These are the complete versions of the stories from “What We Wish Our Parents Understood About Our Sexual Abuse”:
I want more than anything for my mother to HEAR me…Just HEAR me. I was told to shut up. From that I learned that I didn’t have a voice. I was never safe in my own home nor was I ever protected. I was stripped of MY innocence. What could I have done so bad to deserve that abuse? I still can’t get my mother to see the pain I’m in.
She didn’t SUSPECT my father of raping me, she KNEW and SAW him doing it. Why did I have to endure that pain over and over throughout my childhood? I was left to feel ashamed of my own body and was confused about what was happening to me.
I had to strip naked for the beatings. My dignity was taken away. I felt less than human for all the “bad” inside of me. I tried everything and no matter what, I still saw the disgust in my mother’s eyes. I can see now that the disgust in her eyes for me was just her looking at herself as a child.
I thought when a mother was handed her child after birth she would vow to protect them no matter what…Like a lioness and her cubs. How could she turn her back on me when I needed her the most? I wanted her to at least hug me…just hug me damn it!!!
I want my mom more than anything to just open up and ACCEPT the TRUTH. I just want to be validated for MY feelings. I want her to get educated on incest, rape and abuse.
There were always the indications of my mother being sexually abused when she was a child. I know now that she was sexually abused but she just won’t address it. I don’t understand why her abuse had to become my own. Where was MY protection from this animalistic abuse? Was I supposed to suffer because my mother didn’t heal from her past sexual abuse?
I’m beyond angry and hurt but if they are at least WILLING to HEAR and VALIDATE my feelings, that could be the first step to the truth and a new beginning. My mother doesn’t love herself nor is she willing to get past denial. After all I have been through—as I sit here and type, I bawl my eyes out—I only wish my mother could UNDERSTAND that it’s not the sexual and physical abuse I endured that causes me ALL the pain. It is her DENIAL as well. Maybe it’s the child in me wanting a mother’s love but raping and beating didn’t break my heart. Her DENIAL, LIES and BETRAYAL did.”
Don’t Tell Me to Be Strong—YOU Be Strong
I really don’t know how to start this letter to you… I know what you went through as a kid. I am not you though, but I do understand the depth of your pain you felt… and I feel empathy for you, but I am also angry at you, Mom. I do not blame you for what they did to me, but I do blame you for not protecting me.
When I was little, you let me know that I could never go to you with a problem. You would yell at me whenever I asked, “Mom?” If I even had the courage to go on and ask you or tell you what I wanted to, you’d yell at me, “Ahh, great, just great! Don’t you think I have enough problems?” I was seven, Mom. And since I was seven, I’ve been trying not to be a problem, Mom.
I’ve been good. I have gotten excellent grades… you told us that we were bad because we couldn’t watch ourselves, so you had to get a babysitter for us. I didn’t want to be bad, I didn’t want to cause you anymore problems, so when the babysitter’s friend started molesting me and forcing me to give him oral sex, I was nine, and I was confused, but I wanted to be good for you, Mom. I didn’t want to be the problem.
You would get drunk and tell me everything that happened to you as a child. Then, once you were sober, I’d ask you about it, and you’d deny ever telling me. You’d yell at me for being “nosey.” You expected me to know how to help you. You expected me to listen to you and my emotional needs came second. When I’d get angry with you, you’d call me ungrateful for not appreciating the physical needs of mine that were being met, but Mom? You were emotionally starving me. All I wanted was a hug and you’d cry on my shoulder.
Before my uncle started abusing me, you accused him of abusing me, when we both told you nothing was going on, the next week you talked about marrying my dad’s brother. Why would you want to marry someone you were suspicious of hurting me, Mom? Why? And when you were hospitalized, I was left in his care. He hurt me, Mom. He hurt me and when you got back home, he was still hurting me, but I couldn’t tell you because you weren’t healthy enough to handle it. I was eleven, Mom. Eleven. You were forty-four.
Do you even realize that I thought about suicide, I started self-harming, I thought I was going to die, I could’ve died, I felt dead. Where were you even when you got out of the hospital? And when I spoke up, where were you? When I talked to that detective, that night, I didn’t cry on your shoulder, you cried on mine, you asked me to forgive you. I was exhausted, I just wanted to sleep. It was 11 o’clock at night and I couldn’t cry, I didn’t want you to cry on my shoulder, I just wanted to go to bed, but YOU needed and demanded ME to forgive YOU right then and there! You never asked me if I was okay, or if I wanted to talk about it some time, or if it was even okay for you to touch me at all, you just drenched my shoulders in your tears. I was the strong one for you. You had been devastated by the truth that your child was the victim, but instead of helping me, you asked me to make you feel better… so I did… I told you it was okay, that you were okay.
