Why Do I Need to Tell?

Sep 21st, 2010 | By | Category: All Posts, Diablog--Multi-Person Blog

by Christina Enevoldsen, Bethany, Patty Hite & Jennifer Stuck

Christina: When I talk about my childhood sexual abuse, I see it as an opportunity to validate my inner child. As I reveal the horror of what happened to her, I’m inviting her out of the shadows of fear and shame.  She’s accustomed to other’s dismissive denial, but telling the truth gives her the honor she deserves.

Bethany:  I remember my childhood nightmare of screaming with all my might but no noise would come out. Holding in the secret abuse is just like that. I was constantly screaming inside but no one heard me. Finally, I made myself heard. I first began sharing when I was nineteen. My parents had just divorced, so my reason for keeping my secret was now obsolete. I pulled my mom aside and shared in very little detail that my father had sexually abused me for over twelve years. She put her arms around me and we both cried. What a relief it was! I could finally breathe again. This secret I held in all those years was out. It was a huge weight off my shoulders.

Once I told my mom, I didn’t feel like I had to keep the secret anymore. But I didn’t shout it from the rooftops either. For the first year I only told those who I trusted. Their reactions were always comforting and they were all willing to help in any way I needed.  The validation I got in the safe circle of friends was crucial in being able to talk about it confidently now. I internalized my pain but talking about it helped me get it out.

Patty Hite: The first time I wrote my story about abuse it was kind of vague and straight to the point. I omitted who it was and the details. I remember being so afraid that if I wrote out everything that it would become too real. I was in denial at the time and didn’t want to believe that those I loved had hurt me in that way. After a few years of flashbacks and nightmares I decided to let it all out. Even though I was shaking as I wrote, I described the abusers and gave accurate descriptions of everything they did.

I discovered the feelings I felt at the time of the abuse. It was an awakening for me because up until then, I hadn’t realized how important it was to investigate the emotions, the smells, and the touch of the abuse. It was freeing. I felt liberated and empowered. Describing the abuse showed me how strong and courageous I was. Even though I hid my abuse from everyone as a child, it intrigued me to see what avenues I developed to cover it up.

Jennifer:  Years ago, I spent a short time trying to heal from my abuse, but I quickly regressed back into denial, convincing myself that nothing ever happened. I lost any progress that I had made up to that point. It wasn’t until I started to write out and share my story with other survivors that I was truly able to start the healing process. I sat down with my laptop and typed out as much as I could remember—what they did, how it made me feel about myself, how my family reacted. I sent it to a trusted friend for her to read first. After that I slowly started letting more survivor-friends read it.

Just that one small step made the biggest difference for me. Sharing my story made it real in my own mind. I could no longer shove it to the back of my head and pretend it never happened. I had to start facing the facts. One piece at a time I looked at my own story. I was finally able to see things from a different perspective. Up until then I only remembered the abuse through my own eyes. I would always down play it and the effects it had on me, but when I saw my story written down I could read it like it was another person’s story. Would I blame them or say it was nothing if that were another person’s story?  NO!  So why was I doing that to myself?  That realization was a huge moment for me.  By sharing my story I was finally able to shed the guilt and shame I carried with me for so many years.

There are so many benefits of telling your story.  Here are a few of them:

1.  Abuse is devaluing.  Talking about it is a declaration that you and what happened to  you really matters.

2. Your experience may have been denied by others, and maybe even denied by you, but telling your story acknowledges the truth.  It’s difficult to deny your abuse once you’ve revealed the secret.  Telling the truth keeps you honest with yourself.

3.  If you were threatened not to tell, telling helps to overcome the fear of breaking the secret.

4.  The secrets you hold actually hold you, keeping you captive to the abuser’s power. Telling is a way to break free from the bond the secret created between you and your abuser.

5.  Shame thrives in secrecy.  Talking about your abuse helps to cast off the shame, both for yourself and other survivors.

6.  Releasing the secret in this area helps you live more freely in other areas.

7.  As long as you’re holding onto the secret, you’re also holding onto the pain.  Sharing helps you access the feelings associated with your experience so you can release the pain.

8.  Abuse is isolating. Telling is a way to connect with others.  Having feedback from others heals the pain of isolation and makes support possible.

9.  Telling may help you recover new memories and/or help you to see old memories in more detail.  Telling the truth often leads to more truth.

Christina: A lot of people think that by telling my story, I’m living in the past.  I feel just the opposite. The more I talk about it, the more separated I feel from the abuse and my abuser. The secret kept me imprisoned.  I was locked up by my dad’s rule not to tell and I shared a bond with him as long as I kept that secret. It was as though he possessed me—that I belonged to him.  As I protected him, I thought I was protecting me too.

I didn’t realize I felt that way until I told a crowd of people.  I had the feeling I was betraying my dad, like I was cheating on a lover.  In my heart, I accused myself of being disloyal. It was as though he cast a spell on me and the secret held the power.  Breaking the secret broke his power over me.  I was finally free to think and behave without considering how it would affect him.  I didn’t have to protect him or our “relationship”.

Bethany:  Before I broke the secret, I lived by my abuser’s rules, the most important was the rule not to tell. Breaking that rule took me out from under my dad’s control and made me the master of my own life. It didn’t happen overnight. Taking back my life fully has been a process.  My dad’s control began to diminish little by little over time as I claimed my life as my own by accepting my own truth.

Telling broadened my horizons. It took off  the limitations and put me in the driver’s seat of my own life. Some of the choices I made were good and some of them were bad, but they were finally MY choices. The decisions I made all had one thing in common: they were bold!

