Why Was I Abused?

Feb 1st, 2011 | By | Category: All Posts, Christina's Blog

Christina Enevoldsen

by Christina Enevoldsen

Just a note: Sometimes I believe things because they are true; other times I believe things because an alternate truth would be painful. One of the indications that I’m invested in a particular belief as a coping method is that I defend that “truth” as though my life is threatened. When I notice inordinately strong emotions about a point of view, I ask myself: “What purpose does this belief serve in my life?”; “Do I NEED to believe this?”; “What if it isn’t true?—then what does that imply?”’ “How did I come to believe this?”

My intention in writing this isn’t to convince anyone to come to the same conclusions I have. This issue isn’t just about this issue. I could have written this about many things stored in my belief system.

When I was about eight or nine years old, my mom told me that the bad things in my life were because I was meant to do great things. “Special” people had to go through special training. They had to endure hardships—more than “ordinary” people. They had to experience shame and degradation so they wouldn’t be puffed up in pride. They had to experience pain so they could learn compassion for others. They had to be broken so they could become stronger in those broken places.

It’s something she said on several occasions and it appealed to me. The abuse told me I was worthless, but my mom redefined it: The abuse wasn’t an indication that I was nothing; it was an indication that I was special. My mom had some kind of “higher wisdom” that provided a reason for my pain. I wasn’t suffering without cause; there was something noble about my abuse. I wasn’t a victim; I was a hero.

I learned from an early age to call it something else other than the violent and traumatic death of my innocence. My father also redefined my abuse. He told me that we were “having special time”. He said the abuse was love. I preferred his version since the alternative was that I was living with a monster and that my father abandoned me and his fatherly role.

I was terrified of abandonment—not only from my father, but from God. I thought the only possibilities were that God was either involved—and the abuse was meant as a good thing—or that he completely abandoned me. I preferred a God who passively or actively participated in abuse to one who abandoned me.

Believing those things when I was a powerless child helped me to cope so I could and would want to survive. But they weren’t the truth. The abuse gave me false messages about myself and to believe that my abuse was part of some bigger plan was to pile more lies on top of lies.

I wasn’t born to suffer just so others would be spared or comforted. My abuse wasn’t “worth it” just because I’m helping others now. The abuse devalued me, but I couldn’t earn my worth through being a savior to others. I had to deal with my shame instead of covering it with noble deeds.

I wasn’t selected by God or the universe to be abused. My abuse wasn’t about me; my abuser didn’t even see me as a person, but rather as an object. Masking my pain with grandiose ideas didn’t heal me. I was treated as though my existence didn’t matter except as an instrument of pleasure. I had to look at the ways the abuse told me that my existence didn’t matter and that I was only an insignificant object. Confronting those lies released me from the need to see myself as more important the “regular” people. I’m at peace knowing my true value instead of needing to have a “special” position.

My abuser wasn’t an innocent pawn in the universe’s hands. He had a choice. He wasn’t serving some divine purpose or serving me. He was a nasty self-serving pervert. I had to acknowledge and express the pain that my dad gave me attention to serve himself, even if it meant destroying his daughter. Believing that we are all just helpless participants in the hands of Fate prevented me from resisting more abuse. That belief robbed me of protective anger and of my boundaries. As long as I believed that it was all planned, I remained a powerless victim.

Even if I ended up being a strong, healthy, happy, compassionate person who helps people, my abuser gets no credit for that. The saying, “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is a lie. The abuse didn’t make me stronger. The abuse left me in a weakened state and it was only because I’ve worked on my healing for years that I’m functioning now and in a position to offer hope to others. Good didn’t come out of the abuse; good came from the overcoming of it. I don’t know who I would have been if I’d never been abused, but I know how many of my resources have been spent rebuilding my own life and I wonder how much more productive I might have been if I hadn’t needed to do that.

Some people point to the work I do now and say, “See, without your abuse you wouldn’t be doing what you love so much.” But my life isn’t defined by the sexual abuse or any other type of abuse. I consider my purpose to inspire and encourage people to be who they were created to be so they can find fulfillment and discover their own unique place in the world. Healing from sexual abuse is necessary to do all those things. If I hadn’t been abused, I would still be doing something similar to what I’m doing now—helping people get to where they want to be.

I was born with the gifts that equip me to inspire and encourage others. My abuser didn’t give them to me. They are ME. They are part of my uniqueness. No experience—good or bad—can change who I am.

Why was I abused? Because people have a free will and some people make horrible choices. But knowing or not knowing the reason why doesn’t settle anything or change the past. I still have healing work to do and I’m determined to continue.

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.