But then while we waited for the legal proceedings to take place, I was raped again by my brother’s friend. I tried to tell you, Mom, but you wouldn’t listen. I even later told my counselor and she called you to tell you. You hung up the phone and you looked at me and asked, “Why can’t you just behave yourself? Don’t you think I have enough going on with your uncle’s trial right now?” I WAS RAPED MOM! I WAS RAPED IN MY OWN CLOSET, I WAS JUST TRYING TO CHANGE MY CLOTHES AND HE WALKED IN ON ME! I DIDN’T WANT HIM TO DO THAT!
And it was all about you anyway, wasn’t it? “Don’t you think I have enough going on?” What about ME, Mom? What about the flashbacks, the terror, the freezing up, the depression, the anxiety, I was just a problem for you, wasn’t I? I still am. “You just need to forgive and move on, stop airing your dirty laundry by talking about it all of the time,” you say… Dirty laundry? I didn’t even want this dirty laundry in the first place, and it isn’t laundry, it’s actual physical and emotional wounds, Mom!
You have never let me talk to you about it because you get too emotional about it. Suck it up! It happened to ME! I WENT THROUGH IT, and YOU can’t EVEN stand to hear it? How DARE you expect ME to be STRONG when YOU can’t even LISTEN to ME! And when I tried to tell you that I felt depressed, you told me I wasn’t depressed, I was fine. I told you I felt like I had bipolar, and you said I was fine.
I don’t want a relationship with you. I don’t want hugs from you… how can you even expect me to want that from you? You failed to protect me! I can’t trust you, and I WILL not forgive you because that’s all you were ever concerned about, was me forgiving you. YOU never let me feel okay about my full range of emotions, you never let me feel okay about being angry at you, you never cared about how I felt, you just wanted me to forgive you so your hurt would stop!
When I cry in my room, you aren’t there. When I am going through a difficult anniversary, you leave me home alone, you leave me. You tell me to not be a problem. I am TRYING to get help, yet I am afraid that needing help makes me a freak, makes me a problem, makes me defective, and broken.
I will not go to you for support because you haven’t shown me I can trust you, you haven’t shown me you care about what I went through. You haven’t shown me it’s okay to talk about it. You have protected yourself from any possible damage it may cause to listen to me. You kept your distance away from me and my demons to protect yourself. You are selfish and I don’t want to be near you either. You never created a safe environment for me to show you my wounds. Why would I want a hug from you? Or for you to play with my hair? Or for you to rub my back? You have hurt me and you touching me at all makes me sick.
Just let me be. Leave me alone. Stop asking me for forgiveness until you are ready to sit with me through one damn night of flashbacks. If you wouldn’t help me peel off the band-aid and look at the infection, what makes you believe I’d feel comfortable letting you in when I’m digging deep within myself, when I’m most vulnerable?
I understand you are hurt, Mom, but this is and has been about what I need to heal. So I can’t find it in you to be brave enough to suck it up and hear me, so I found someone else who is stronger, who isn’t afraid, who isn’t ashamed to hear my pain, who actually supports me and listens to me. She tells me that I am not a freak. She tells me that I am not a burden or problem. She tells me that I have permission to feel whatever I am feeling. She tells me that I am loved and I am safe now. She knows a lot, she tells me it wasn’t my fault and the way I responded to the abuse doesn’t make me sick. She tells me everything that you haven’t told me.
You have told me that I need to hide, but she has told me I can heal, and I love her. I am grateful for the physical needs you provide me with, but with my emotional and spiritual needs, you have deprived me, and she is strong enough to not be afraid of the mess I have come from. She is strong enough to find the real me. You don’t know me and I don’t want you to.
My mother used to be one of my best friends. I disclosed everything to her shortly after the memories of the abuse started resurfacing as an adult. I expected her to believe and support me. I was shocked when she didn’t.
For a year, I sent her articles and book recommendations to help her understand what I went through when I was a child and what I was going through in the present. She believed that I was abused because she saw that I showed dozens of the signs of abuse. She insisted that she was being supportive.
However, she didn’t believe me once I told her that my father had abused me. She never blatantly accused me of lying because she had decided that there must be something mentally wrong with me. It was easier for her to believe I was crazy than to believe that my father had molested and raped me until I was twelve.
She would dismiss the articles I sent that mirrored our situation. She would say that these articles had nothing to do with us and instead she began reading books about children and adults with delusional disorders while she told me she was reading books about childhood sexual abuse.
I let go of my father the moment I started remembering that he was the one who had abused me. There was no pain in letting him go. There was guilt, initially, but it was quickly replaced with a sense of peace and freedom. I was immediately able to see that I had never had a father, because he lost that title the moment he touched me inappropriately. Even though I had dissociative amnesia, the terror I felt in his presence was always with me. I had begun mourning his loss when I was a toddler and so there was nothing to mourn as an adult.
I’ve made tremendous progress with my healing in a relatively short period of time. But it feels like I’m having to heal from so much more than just the abuse. For the first time ever, I’m seeing my mother’s role in all of this. I don’t believe she knew what was happening. But she saw a depressed, withdrawn five year old who would fly into rages toward her father, only her father—a five year old who had insomnia and night terrors almost nightly—a five year old who was suicidal and hurting herself.