I was looking outside the window last night taking in my life as I know it. It occurred to me that where I am right now is now “normal” to me. Six years ago, before telling about my abuse, my world was so small. I could have never imagined a life outside my town, outside of what I was doing, or outside of the relationships I relied on. But when I told, my limited think began to change. My world got bigger and bigger.

It’s not easy to talk about our own abuse until we’ve heard the stories of other survivors. Reading other’s stories has many benefits:

1.   Abuse and the secrecy surrounding it is isolating. Reading other’s stories tells you that you are not alone—that you aren’t the only one who suffered in that way.

2.  Another common effect of abuse is the feeling that you are different.  Reading other’s stories tells you that your feelings and the effects you experience are normal for the trauma you suffered.

3.  Hearing other stories helps you see your own abuse in a different light.  You may feel blame for your own experience, but seeing how blameless others are may inform you that you aren’t at fault for your abuse either.

4.  If you don’t feel compassion, anger or other emotions concerning your own abuse, hearing other stories can help you to access those emotions so you can process them and heal from them.

5.  Reading other survivor stories inspires courage so you can speak out about your own experiences.

Patty:  When I first read a survivor’s story from a book, I cried for days. I was so relieved to know that I was not the only one. Her abuse was different, but the trauma from the abuse was the same as mine. Even though I didn’t know her and never spoke to her, I felt so close to her. As I continued to read about her abuse, I grew stronger. I was no longer alone. For a period of time the only books I read were stories about survivors; I didn’t want to read about healing.  I wanted to become a part of a group of survivors. There were no survivor groups where I lived and there were no computers at the time, so the only connection I had was with the survivors who so graciously shared their stories. It was life changing for me. I continue to read survivors stories because it continuously brings me into the circle.

Jennifer:  I wasn’t able to admit that I was a victim of sexual abuse until I started reading other people’s stories. They described the same types of things that happened to me as a kid. The only difference was that they had a label to define their experiences. I had always thought of it as “stuff that happened”, stuff that I didn’t think about, let alone talk about. It never occurred to me until then to attach the word abuse to my memories. If I hadn’t read the accounts of other survivors, I would most likely still be in denial today.  I am so grateful to all the brave men and women that have opened up and shared their stories. They have paved the road for me and future generations to tell our stories and begin the healing process.

If you’d like to share your story or read other survivor’s courageous stories, visit the Overcoming Sexual Abuse discussion forum.

Related Posts:
How Do I Disclose My Abuse?

As a survivor of emotional, physical and sexual abuse, Patty Hite has been tenaciously pursuing her healing for over thirty years.  She’s a passionate advocate for all survivors and dedicates her life to inspiring emotional wholeness in others. As a former victim of spousal abuse, she’s delighted to find true love with her husband of ­­­­five years.  She’s blessed with four children and five grandchildren.

Bethany is cofounder of Overcoming Sexual Abuse, an online resource for male and female abuse survivors looking for practical answers and tools for healing. Besides helping abuse survivors see the beauty within themselves, she enhances the beauty of others as a professional make-up artist and has worked in television, film and print. 

 

Jennifer Stuck is whole heartedly pursuing physical and emotional health and is determined to heal the wounds of her childhood sexual abuse. She loves to write, especially poetry. She has an open, accepting personality, and is always ready to crack a joke. She is currently studying for a career in Physical Therapy. When she isn’t in school Jennifer is at home spending time with her two beautiful daughters.

Christina Enevoldsen is cofounder of Overcoming Sexual Abuse, an online resource for male and female abuse survivors looking for practical answers and tools for healing. Christina’s passions are writing and speaking about her own journey of healing from abuse and inspiring people toward wholeness. She and her husband live in Los Angeles and share three children and four grandchildren.

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45 comments
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  1. i hold the horors in my head.. i am now at the stage where i cannot do anything but cry… cry for the little me’s and cry because i just cannot begin to tell the pain and whats happened… my inners have a right to be heard… but how do you express that… i can see it all as plain as day… but talking and saying it… well that is different… i am right now engulfed with heart ach and pain… and dont no where to turn.

  2. I want to thank all of you for sharing this! I have often been accused of dwelling on the past and labeled so many things etc. for talking about what has happened to me … However the truth is by speaking out it is like all of you beautiful Women have shared here .. it is healing and it is liberating not just for our self but for many others as well!

    Confession is good for the soul (being able to speak the truth frees us of the chains of the past)
    Love to you all ((((HUGS))))

  3. Mena,
    I had a hard time at first. When I’d remember another part of my abuse, I’d want to tell someone so I wouldn’t feel so alone with it, but it would take forever to get the words out. Some of it was feeling overwhelmed, some of it was fear of rejection, but a lot of it was that I felt a certain horror of hearing what happened to me. There was something about saying it out loud that made it true or real or something. It’s not that way anymore. The more I talk about it, the more comfortable I am and the more I distance myself from the pain. A bout 98% of the time I talk about it now, I don’t feel anything. I’ve worked through that pain and it’s gone.

