“If we don’t tell our stories, our stories will tell us. Our stories impact us either unconsciously or consciously. It’s up to us to decide whether we’ll be passive recipients or active agents in the shaping of our lives.” – Dan Allender.
When I first opened up to my parent about my story of childhood sexual abuse, my enraged parent asked, “Why didn’t you tell me?” And the inner child replied in my heart, “That’s exactly why I didn’t tell.”
Many times, when a survivor tells of the abuse they experienced, people ask, ‘Why didn’t you report immediately? Why are you bringing it up after all these years? Why don’t you just forgive and forget? Why don’t you just move on?’ Or they’ll say, ‘You just want to ruin other people’s reputations. You are jealous. You are ungrateful. Give the grace that God has given you,’ and many other denial statements.
Opening up to say that someone violated you sexually is not easy. It comes with a heavy blanket of shame, guilt, self-blame, confusion, denial, anxiety, and PTSD. It awakens the horrifying emotions that someone experienced during and after the ordeal. It takes lots of courage, risk, and trust for someone to acknowledge the ordeal and even talk about it.
I didn’t tell because I didn’t have a name for what was done to me. I accepted that it was my fault, so I dealt with it. I later got infections on my genitalia, but I suffered in silence because I thought I had an STD. And the talks that we received in school about STDs made me not report; I felt ashamed and dirty. I later gained courage in my early adulthood and visited a gynecologist who helped in giving an effective treatment.
I didn’t tell because the perpetrators were people known to me, and I didn’t want to see them suffer. The first time I was molested, one of my brothers fought the boys who defiled me, and I felt bad because I felt as though I was responsible for their hurt. I felt pity for them instead of feeling protected by my brother.
The next time I was molested, I didn’t tell because I was afraid that the perpetrator would be killed or harmed. My little mind didn’t understand that people are punished for the crimes they have committed and not because they are hated.
I didn’t tell because when I attempted to tell in a school setting, the teachers didn’t believe me. That made me think that I was crazy, and I chose to disassociate.
I didn’t tell because no one ever shared their experience. Sadly, I believed that I was alone.
I didn’t tell because I was afraid that my friends would laugh at me and think I was weird. I wanted to belong, feel normal, feel accepted, so silence helped me cope.
I didn’t tell because I was afraid that someone would use it against me, heck they did! What’s the worst that one can face in this life? We press on still; isn’t betrayal part of life?
I didn’t tell because it happened in my early adulthood. And I felt responsible, because I trusted a friend, but friends don’t harm do they?
One day I was reading a newspaper in the company of a mother and her daughter, then I read out loud a story about a bride who was abducted and gang raped on her wedding day. Then that mother commented, “She must have asked for it. How can someone be abducted on her wedding day? That’s a hoax. Women are so desperate nowadays asking for cheap public sympathy.”
I zoned out while she continued speaking her mind. And I wondered, what if I told her what happened to me? Will she say that I asked for it? I thank God that we parted ways with her a few minutes later, and I had room to weep.
The stigma that comes with reporting a sexual offense is tormenting. I recently listened to a male friend say that women are responsible for sexual violations they experience on dates. He went ahead to say, “Why should a woman choose to be in a secluded place with a person of the opposite sex?” I chose to listen to him because he represents many other people who don’t believe that you can be assaulted sexually during the day in public.
I didn’t tell because I didn’t shout for help. And many other voices keep asking, ‘How can a grown girl get assaulted? What was she wearing? Who sent her there? Was she forced to go? But you two were dating right? You are a gold digger and just want money. Really? That man can’t harm a fly.”
When a person decides to violate you sexually, they will do so by all means. It’s a choice that they make, and it’s never the victim’s fault. It’s never easy to tell because many sexual offenders are people we know, love, trust, cherish and value.
These are people who show up in our lives and make us feel warm, loved and special. These are people who take advantage of our vulnerability and naivety, and act as the saviour to our world. And when they are done grooming you, they feed their vices on you. Truth is, they didn’t care about you. Those who care about you won’t harm you.
No one ever asks to be violated sexually. Sexual violation can happen to anyone in the most unexpected places, at the most unexpected time, with the most trusted people. No amount of public denial will ever erase this fact.
Abuse thrives in silence. When we don’t address trauma, it feeds on our physical body, and we end up having endless illnesses. No number of gifts or favours will ever cover sexual violation and its overwhelming effects.
Choose to speak up today because your voice will liberate you. Your story matters. Your pain is valid. No, you are not crazy. They violated you sexually, and yes, you can heal from that pain.
Seek help now.
“Broken but Beautiful” is a weekly column by Faith Gor, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. She shares her story and healing journey to offer hope to other survivors.
Faith is a daughter, a sister, an aunt and a friend. She is a children’s content creator at Learn & Grow enterprises, an artist and a public speaker. She tells her story to offer hope, help and healing to survivors of sexual abuse.