderful qualities, and the fact that he could sometimes be a sweet father distorted and twisted my views even more. Was he evil? Or was he good? He was both to me.
One thing I struggle with, even to this day, is comparing myself to the pain of others. I look at my experience and think, that’s nothing compared to what many others have experienced. I feel like a wimp for having it affect me as much as it did.
I know I’m not alone.
I know there are many, many of you out there who also compare your pain to others. I know there are some of you who hear that voice saying, It wasn’t that bad. You’re just a wimp. Don’t act like a victim. You probably deserved it.
And many of you may even question whether what you experienced was actually sexual abuse. You may feel someone crossed a line, but wonder if that constituted “abuse.” I questioned it myself for many, many years. But if you’re questioning whether the line that was crossed counts as sexual abuse, it probably does. The definition of sexual abuse is “any sort of non-consensual sexual contact.” It can include something as “simple” as showing children pornography, to inappropriate touching, to much, much worse. Trust your gut. If your gut is telling you something wasn’t/isn’t right, it most likely wasn’t and isn’t.
The most relevant, key part of my healing was going through the book & workbook The Wounded Heart by Dan Allender, with a Christian therapist. It was life-changing, freeing, and broke many chains of guilt and constraint that I carried with me.
The second key was timing.
Sometimes I can’t believe it took me 17 years of marriage to finally confront my demons. But I’ve realized that I was just not ready before that. God had been slowly chipping away at the hard exterior of my heart, and only He knew when the most perfect moment would be to open me up for heart surgery. I couldn’t have obtained the same peace and freedom had I tried to “force” healing 10 years ago. I wasn’t emotionally or spiritually ready to confront my past.
Ultimately, being willing to face your past head-on when the time is right is the very best thing you can do for yourself. But don’t walk through it alone. You need someone to be with you through your journey.
There was one night in particular during my time of healing, when everything culminated for me. I lay in a heap on our bathroom floor, having vomited from the flood of memories that were playing like a video reel in my mind. I sobbed uncontrollably, never having experienced such deep, raw pain as in that moment. And Superman was my strength right then, holding me and reminding me that even though what I was doing hurt immensely, it was good. It meant that healing was coming. His voice of reason, my therapist figuratively holding my hand, and the knowledge that God had the most perfect plan for me is what got me through that dark valley onto the brilliant mountaintop of freedom.
Friends, I want this freedom for you.
I want you to be able to live your life, with arms open wide, able to love and be loved the way God intends. We all have past hurts, whether we experienced emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, or just familial dysfunction, we all carry burdens from our upbringing. My prayer for you is that, in God’s timing, you would be able to surrender to His authority and allow Him to do heart surgery on you, too.
So, yes. I was sexually abused. It broke me. But God healed me. I am like a beautiful, delicate vase, once shattered, but then carefully put back together by God’s capable hands. The cracks are still there, but the pieces are gently fused together, covered by His grace and smoothed over by his mercy.
If you would like to talk to me more about this topic, or want to share your own burden, please reach out to me HERE or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org . You are a beautiful child of God, and that God wants you to feel His perfect comfort and healing.