    If you have someone you trust with other issues, that might be a good place to start. Please don’t hold it in any longer. You’re carrying this alone and it’s too heavy!
    Hugs to you, Christina

  4. wow, oh my gosh there was so many things that match my way of dealing with my trauma and then there are the ones i’m workin on and then a few i still have to poke and disrupt the shroud that has kept it hidden from me.

    this conflict on how i will openly talk about how certain things affect me and then how i recoil from others has been frustrating to me. whenever a memory or thought pops into my mind i have started to vocalise them rather than think it inside just for myself to ponder on, and i’m sure that is why the contact from my parents has dwindled and in my mother’s case led to a total breakdown in communication. thanks to my ability to express my pain and anger at how she was treating me, and have support from others who have been there and done that, was helpful beyond belief. i feel lighter now that we are not seeing each other because she cannot help judging me. at the moment i cannot resist telling her what i remember as i remember it. my version and hers are on different levels. until i either move on or she can gain a better insight of the dynamics of our relationship, it is less painful for both of us.

    thank you all for your willingness to speak out so people like me can grow by your outlook on similar issues. that is also what prompts me to post when ever i see something that touches something in my mind.
    keep up the good work

  5. Nikki,
    Yes! That whole “dwelling on the past” issue SOUNDS right until you’ve tried it. That accusation that I’m not living in the present really makes me mad sometimes. They just don’t understand that I’m doing that now by addressing the issues in the past. Sweeping things under the carpet and pretending the past doesn’t matter is denying the truth. I’m stuck in the past ONLY when I pretend the past doesn’t affect my present and future. By dealing with the past, I’m freed from it! Oh, well, at least we have the benefit of freedom no matter what others may think or say.
    Hugs, Christina

  6. Carol,
    Thank you so much for your encouragement once again. It’s so inspiring to know the work we do is touching you. I hope you know that it’s not only us who inspire others– you’re growth is inspiring others too! Keep doing what you’re doing because it’s great!
    Hugs, Christina

  7. Nikki,

    I have been told so many times to quit dwelling in the past, too. And for the longest time I would automatically stop talking about my abuse. I felt like I was doing something wrong by talking because it upset others. The more I healed and built up my self esteem, those words were not enough to shut me up any more.

    Patty

  8. Carol,

    Thank you for sharing your life with us. Your comment: “wow, oh my gosh there was so many things that match my way of dealing with my trauma and then there are the ones i’m workin on and then a few i still have to poke and disrupt the shroud that has kept it hidden from me.”
    This is what it is all about. When we share about our life, we are able to see the things we have in common and the things we need to deal with, and the things we aren’t ready to handle yet.

    We are all in this together. Patty

  9. I was molested by a neighbor for almost 5 years and, when I told some people in my family, one of my brothers said it was my fault b/c I kept going in for pop and candy. He really did have those two items in there, and everyone in my biological family was malnourished due to extenuating circumstances.
    But I figured if my own so-called brother could blame me, I had no chance of getting outsiders to believe me. So I stopped talking about it.
    Until now.
    Something about what I read convinced me people won’t be like that here.

  10. Vicki,
    I’m sorry for the reaction you got from your brother. A lot of us– maybe even the majority of us– were treated the same way by our families. The truth is that abuse is never the child’s fault, no matter what. No, we weren’t asking to be abused just because we wanted affection or attention or even candy. The abusers exploited us and our needs and desires. We were tricked and seduced and though we may not have said no and may have even liked a part of it, we are not to blame– not even a little.

    I hope you keep talking about it.
    Hugs, Christina

  11. Thank you Christina and Patty … : )

  12. @ mena I am right there with you. I’m either in a state of extreme hyperness mixed with anger , or depression. Ive been told to leave my past in the past. My abuser is dead and there was no closure for me. I dont feel normal. I try not to inflict any kind of pain on others so that when the hurt and pain become extreme I self abuse. I cant hold down a job and am going to have to file for disability. This also makes me feel like a failure. I have worked all my life of course it was a succesion of jobs because I would always quit them. I have quit every relationship ive ever had expect the on I’m in now. but I feel like I’m letting him down. I try and try to read stories of others abuse but I mostly skim through them because sooner or later there will be a trigger in one of the stories , I try my best to journal and go to therapy once a week. I still cant get over the feelings of self hate and shame and total disgust of what was done to me. I still cant vocalize what my abuser did to me. I always think of the Brittany Murphy movie where she says. ” I’ll never tell”. the 12 year old me wants to come out but bringing her out is so hard and embarresing to me. this is the hardest thing I have ever done. and some days I’m so tired of being strong. Thanks all of you for sharing your stories . It’s just so sad that there are so many of us. Blessings to you all.

  13. yeah i think life is a series of stages, i was talking to somebody today about how much i have grown over the summer and the steps i had taken to keep moving in the right direction, yet the most profound thing i realised is that they do not have a right to silence my viewpoints just because it makes people uncomfortable. that is why i keep talking and telling about how much families hide from those on the outside to those on the inside. the fact that i could now recognise this and speak of it calmly rather than angerily was quite a shock to the person. they havent seen or spoken to me since july, so i enjoyed showing off some of my improvments.
    hope that i can give people hope that just because you carnt do something now doesnt meant that you might never be able to do it.
    blessings be yours

  14. Terri,
    I understand your feelings of failure. It’s bad enough to have the pain of the abuse, but then the effects of it make everything worse and some of them are powerful enough to bring things crashing down. None–or at least not many– of us started out by shouting about our abuse histories. We’ve taken baby steps. Just saying as much as you said is a good step.

