I started writing publicly about my childhood sexual abuse over six years ago. I jumped in with a lot of passion but without much knowledge of what I was jumping into. I only thought about how freeing it was to speak the truth and how much I wanted to validate other survivors.
Writing about my healing process has been a wonderful journey. Through it, my voice has been strengthened and so has my resolve to continue to heal. I don’t regret any of this, but I wish I had been better prepared to face the challenges that have come with this.
Here are a few things to consider before speaking out about abuse:
I knew it wasn’t the wisest decision to meet with my mother after seven years of no contact.
The past seven years have been the happiest of my life—despite being sued by my parents, four months of being homeless, suffering a miscarriage, the death of my father and all while healing from the wounds of my childhood abuse. I’ve fought to rid myself of the toxic beliefs of my dysfunctional family and I’m finally thriving.
Logically, it doesn’t make sense that I would even be willing to talk with my mom or see her again after everything she and my father did to me. But despite all reason, in my heart, I still long for a mom.
I met with my mom recently. I hadn’t seen her in seven years, other than in a court room, where she sat on the opposing side. She was there in support of my ex-husband while he was being sentenced to fifteen years in prison for sexually abusing my daughter, Bethany.
When my parents sued me for publicly exposing my dad for sexually abusing me, we only had contact through our lawyers. Considering the ways my mother has betrayed my daughter and me, I didn’t ever expect to see or speak with her again.
It started when my mom reached out to my adult daughter, Bethany, in an effort to end their estrangement. Bethany has worked hard at healing from her incest and family betrayal and has created a happy and successful life for herself far apart from abusers.
This past week in the survivor community on Facebook, an abuse advocate was exposed as an abuser. It caused an uproar, with some siding with his victims and many (including other advocates) supporting him.
Like all abusers, this advocate has groomed this community to see him as a hero, not as the abuser he is. He has positioned himself to be the victim of this “smear campaign” and has garnered the sympathy of many.
I have no doubt of his guilt. I know one of this man’s victims and I’ve seen his vile emails and texts. I’ve also seen the same pattern in all of the women who have come forward. The publicity is reaching others who have been degraded by him and we are learning about more victims almost daily.
When I was sued by my parents for exposing the sexual abuse that was perpetrated on me by my father, my lawyer asked me a question: “How do you if know your memories of sexual abuse are real?”
He was defending me against charges of defamation of character and intentional infliction of emotional distress so that was a fair question.
Though I was solid in my history by then, that’s a question I asked myself frequently as I faced my past.
I didn’t always remember my abuse—at least not consciously. I repressed most of it until I was an adult. When the memories returned, they felt like dreams. It was like seeing them through a wall of water or heavy mist.
As much support and love as there is in the community of survivors that gather online, there is a topic that seems to divide us. I’ve rarely witnessed discussion topics that become as hostile as the issue of forgiveness.
It’s easy to understand why there would be so much disagreement considering that there are so many definitions of forgiveness. To some it means accepting the past. Others define forgiveness as letting go of negative emotions. To some, it coincides with reconciliation or feeling no ill will toward towards the abuser, while others believe it has nothing to do with a relationship the abuser.
Added to that, forgiveness is very often preached as necessary for other survivors. It’s one thing to say that forgiveness is important to you, but quite another to insist that it’s important for all survivors or to tell others what’s best for their own healing. That’s when forgiveness discussions turn into defenses against boundary violations and condescending remarks.
I never expected that I’d be reporting my sexual abuse. When I was nineteen, I finally shared the secret I’d kept all my life—my dad had sexually abused me for most of my childhood. My parents had recently divorced so the fear that my disclosure would end their marriage no longer applied.
My mom knew of another girl my dad had molested before my mom met him so she offered to go with me to report him. I told my mom that I didn’t want to take action out of vengeance. Looking back, the truth was much more complicated.
My dad had controlled so much of my life up to that point, even more than I realized. I was groomed for so long to protect him, even at my expense. Telling my mom about the abuse was one thing, but telling the police was another.
by Christina Enevoldsen
When I decided to report my dad, I didn’t even know if the abuse that had happened forty years ago could be prosecuted. I checked on the Arizona statute of limitations but because of how it’s worded, I still wasn’t sure. I also didn’t know if I remembered enough to make a case, especially since I didn’t have any physical evidence. Even though I was full of uncertainty, I decided to do as much as I could.
I was familiar with the process of reporting sexual abuse since I’d gone with my daughter to report her abuse. I left a message for the detective who handled my daughter’s case when we reported her dad. I held back the tears as I choked out the words. Then I hung up and waited.
I didn’t hear back for a couple weeks. It was agonizing. I felt forgotten, unheard and discounted. I discovered that I should have phoned the main number of that unit instead of calling the detective who worked on my daughter’s case.
When it came to my own dad, I didn’t feel that way. Even though both of our fathers had done the same things, I didn’t believe my dad deserved the same punishment.
Reporting my dad for the things he did to me seemed like reporting him for making me go to school or forcing me to eat my vegetables. I didn’t see a crime. I believed my dad was entitled to do whatever he wanted to me and that I deserved it. It wasn’t about who the abusers were; it was about who the victim was. It was horrifying to think of someone else being abused but it didn’t seem as wrong or as illegal to sexually abuse me.
Even if I had recognized that I was just as valuable as any other abuse survivor and deserving of protection…
New Year’s Day is traditionally a time for a fresh start. There are the usual resolutions and goals that everyone seems optimistic about—the eagerness to leave behind the old and to embrace the new and improved.
Until the recent few years, imagining or planning what I wanted to accomplish for the coming year seemed impossible. When I tried to envision a future for myself, it was dark and hidden. It felt presumptuous to say I could or would work toward a particular outcome.
The control I had over my life was limited to how I would adapt to the disaster I knew was coming. I’d be ready when the rug was pulled out from under me. I became an expert at “making the best of a bad situation” and “going with the flow.”
By the time I married Don almost ten years ago, I’d started to end some of my abusive relationships but I was still feeling and deciding and acting out of the beliefs that I had as an abuse victim. In the first few months of our marriage, we had a horrible fight that ended with me slamming the bedroom door and shouting, “I WON’T LET YOU BULLY ME!”