[read Christina’s story here]

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18 comments
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  1. This post has so many things in it I had to CP the bits that I needed to think on… and comment after. Thank you Christina.
    -‘One of the indications that I’m invested in a particular belief as a coping method is that I defend that ‘truth’ as though my life is threatened. When I notice inordinately strong emotions about a point of view, I ask myself: “What purpose does this belief serve in my life?”; “Do I NEED to believe this?”; “What if it isn’t true?—then what does that imply?”’ “How did I come to believe this?”’-

    This is challenging for me to read. I notice in my life that I have swung from battling to defeat.. I have strong emotions, very defensive ones about anything that threatens my coping mechanisms, one of which was complete helplessness, defeat and submission – that WAS a survival strategy. To get out of that takes a huge effort on my behalf and I have been very independent since I was young, but always in a fractured way. I realised recently that I have the belief that I as ME myself am fundamentally inadequate, and that this belief stretches to feeling unemployable as myself – so when I go and get a job I ‘become’ who or what I think they want and who I am gets left behind and this causes a massive stress in me. Now I’m learning that it’s OK to be me, that I can have a protective boundary, express my feelings and limits and don’t have to ‘become’ tough Lou, or crazy workhorse Lou or submit to all authority Lou’ I can stay me. I am quite capable after all I have done so many challenging things and been all these many often very capable people and ‘I’ was there the whole time! Now the difference is I will be able to say what I think and feel, and stand up for myself and NOT fragment, because I have no boundary, which means I won’t have the stress because of the division between my real self and the one I projected for safety reasons..

    -‘ Believing that we are all just helpless participants in the hands of Fate prevented me from resisting more abuse. That belief robbed me of protective anger and of my boundaries. As long as I believed that it was all planned, I remained a powerless victim.’-

    I have noticed that this belief underlies many of my other opinions about society and that when I’m feeling ‘controlled and powerless’ I can’t resist changes that steal my freedom in certain ways. Personally I am having to learn healthy boundaries now, I’m learning NOW that protective anger IS good.

    -‘“Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is a lie. The abuse didn’t make me stronger. The abuse left me in a weakened state and it was only because I’ve worked on my healing for years that I’m functioning now and in a position to offer hope to others’-

    Grrrrr! So many people have told this to me again and again and I have always just listened and let it go… And believed them in direct contradiction to my own experience. Which is something I often do…I couldn’t understand why I have struggled with normal things so much and was constantly battling, why work would be a major trigger etc. I was so physically ill from not expressing myself, not just my feelings but my literal existence. I almost sought out difficulties in their absence because of this belief. I never thought that I could do things like everyone else – in a simple fashion. I hate those people that have fobbed off my suffering with this statement. I hate that I could not and did not shock them with a snippet of what I had been through just to share my truth that I had been devastated on all levels by this.
    I am the same as you in the sense of healing – it was only because I worked on my healing constantly, that I survived and healed (physically at least) to write this – the amount of effort required just for me to face the day was enormous and is still.

  2. Louise,
    I always love reading your comments. You’re really insightful and I appreciate you sharing your process.

    You said, “I have strong emotions, very defensive ones about anything that threatens my coping mechanisms, one of which was complete helplessness, defeat and submission – that WAS a survival strategy.” Yes, that’s something I don’t think very many people recognize– that compliance, submission, accepting (and even expecting or inviting) poor treatment are all coping methods. To defy “the way things are” was to risk death. It sure has been a challenge to change that belief. I’ve had so many layers since I learned to think that way from many different things. But the lies are coming off and I’m empowered now. I’m so glad you’re facing those lies in your life too!

    Hugs, Christina

  3. I don’t know if my comment went through so please forgive me if I double post however the comment I had wrote is now gone..

    To sum up what I had said in the other comment

    Thank you so much for writing it this blog confirmed many things for me and helped me to see so many other things …. and when I read were you wrote:

    I was born with the gifts that equip me to inspire and encourage others. My abuser didn’t give them to me. They are ME. They are part of my uniqueness. No experience—good or bad—can change who I am.

    I just wanted to stand up and give you an applause thank you! Because this is something that I have been realizing about myself as well …

  4. Nikki,
    I’m so glad you see the truth about yourself. When people tell me that my greatest gifts came from the abuser, that’s invalidating. It’s like saying my abuse wasn’t that bad since I got something good out of it. PLUS, it’s letting others define me. I let the abuse and others define me for years and it controlled what I thought of myself and what I could do with my life. It’s liberating to see the truth!

    It goes along with the same lie, “Whatever doesn’t kill us makes us stronger”. I think that as survivors, it’s hard to recognize that it wasn’t the situation that made us stronger; it was something in us that got us through. We tend to give credit to anybody or anything except to ourselves.