    There’s a phrase in “The Courage to Heal” book that I love and live by: “Do it afraid”. I don’t always wait until I stop feeling afraid of something to do it. I just go ahead and ‘do it afraid’. I’ve taken lots of steps while shaking and sometimes sure I’m going to throw up, but I did it. And it never turned out as bad as I imagined. In fact, I’ve almost 100% of the time I’ve only seen positive results from plunging in. Consider taking more steps even if you don’t feel completely comfortable. It very often pays off and is just the step you need to move forward.
    Hugs, Christina

  15. Love how you approached each topic with all of you providing your perspectives cuz we all deal with this a different way. I learned early on that telling the wrong people can make life even more miserable. I actually found a support group on AOL in the late 90s that was my first acceptance and validation. Initially had husband support but he totally backed away when the RA came up and then the MC/Govt. When I finally found my therapist, that was the one place I knew I could spit it all out. That and collaging my truth. I think there is great need to speak out after understanding the prison of silence we’ve lived in. Am so glad we can share here. Thank you.

  16. Maggie,
    I agree. We do all deal with this in different ways. We each have different needs. I noticed that my need to tell varied at different points in my life. Now, I don’t have a need to talk about my abuse, but I do have a need to talk about my healing process. I want everyone to know that it’s possible to overcome. Thanks for sharing! Hugs, Christina

  17. There’s a great discussion going on about this topic at the Overcoming Sexual Abuse FaceBook page:

    Talking About Abuse FaceBook Discussion

  18. Christina I read what you put on facebook today and we talk about the abuse because it helps us to have a better future. To me when people choose not to discuss things that aren’t happy ect. they are in denial they believe sweeping it under the carpet will make it go away,NOT that has always bothered me about some people, or they would say to me you are just looking to start a fight or can’t we just have a normal day, or get this I just to deep why do I have to look at everything so deep. It ‘s all crap to me it just excuses not to deal with stuff, You must deal to heal I believe it and always will. If we don’t work through the junk of the past are future will surely reflect the past no matter how hard we try to forget.

  19. Diane,
    I agree 100%. We have to deal with the past so we can move on. We are tied to the past until we face it. Thanks for sharing!
    Christina

  20. ‘What happened to me really matters’
    I didn’t think that till I read this, is that because we haven’t thought we mattered? I always felt like a burden on the planet just from breathing

    ‘I was locked up by my dad’s rule not to tell and I shared a bond with him as long as I kept that secret. It was as though he possessed me—that I belonged to him. As I protected him, I thought I was protecting me too.
    I had the feeling I was betraying my dad, like I was cheating on a lover. In my heart, I accused myself of being disloyal. It was as though he cast a spell on me and the secret held the power. Breaking the secret broke his power over me. I was finally free to think and behave without considering how it would affect him. I didn’t have to protect him or our “relationship”. ‘
    I feel like I’m being disloyal, I don’t want to go back into denial but denial is really comfortable for me except it means I deny everything – my existence even

    ‘You may feel blame for your own experience, but seeing how blameless others are may inform you that you aren’t at fault for your abuse either.’
    Blameless is a word I can’t fully believe yet because of how bad I feel

  21. It took me over 40 years of living in silence of my dad’s sexually molesting me. I came public with being sexually abused at a meeting for women at our church held by a proffessional speaker on this subject. I was shaking with emotion at speaking aloud at this meeting that I too had been sexually molested, but did not mention who did it. It resulted in my feeling that I didn’t have to keep the secret any longer, and from that grew into strength to tell some others, close friends, and also my children, who never had a clue. From that came the revulation from my son who admitted he was sexually abused from the age of 8 or younger to the age of 15, ( my son was 18 at the time this came out to me, and only because I was able to tell him that I had been abused by my own dad). But , although I have come a long way through counseling, and talking to my husband finally, and began leading the cause of sexual abuse education in my church, my immediate family is very concerned that I mention my abuser, our dad, publicly. They have repeatedly gave me the feeling that I must forgive and forget and get on with my life. That exposing our dad publicly would create bad feelings about their memories of our family and of our mom, ( mom and dad are now deceased). Must I continue to protect my siblings of their happy memories and move on from there or should I continue to keep the family secret . My sister was very upset at me that one of my children informed her son ( my nephew) because it devastated him so much to know this about grampa. For my own healing, do I continue to hold the family secret, or do I become publicly honest so that I can finally quit having secrets.

  22. Betty,
    My family believes in ‘forgive and forget’ too. The truth makes them uncomfortable. It’s too bad that they aren’t more uncomfortable about the true harm. The harm isn’t in the truth–it’s in the secrets and the lies. I can’t answer what’s best for you, but in telling my full truth, there were consequences. But there were also benefits. I haven’t regretting my full disclosure for one minute. I don’t feel the need to cover for abusers anymore, especially at my expense. It’s invalidating to be told to honor those who don’t deserve honor.
    Christina

  23. […] second post, Why Do I Need to Tell? from the “Overcoming Sexual Abuse” blog, is about the necessity of telling one’s […]

  24. I went thru many years or healing in other areas of abuse and completed 12 step programs, etc… before finally seeing sexual abuse was the root. I joined a 13 week study group at church and having that save place to share with other survivors was LIBERATING for me… It doesn’t happen overnight, but HEALING & WHOLENESS DOES HAPPEN. I now can share what has been healed and revealed to me by God concernning my abuse and it seems as if I am almost telling someone else’s story. It is so important to begin to share and allow the exposure to come, otherwise it truly is an emotional cancer. GOD BLESS!

  25. I have been aware of some of my past abuse, but now more memories are returning. I was rescued from my last abuser by my parents – but they did nothing to help me heal – back then I think no-one really knew much. 40yrs on, I realise that I have been living with PTSD for over 45 years (and I was a mental health professional!). It took a physical cancer to put me in touch with the emotional one – the threat of losing my voice through surgery helped me to regain my voice emotionally and psychologically – and now there is no going back.
    I have chosen consciously to “come out” and speak openly about what happened to me. Only by me being open can others realise that they may know someone who needs help too – and this has got to stop. It seems to be so widespread these days.This is far and away the hardest thing I have ever done voluntarily – some days I want to run and hide, some days I can just sit and stare a a wall – but I have to believe that things can be better, and that there can be a real life and a full and healthy relationship with my husband.

