Recovery: A letter to Non-Victims- Why Speaking Up isn’t so Black and White
I never thought in a million years I would say this. I despise it. I feel like the title should be enough- read at your own risk. However, this isn’t necessarily for my usual audience. So, if you’re easily triggered, this blog isn’t for you.
Normally, I speak and write to survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Or survivors of sexual trauma altogether. But today, I’m speaking to you. Not that you haven’t gone through any trauma, yourself, or lived a picture-perfect life, but with the #metoo movement there seems to be a lot of speculation: Why don’t people speak up sooner? Why now? What does it really mean? Is it true? (I’m not here to debate any of it or to get politically involved. My intention is to give a voice to survivors.) Maybe you might know someone that has spoken up, but hasn’t gone to the police, and you think: Don’t they want the abuser to pay? Don’t they want justice? I certainly would!
Before I get into the gray areas, I want you to picture this:
You’re a child. You’re anywhere from the ages of 4-7 (that’s when it started for me.) You’re a fun-loving girl, you love your mother, you love your siblings and you love your father even though he’s hundreds of miles away. You also love your step-father, even though he makes you feel uncomfortable, scared, and afraid. You love to play dress up, barbies, and pretend you’re in a different world. Your mom works a lot, because she has 3 children. She had to put dinner on the table. Your step-father didn’t work.
Any and every time you did something remotely wrong, there were consequences. When you walked into your parents’ room, fear paralyzed you. You knew exactly what would happen. You’ll get beat harshly (maybe it was for being sassy, being angry and throwing a Bible across your room), you can already feel the outrage as you’re being called terrible things and being shamed. The shaming was enough emotional abuse to cause damage to anyone. The physical abuse with a piece wood or a belt was nothing. It meant nothing to your little life because you knew what was next. You were already laying half on the bed with your pants down, panties included fully exposed fully vulnerable. You just wait. Then you can feel him on top of you. Now, you’re staring at the wall, slowly blacking out but you can feel him breathing harder and harder, you can smell him, you can feel him. You can feel it take over your body, finally you black out. When you wake up, everything is done and he acts like nothing happened. Now, you’re daddy’s little princess again. Treated different and better than anyone in your family including your mother. But you carry the pain. There were plenty of signs. Like bed wetting all of sudden, trying to prolong physical punishment. Anger, hate and acting out. No one thought anything of it.
Imagine living in this type of horror for years. Being taken advantage by someone you trust and love.
Fast forward years later, you remember one night this took place. You had suppressed the events and emotions so well it didn’t come up until almost 27 years later. All you can remember are bits and pieces of it. Because your body and mind did such a good job of disassociating, you can’t recall all the details. You can recall blacking out while it was happening, the feelings, and the instances leading up to it. Would you doubt yourself? Would you wonder if maybe it wasn’t true? Would you tell? Would you be willing to risk someone’s life for yours? Could you really do it knowing the memories are so vague you question whether or not it happened?
Telling and or speaking up, is not that simple. It’s especially not that simple if you do remember and you remember being told not to tell anyone because you’ll be killed, your mom will be killed, your dog, whatever the case maybe. Or what if you did tell someone in your family and they rejected you, didn’t believe you? Would you really feel it was okay to tell the cops? Especially as an adult? Even someone going through recovery, telling someone is one of scariest things you’ll endure, and telling a stranger? Telling someone that has to just state facts and question you? Would you really feel okay with taking action? What if the abuser was still alive and still married to your mother? Could you rock the boat that way? Could you get up publicly and announce what happened without hard evidence?
The truth is, most survivors just want the opportunity to recover and heal. They want the chance to feel whole, to have self-worth and live without shame.
I get the judgment of a journey that’s not understood. A journey that has been conditioned by our society since the beginning of time not to talk about it, to sweep it under the rug. It happens to everyone. Just be okay with it. If you speak up, we’ll deny it or tell everyone you’re crazy. It’s happened to all of us. Get over it. Or the words of my baby daddy: You need to get over what happened already.
The next time you hear someone speaking up, you of course have the right to speculate. You have the right to question: Why now? Or why aren’t they pressing charges?
I want you to also start asking yourself: How can I help? How can I encourage the next person, the next woman to stand up for herself, her daughter, her grandmother, her aunt and the whole line of women that pretended it didn’t happen their entire lives? Across the world? May I remind you or inform you, this is a universal problem. Ethnicity, race, religion, socioeconomic background, etc. doesn’t matter, here. This happens across all walks of life, no matter where you live. It could happen in your backyard, it could happen in your home.
This is always a gray area issue. It’s that way because of the astronomical amount of shame that is associated with it. Especially for the survivor. Most of the time survivors don’t realize the aftermath of what’s done because most of us want to believe that when the abuse stops, the pain stops. Really, it’s just begun. If the survivor isn’t ready to deal: speaking it causes triggers, flashback and memories. Speaking it potentially leads to rejection and worse problems. Speaking it, makes it real. This is a fragile line. The gray area is so big it’s consumed all the rational explanations of: Why now? Why not Sooner? Don’t they want the abuser to pay?
But if you’re willing to start asking: How can I help? Than just maybe the response will be less gray and more about speaking up and getting help.
Angela- Not only a survivor of sexual trauma but a thriver!
Have questions, a story or can relate? Leave a comment below. Let’s connect.