    Thanks for your comment!

    Hugs, Christina

  5. Christina I have now posted my blog … this blog got me to thinking about how people use these little sayings to justify things or cover up the truth and there is a million of these little sayings in the Christian community that imply that God condones such actions as abuse .. which lead me to thinking about the story of Joseph (the one in the old testament with the coat of many colors) here is the link http://shakespeartheory.blogspot.com/2011/02/truth-about-abuse-story-of-young-man.html

  6. Christina,
    This is fantastic! This is so deep and so true and so right! It reminds me of how my mother, who was one of my abusers, used to say that “she did a good job” with one of us kids and how much that just BUGGED me… and I realize today that no matter what had happened and no matter how much she disapproved of me etc. that she also took credit for any good that I am. if someone else noticed me, she took the credit! She gets no credit for who I am. I too have wondered what I might have accomplished with my life if I had not spent so many years messed up. I am not “better” or stronger because of the abuse and all the times that “they” tried to hold me back even from recovery and from being who I am… and now that I am who I am they will not take any credit. But I will let them have all the responsibility for what they did. I take none of that, much to their disappointment =)
    The abuse that I suffered did not serve a purpose for some greater good. What I am doing with my life today and my recovery does though.. AND I did that!!
    this is a great blog post!
    Hugs, Darlene

  7. Wow. Fantastic blog. Thank you for bringing truth about our abuse. I’ve heard the same lies so many times and I love how you defined it and brought it to light. I especially like “I wasn’t selected by God or the universe to be abused. My abuse wasn’t about me; my abuser didn’t even see me as a person, but rather as an object.”

    For years I asked myself, Why Me? And then I had other adults tell me that I was chosen because God knew I would do good things because of it. Grrrrrrrrr.

    Thanks for the truth!!!

  8. Darlene,
    Thanks! YES, our abusers are to blame for the wreck they caused, but WE get the credit for the repair. It amazes me how many ways there are to take responsibility away from the abusers and take the credit away from us. I never used to give myself credit for anything. It was a threatening thing to do. One of the reasons for that was that the abuse taught me to ‘know my place’ so it was a matter of survival not to think of myself too highly. Oh, what a mess! I’m glad that I can take credit for the fabulous things I do now. lol.
    Hugs to you, Christina

    Patty,
    I hate when people say things like they did to you and to me!!! That’s so devaluing! I think most people say that out of a perceived obligation to explain abuse or they genuinely think that’s comforting. Maybe it comforts them to have a reason for it–like it gives them some sense of control. Oh, well! I’m glad we don’t believe that.
    Hugs, Christina

  9. I am amazed to hear this…my big struggle is always why and why me? My grandfather was the perpetrator with me. I too deal with the “what if” in my life. I never married (and I am 51) and didn’t really seek help until I was almost 40 because I had tried earlier by telling my mom about the abuse and she denied that it happened. So I lived with this giant secret (that actually others knew about) for 40 years….and I do often wonder what I might have been, how my life might have been different. Don’t get me wrong I am happy and have a son and am gainfully employed (ha ha, I am a nurse) and I have a wonderful life. But stumbling upon your commentary really struck a cord with me. I appreciate your dealing with the cliches and addressing the reality. And as usual, it helps to know I am not alone in this thing called childhood sexual abuse! Thanks!
    Ellen

  10. All that stuff you said about people believing there’s some bigger reason for it is everything we’ve been hearing since my daughter’s dad was brutally murdered on September 11, 2001.
    And it wasn’t until 9 freakin’ years later that I even found someone, who was also a direct victim of what happened that day (he was burned over 80% of his body by a fireball; he worked as a broker in Tower 1 and he was set on fire from the waist up), he told me people that say ‘It happened for a reason’ are full of shit and guaranteed he’d tell them that to their face. He’s a native New Yorker. He doesn’t mince words.
    Until I met him, I had no idea I was even right to feel what I felt. Everyone around me kept telling me I was ‘weak in character’ for not being able to find some divine reason for the craziness that occurred that day and, to this moment, continues to effect our lives. For one thing, the media NEVER lets it rest. Every two days you get a report of new information or added knowledge. How people expect us to have stabilized feelings in a situation where 9/10 of the information is a lie or cover-up is way beyond my ability to decipher.
    That’s not about sexual abuse, but it’s what the passage reminded me of after I read it.
    And I didn’t start feeling even a LITTLE better until Robb, the guy who was trapped in Tower 1 that day, told me to stop listening to fools who don’t have a bleeping clue what the hell they’re talking about.
    And, even then, I felt like I was being ‘difficult or stubborn.’
    B/c that’s what most of the people I live around call me whenever I don’t just lie down and believe everything they say.