  26. Liz,
    Wow, what you said is really powerful and inspiring, “…the threat of losing my voice through surgery helped me to regain my voice emotionally and psychologically – and now there is no going back.” I’ve never faced that kind of physical threat, but I feel the same way: There’s no going back. On most days, that’s a good thing. lol.

    Shawnda,
    I’m glad you’ve recovered your voice. Before getting to the root of sexual abuse, I had no idea how much of my life was run by it. How wonderful to be liberated. I’m rejoicing with you!

  27. It is Christmas and this is issue has divided my family. I try to avoid my brother and have as much as I can for years. It has been so hard. I am on the point of crying again. My parents told me they would not come to my home for Christmas unless he was invited. I’m angry, numb, scared, scarred, and in doubt. One minute I think that I am doing the right thing by not being with them for Christmas. The next minute I feel I am throwing away my family like they threw away me by making me choose between silence and reality. I am done hiding. My brother, who is several years older than me, abused me as a little girl. He knew what he was doing. And why do I need to forgive him? What does that even look like? I don’t know anymore. To forgive feels like it’s all okay and it didn’t happen. I live in pretendville. It did, and sometimes, I am wondering if the newer memories are real or not. It gets to the point where I feel very overwhelmed. But I refuse to be told to let my abuser into my home or else suffer the loss of our love and companionship. I told my mom I was abused so many times. She never hears it. Or she says forgive. Or I understand but I didn’t know. I first told when I was 12 and told to stay away from him! Or I’m okay and it happened a long time ago. I’m so sick of it all that I could scream if someone would just allow me too! I told her we weren’t coming there and I didn’t even know if I wanted her and my dad at my home anymore. I get people who love me telling me I did the right thing. But they are still my parents, and the put the conditions there…not me. If they don’t love me enough to keep me safe even now, I will keep myself and my kids safe. We will have a wonderful Christmas with or without them. Why is it so hard to accept the abuse in the family and protect the victim instead of the damn abuser? Why? She told me she didn’t want him left behind. But I guess I’m worth so little. It hurts. She is supposed to be my mom. He did the wrong. Not me.

  28. Brandy,
    I found this statement of yours very powerful: ” If they don’t love me enough to keep me safe even now, I will keep myself and my kids safe.” It’s so common that families maintain the same reaction throughout a survivor’s life. My mom was the same way. It was so hard to accept that I wasn’t a priority to my parents–either then or now. But there current behavior proves what I remember about their treatment from my childhood. I’m easy to dismiss now because they’ve had so much practice my whole life.

    Your mom gave you the responsibility to protect yourself from your brother when you were a child and incapable of doing that. Now that you’re an adult, I’m so glad you’re recognizing your ability and right to protect yourself and your children, not only from your abusive brother, but also from your abusive parents. I’m so sorry your parents didn’t protect you and are treating you like the bad one, but you’re doing the right thing by saying no to more abuse.
    Christina

  29. I’m really new to being quite this open to talking about it. Reading this blog and the last few days has drug up so much sorrow. I, too, have been told all along to forgive. I don’t know what that means. I believe in God but I feel like if I forgive it means allowing him to hurt me again and again. The memories just …this is hard. I am tired of being treated like the bad one, Ms. Christina. I really am. I was a really good kid. Good grades, good manners, very loving. I tried really hard to make my parents proud, and to feel accepted by my dad. I just feel so sad right now. It’s like if I cry something is going to break, and yet I can’t quite let go. I don’t want to be where I go sometimes. It’s very overwhelming and frightening to feel things like that. It is scary. Sometimes I just feel afraid like I did then and want to get away. Someone here wrote about how they move on from job to job. Me too. My anxiety and depressive tendencies have been there throughout my life. I used to feel like it was my fault. I still do. Just like the candy and pop person, it was games. He told me he’d let me play games with him..uno, monopoly. battle ship, etc. I thought I was getting my brother’s attention when I felt lonely or wanted someone to playwith. Then we’d stop. It was time. Every time. The door locked. Mom could have been doing laundry, or my parents were gone. My sister would watch me but being a teen she was on the phone. She didn’t know. I never told. But I’d run out his room crying and in fear. How did they not wonder? Maybe I said nothing was wrong. I don’t know. I feel so bad.

  30. I feel very afraid and I don’t get why. I hopefully will hear from a therapist tomorrow and get an appointment made. She specializes in this stuff and I saw her once. Thanks for responding! B

  31. I’ve given up talking about my abuse. I’m not telling anyone else about it. The one’s that believe me don’t want to hear. And the one’s that don’t believe break my heart.

  32. Thank you for creating this website. This is the first time I’ve told anyone about my experience publicly, and I feel both terrified and freed. I’ve been in recovery for sexual abuse by my father and grandfather for almost four years; I’m 38 years old. My memories were repressed, with the exception of recurring nightmares, unexplained reactions to books and movies, strange body memories and sensations, and lupus (which I am glad to report is mostly non-existent since doing EMDR therapy,) I had no recall of specific memories, just an internal dread that I was sexually abused. “Coming out” shook my world; my husband, although a wonderful human, could not process what happened to me, and shut down. We eventually separated. His mother told me to “Hurry up and get over it so I can come back into the family. My son has been so down since you left.” I was speechless. Some of my friends couldn’t handle the information, either, and emotionally left the scene. I have a couple of close friends that I can lean on, but have done most of my work alone with my therapist. I’ve made incredible strides in therapy and the golden nugget is that, as an EMDR therapist, and being on the other side of the abuse allows me to be a compassionate, unflinching, empathetic “sherpa” for those I counsel. I watch miracles happen every day in my office- people being freed and healed by their own beautiful, touching, earnest, hard work. I don’t have to self-disclose to my clients for them to feel the knowing of their experience. I have not told my family, with the exception of one aunt; she made it about her, because someone had sexually abused her, too, and told me that therapy wasn’t the answer, but leaning on my family was. Thank god my internal response was, “Really?? Because my family is the one who keeps me trapped in the secret.” My father recently committed suicide, and I can tell, even though he is dead, that his siblings and nephew will never be able to hear the truth about what happened to me. Reading these essays is both validating and liberating. I feel like I found an authentic, non-dramatic, non-martyrish group of “sisters” who speak the language of my heart. I felt “listened to” and “understood” by reading these articles. Thank you for your honest expression of your experience.

  33. Wow, thank you for this website. I don’t know what else to say but I feel that this is a real start to something I have ALWAYS known but downplayed. To be honest, I felt sorry for my father because I grew older thinking that if I confronted him he would be so ashamed. I didn’t want to mess up his life.
    I’ve had many issues with addiction and it wasn’t until my time in recovery 2 years ago that a counselor told me that my abuse (I still couldn’t call it that at the time and barely can now) had a lot to do with the situation I was in emotionally and just plain all around.
    I’ve always known that my father molested me as did 2 other babysitters on separate occasions. I am 40 now and have had very little contact with either parent since I was 17. There has never been anything that caused this as far as they know.. they think I am kind of an estranged daughter. I don’t know what to do at this point because my father had a stroke and he cannot talk. He is really weak and cannot speak so how would I begin to talk to him about this? Besides, it’s not something I want to do. My parents have been divorced since I was 5. I started lying about EVERYTHING under the sun around 15 and didn’t stop lying to everyone about everything until a few years ago. I have had a solid career but I am always so full of self loathing. I have a fear that other things happened that I don’t remember and what can I do with that knowledge? I feel that so much of my life, tendencies and low self esteem issues seem to make sense now the more I read through this website and all the other stories. I don’t ever want to talk to my mother about this. I actually told her when I was 19 but I don’t think she really believed me and has never asked me about it again. That is the “support” I’ve gotten from her about this. This has really ruined my life I feel and I just don’t know how to go about understanding and not being enraged at the same time. I don’t know who to tell or talk to.

  34. I am so great full to find this site . I have recently over the last year really started to feel the ramifications of the sexual abuse I endured from my dad as a little girl . I have no idea how I survived as a child with this pan inside me ??? How did that little girl not feel so damaged and hurt like this grown adult does ? I feel so bad for her, for pushing her feelings away and for lying to myself my whole life only to protect other people. I should have protected myself . I am begining the healing process . I have recently found that I have a personality disorder that is commonly a result of childhood sexual abuse . I am in therapy, reading all the self help books I could possibly read and recently started meditating . I am so dedicated to healing . I never have felt so much determination towards anything in my life . But oh my god, it is painful . I am full of so much anger and hatred and most of the time I spend my days crying . Or laughing because I can’t believe I’ve spent my whole day crying.
    I have a question that I need so badly answered , and I am hoping someone can shed some light on this for me . My situation is a little different . My mom and dad are still together , very happily actually or so one would say . My mother has multiple sclerosis and stress is something that could send her into a relapse and further complicate her already horrible medical condition, also my dad is all she’s got .
    When I was 9 and it happened over the course of a year, I told my brothers on secrecy . Begging them not to tell my mom. Well , they told her . Because frankly , all of us kids hated him. He was so angry all the time and so mean. When my brothers told my mom what happened , she took us kids and left . She worked at a motel as a desk clerk and her boss loved her , so we were able to stay I’m a hotel ro temporarily . For the next I don’t know how long because I don’t think I had a good grasp on time concept at the time , but I’m guessing maybe a week AT MOST, my mom just cried . That’s all she did was cry, she was so sad . I don’t remember her comforting me, although I cannot completely say she didn’t . I don’t remember . But I do Rememever she was very effected by this and very sad . I sat there and saw my family separated , my mom crying , my brothers and I barely eating … So I decided to tell my mom I was lying , that it never happened . And she believed that . the next thing I knew, they were getting back together an we were back at “home” without any further questions. The sexual abuse stopped, but the verbal abuse didnt . He was so angry. Such an angry person .
    I then lived out the rest of my childhood up until I was 18, living there in that house under HIS ROOF, living that lie . My question is this, I am 26 now . Recently over the last year like I mentioned prior , everything has surfaced . I have regular flashbacks and am haunted by this abuse . I want to tell my mom, I feel like I deserve her support . I want to tell him that I hate him, that I will hate him for the duration of my existence and that I will never forgive him . I’m afraid to tell my mom because I don’t want to be the reason she is sent into a relapse … I don’t want to cause trouble . I guess I am still , just like that 9 year old little girl, trying to protect everyone else except myself . I am lost .

  35. Nicole,
    Thanks for sharing your story. I’ve often wondered how I survived as a child too, with all that pain and not being able to express it or stop the source of it. Lying to ourselves was one of the only ways to survive it.