  11. Ellen,
    I’m glad this struck a chord with you and that you know you’re not alone. I know what it’s like to have a mother who doesn’t believe you. I’m sorry you experienced that.

    We’ll never know how our lives would have been different had the abuse not happened, but we can know a brighter future that healing brings.
    Hugs, Christina

    Vicki,
    It’s so painful when other’s invalidate our experience by assigning some “higher purpose” to something so horrific. That elevates the abuse to a place of honor and that disgusts me. I’m sorry that happened to you, too.
    Hugs, Christina

  12. Thank you Christina for this website! I “stumbled” across it in my search for info relating to self sabotaging behaviors.. So much of what I’ve read around your site resonates within the depths of my being. I, too love Truth. I have been on a quest for it since I can remember. God has been quite compassionate toward me and has seen fit to open my eyes to Truth in so many areas and now He’s taking me deeper in my journey with Truth by revealing lies that I’ve believed about myself for 55yrs. and replacing the lies with truth. Thank you again for the part OSA has already played in my journey and I look forward to continued work with OSA.
    Trish
    Jn 8:32

  13. Hi Trish,
    Welcome to OSA! I’m glad you found us and that it’s resonating with you. It’s great to find fellow truth-lover!
    Hugs, Christina

  14. Thank you for sharing this.

    I was told a lot of different things about why I was abused by my abusers. I was told that it happened because I wanted it. I was told that I was being punished by God. A lot of things that have really screwed my head up. I always thought that it happened because I am a bad person.

    I think I want to share my blog if someone wants to read it. It’s pretty triggering and graphic, so if anyone bothers to read it be forewarned. I am just trying to be brave by putting it out there, because I really feel dirty for what happened and I am trying to be open and tell myself that it isn’t me that is dirty, it’s the people who hurt me.

    http://jackb-memories.blogspot.com/

  15. JackB,
    Thank you for sharing your story with us. It’s heartbreaking! I’m so sorry for what they did to you. You’re absolutely right that you aren’t dirty for what happened to you, though I understand feeling that way. I felt dirty all my life until I got to the root of those feelings and learned the truth. I’m really glad you’re opening up. You don’t have anything to be ashamed of.
    Christina

  16. Thank you Christina. I have been really nervous about sharing my writings, and I haven’t even got past age eleven. :( A lot more occurred when I was a teenager, and it’s even harder to write about because I feel like I should have been able to protect myself when I got older, but I was always so scared and frozen. Plus, I became an addict starting when I was about twelve, and I was almost always too drunk or high to protect myself. I am really trying to be less ashamed, and it really, really helps to have other survivors read it and not blame me for what happened. It also helps reading the stories on this blog and realizing that, if I have compassion for you ladies and what you have been through, shouldn’t I have compassion for myself too? I appreciate you reading it and I am glad you don’t think I am dirty for it.

  17. Hi Christina,
    Thank you for writing this, it brings me to tears. I want so much to believe I will overcome this! It’s been such a long journey. I am actually still in my twenties, but I am scared often that my life might never get better. Your strength in your words is encouraging. I am so thankful to have found this site.
    I’ve been isolating for three days now, alone in my bedroom. I know it’s unhealthy and I need to get out. Instead, I keep reading your site posts and crying and crying. There is so much good in me, I know there is, I just wish I knew how to properly re-engage in the world. Where do I belong? How do I get a job I can manage while I heal? How do I find a healthy relationship? How do I even know what a healthy man is? I’ve repeated my attraction to abuse in two relationships now and just left the last one a month ago. I’m feeling lonely and abandoned but abandoning myself by isolating is not helping things! Would I take care of a child this way? Shutting her in her bedroom with the curtains drawn and no food and no attention? Wow, it’s a good perspective to take, I would NEVER want to treat a child this way – why do I do it to myself?
    Thanks for reading. I really do love this post, think I’ll read it in the morning, too.
    Amy

  18. JackB,
    Yes, you were an innocent child just like the rest of us and you deserve compassion too.
    Christina

    AmyH,
    When I’ve gone through particularly hard times in my healing process, I’ve hidden myself away too. It’s my way of creating a safe space around me while I deal with those “unsafe” feelings inside of me. I never had that kind of control of my environment when I was a child, but I have that now. However, I’ve also withdrawn at times in reaction to my fear and shame and as a kind of punishment to myself for being so “bad”.

    I agree with your comparison about treating a child that way. You deserve to be nurtured, and it’s especially important during such stressful times while you’re facing so many painful things. I hope you take care of yourself.
    Christina

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