    Have you talked with your therapist about whether to talk to your mom or not? That might be a good thing to work through to figure out the best thing for you.

    Christina

  36. I told my my mom and stepdad what my bio father was doing to me when I was 3 and a half. I didn’t want to have to visit him for Christmas. My mom made sure I never was alone with him again and after a custody battle, I never had to see him again. Now at age 27, my struggle is not remembering the abuse first hand. I’ve talked to my mom. I’ve read through the old court documents and the interviews with counselors and teachers but its so hard to believe that this happened to me. Some days I still wonder if it really happened or not. Maybe I just don’t want to believe that anyone is capable of hurting a child in such a cruel and selfish way.

    One thing I do still live with is the nightmares. I’m not sure but I think he threatened to murder me if I told. My nightmares of being attacked, running, hiding, and being murdered all started when I was 3. I still have them frequently. Do you have any recommendations on overcoming the threats? How do I convince the 3 year old girl inside me that I’m safe now?

  37. Triggers ..unavoidable ones…someone shared a story about a child being harmed by her parent. I froze and felt sadness and detached at the same time. I also realized thoughts of my relative and my experiences. I thought I was in a better place. I know now it is still there and likely will be. I am helpless but not hopeless. I have my faith to keep me going, and I know now again that there is joy in life. I don’t want that gone again.

  38. I talk of my abuse to tell my truth. I began to speak of my truth when my own daughter was abused, like me it was a family member. It seemed as if abuse followed me where ever I went. I grew up in a home where my father was sexually abusing my sister and while he was abusing her. I was being abused by my mothers brothers, Yes, brothers and father , I was only 5 years old when it started. It seem that I could not get away. inside I felt confused, dirty and fear was always with me. Since my parents did show love or spoke to me I felt the attention I was getting from my abuser was love, at least this is what he said. I never really spoke of the violations that were inflicted. But on the day, I found about my daughter’s abuse, I felt I was losing my mind. I blamed myself and wondered WHY! How can this be. It was than that I started to talk about abuse. All the memories of my abuse came flooding like a huge wave and I realized it was real. It happened to me. I began to remember not only my own,t but that of my sister’s I witnessed all the horrible things I saw my father commit against her. The more I remember the more I spoke. Then one day I told my sister and her response was get over it. Get Over it! How could I get over it? I had to let the world know that this dirty secret is real, it happened to me, it happened to my sister and it happened to my daughter. My truth had to be told. It was the way I was able to heal all of the pain I carried. I had to speak in order to help my daughter. I had to speak to let my sister that was also abused know, I knew and her story was also truth. Today, I am still talking, talking to bring awareness to the world. To let others know that they are not alone, but most importantly that there is a wonderful life after ABUSE.

  39. This really is amazing. I have only told my very loving boyfriend about the abuse I had at the hands of my own brother. Ladies, even with coming out I’m still a little ashamed but I’m working through it day after day. It’s hard for me to go on and look at everyone with a good relationship with their brother while mine is non-existent. It really does suck.

    For me, I’m so scared of telling my mom. I’m so terrified that it will ruin my whole life and flip it upside down. Oh god, I’m crying as I’m typing this…. I’m terrified. Petrified.

    This website truly is very inspiring to someone as young as myself. I am sixteen years old and I still have a life to live. The abuse started to come to the surface by the end of grade nine. At the end of grade ten, I was diagnosed with severe depression and I’m on some heavy medicine.. I’ve thought of killing myself but alas, that would mean all those nasty ass things would win. AND I’M NOT GOING DOWN. I’M STRONG!

    With so much love, Allison.

  40. I was sexually abused by the boy who lived across the street. I was 4 when it began. He did things to me that are almost unimagniable. Yes he would put himself inside of me along with anything else he could find. I for some reason had to stay over at his house some afternoons. He told me if I told he would hurt me more, so somehow I was able to make myself dissociate with what he was doing. I do not remember much of my childhood, probably because of that, but I do remember the nightmare that I had repeatedly was a dog(odd) chasing after me, I could not run and I could not scream. I would wake up and my bed would be wet from me being so scared that I would wet the bed. Anyway life went on, we moved and all that had happened was forgotten. In our new home, we moved when I was 7, our neighbors had a pool. I spent a lot of time over there. Espically when I was a teenager, wanting that perfect tan. Several times when our chuch youth group would be over there the man(neighbor) would touch me between my legs underneath my bathing suit. I thought it was just an accident. Dumb me, it didn’t click. One saturday while laying out, he came out and exposed himself, I was terriffied. I got in the water and he came in to. It was there he began doing things. You know I do not remember if he actually got inside of me, but I do remember him trying. This went on for several hours and I finally got the nerve to leave. I was lucky he did not try to stop me. I did tell an older friend of mine that evening, but she said it would all be ok. I continued to go to church with him for many years, but had so much fear of him. I did avoid as much as possible. It wasn’t until my daughter turned 4 that all of the abuse came to head. I was severely depressed and yes tried to committ suicide, but as you can see did not succeed. I felt that my husband could get a better wife who could love him better and give him all that he needed and my children could have a better mom that was sick. Went thru lots of treatment and medcications, and shock treatment, which did help tremendously. The depression never really went away. I battle with it daily. For several years I have been on a great rx combination that helps me sleep and with the depression. I am not raising my granddaughter and she is 4. go figure. All of this that I thought I had worked through has come back and hit me like a ton of bricks. I feel like a 4 year old at times when all the feelings overwhelm me. I have confided in a very dear friend at church and thinking of talking with the pastor(she will be with me). It really scares me. I just want to snap my fingers and it all be gone. Thanks for the readings, they are very comforting.

    Marti

  41. I came upon this site when doing a search on the internet. My husband’s 13-year old granddaughter only recently came into our lives (we’ve known her now for about 8 months, but that’s another story in itself). She is a darling girl, and poor thing, has lost both of her parents. She now lives with her grandmother (husband’s ex – they’ve been divorced for about 35 years). This past weekend, we had my 17-year old niece over to our house, along with “K” our granddaughter. The two girls are close, and K confided in my niece that one of her older brothers sexually abused her starting at age 6 through 9. K no longer lives with her brother (who is now about 19), and hasn’t seen him in person in these past 8 months, and we’ll see to it that they’re never alone together in the future. My question is this – should we confront K and let her know what our niece has told us – and reassure her that we believe her and love her, and that she’s totally blameless in the abuse? I would also like to get her help – let her talk to a therapist and possibly get her into group therapy. I would certainly tell her that she was right to confide in our niece and that our niece was right to tell us. But would there be harm in “forcing her hand” – letting K know that we know before she’s ready to tell us? Your advice is sincerely appreciated.

  42. Denise,
    It’s so good to hear that you’re taking this seriously. From my own experience and from what I’ve heard from hundreds of survivors, disclosures are pivotal. They are either invalidating experiences where (verbal or non-verbal) messages are communicated that it was “no big deal” or affirming and supportive experiences that start the survivor on the road to healing. Ignoring disclosures is one of the most hurtful things loved ones do so it’s wonderful that you want to help.

    Survivors have been overpowered, which is the nature of abuse. Someone else disregarded the victim’s feelings and violated them. Sometimes, loved ones unintentionally do the same while they are trying to help. It’s important for survivors to have choices about who to talk with about their abuse and if, when and how they want to heal. I’m not sure “confronting” or “forcing her hand” would come across as supportive, though offering your listening ear and some options probably would. Have you read some of the other articles on this site? That might give you a good feel for what K may be experiencing.

    I wish you well as you move through this.
    Christina

  43. I was abused by my older brother until I was ten. I never told anyone. Around the time the abuse was taking place, my parents were going through the early stages of a separation. My dad was a narcissist and I was his golden child, so for those reasons I could never have told him I was dirty, awful and bad, which is how I believed I would be seen. And he didn’t have the skills for that kind of thing. My mom was so sad I felt she was oceans away from me. I would sit up at night in bed, my brother down the hall in his room, my parents sleeping at the other end of the house, and feel like I was the only person in the world – everyone else was dead- and it was so achingly lonely I thought I would die from it, even hoped I would.
    To make the disgust I felt with myself close to bearable, I vowed not to think of it, never to write of it- in that way, there was no proof it ever happened. Not telling felt like the only option. I didn’t do it to protect my brother. My parents couldn’t have helped me, and that was probably the last thing my mom needed. So I’d deal with it on my own.
    By the time I was a teenager it was just my mom and my brother, the latter of whom I could not hide my contempt for. One of my close friends asked if he had abused me and I said no, chastising myself for somehow not guarding myself closely enough. My mother asked me when I was 15 or 16 and I vehemently denied it. I wanted to be me, not someone who had been damaged, coerced to do ugly things. To admit it was to hate myself beyond anything I could imagine.
    When I was finally an “adult” I went to the other side of the world to lose my virginity- not because I liked sex, wanted sex, any of the typical reasons, I was horrified that without doing anything at all I could have the term “virgin” attached to me, something inherently sexual. Shortly thereafter I began bingeing and purging constantly. They had to send me home. I was so broken.
    As I worked on the bulimia in therapy, my brother decided to come clean about the abuse. I was confronted as though I had done something wrong. I spent my early twenties trying to drown him out in numbers, being promiscuous and drinking myself into oblivion. I’m now 28, finally at a point where I am able to say on my own, maybe I need to work on the sexual abuse, but I have no idea how to, when I want to talk about it less than anyone. When I have gotten close to emotions I feel about the abuse it’s so far been seemingly uncontrollable and even murderous rage, and then self-loathing and disgust to the point suicide starts to make good sense.
    I know pain is something I should expect to feel but these other feelings have me wondering if it’s simply not safe to work on it. I apologize that this was so long and most of it probably irrelevant, but I’m feeling lost and almost hopeless.

  44. Lissie,
    Thank you for sharing your story. I could very much relate to what you wrote:

    I would sit up at night in bed, my brother down the hall in his room, my parents sleeping at the other end of the house, and feel like I was the only person in the world – everyone else was dead- and it was so achingly lonely I thought I would die from it, even hoped I would.

    That’s how I felt too and I don’t know how I survived it or how I even wanted to. But I’m glad I did and I’m glad you did too.

    I hope that as you explore your feelings about your abuse that you find a way to feel safe in it. You were alone in it in childhood, but you don’t have to be alone in it now.
    Christina

  45. I was abused by my grandfather when I was nine. I told my mom after he went too far one day. She was great she got me into therapy and called the cops. We have disowned My grandfather and grandmother as well as my mom’s brothers (whom refused to believe that anything happened). I am 23 now and Intellectually, I know it was good for me to tell but emotionally, I still feel like it is my fault for breaking up our family. It is hard not to pretend it didn’t happen. I am so glad for my mom because if I had had my way as a child I would have preferred to never see my grandfather again and just never talk about it but in time I’ve realized that talking about it makes it hurt less and i hope I will one day get over the guilt I feel.

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