My mother did nothing then. But I’ve forgiven her for that. I’ve begged HER to let go of the past and make different, healthier choices right now. To be my mother now, to see, hear, believe and support me now. Her response was that she would never stop supporting him, even if he was a demon from hell. She said she made vows that she will always respect and honor, even if he did rape me for years. She said she believes that is the right choice, that God will support that decision. Really? Really? I love this woman so deeply and I mean so little to her? I’ve always meant so little to her?
Her reaction to my disclosure, her disbelief, her twisting reality around, her not caring about me has been the hardest, most devastating aspect of my healing process. At times, her rejection feels even more traumatizing than the actual abuse. I’m learning that just like my father, I lost her decades ago when she decided it was easier for her to just stop looking at me. My heart is so completely broken.
What would it mean to me if my mom supported my healing? Made an effort to understand my pain? Stopped telling me I was crazy? I would feel safe and protected, the way I was never able to feel as a child. I would know that I was worth being saved, even if she didn’t see it then. I would feel loved. My inner child, that child who endured a horrific crime would finally be able to hold her mommy’s hand and feel comfort.
Don’t Expect Me To Make the Decisions—You’re The Adult
“Coming out” as a victim of any kind of sexual assault is a hard thing to do for a person at any age. There is a gigantic leap of faith that you have to overcome, especially because you fear that you won’t be believed or you’ll be blamed or you’ll be seen as a bad person who “asked for it.”
Coming out as a seventeen year old was one of the hardest things I ever did. I’d been sexually abused since at least the age of eight by the man who was passed off as my biological father, though I found out later that he was not. I felt like I had the power to tear my immediate family apart, as well as my extended family.
I had been fantasizing about my disclosure for years. I had dropped subtle hints to teachers and trusted adults, which were either ignored or which went right over their heads. What I wished for more than anything was someone to say, “I will protect you as best I can, and I am proud of you for the courage it took to say these words to me. I will be here for you if you need me, whether to talk or not talk, to cry or not cry, and to know you are safe.”
I decided to disclose everything to my mother, but I knew that my “father” was also home. I was late coming home and when I walked in the door, I was bombarded with angry faces and words, so I shouted out, “You want to know why I’m home late? I was trying to decide whether to go to the police because dad has been sexually abusing me for years!”
After a moment of shock, he denied everything and she accused me of lying. After relaying details that I felt could not be the product of “making something up”, he finally admitted to it and she grabbed a knife and started to go after him with it. I stopped this attack by yelling, and much of what comes after is a blur.
She could not make a decision to “break up the family” on her own, and they told me that I would decide what happens next. As a seventeen year old, what I wanted was safety and validation and love. At the same time, I didn’t want my siblings or extended family to blame me for causing a family riff. I told them I just wanted to be left alone, wishing she would say that she had decided to leave him, but knowing unless I could say the words that wanted to come out so badly, “LEAVE HIM! LEAVE HIM! LEAVE HIM!”, nothing would change. I could NOT, in fact, make these words come out.
Years later, my mom decided to leave him on her own terms. When I was thirty-four, I learned he abused his girlfriend’s fifteen year old daughter. I felt like I could have prevented this if I had disclosed my own abuse, so I finally came out of the closet for good.
I have been rejected by my mother, my grandparents, my sister, and other family members at this point. I am an orphan who went from having a huge extended family to having maybe six family members who I can trust and who expressly support me.
I refuse to feel ashamed and I refuse to keep the secret although it has made others’ lives uncomfortable to have this information “out there”.
Safe. Protected. Loved. Believed. Accepted. My abuse is a part of my very identity. I had maybe eight years on this earth before my life and the person I was changed forever. To say “get over it” means to ask me to reject my identity and tells me that doing the best that I can with the cards I’ve been dealt is not good enough. In short, it is adding insult to injury, and when this message comes from a parent whose most important job is to love a child unconditionally, it feels like betrayal and hurts beyond words.
Sexual abuse of a child is an uncomfortable subject. I get that. But sexual abuse of YOUR CHILD is something that YOUR CHILD will deal with on some level for the rest of his or her life. Wishing it away does not work. Making the subject feel taboo (even in subtle ways) is something that can scar YOUR CHILD perhaps as much as the abuse itself. If you can’t find a way to open yourself up to the needs your healing child has, please find someone to help you learn how to do so. Your support or lack of support can make a huge difference in the adult your child becomes.
You have a choice. Take this unease and resentment and guilt and sadness and anger and all those other “bad feelings” and multiply them by at least a thousand… this is how your child is feeling sometimes and your choice to either be supportive or not can either ease this or make it worse.
Pay Attention To My Pain
I was sexually assaulted at age eight by a babysitter’s teenage son and molested repeatedly over several months after that. From the time that I told my mother about the sexual abuse, not only did she not ask me what had happened to me, but completely moved on, and eventually moved our family across the street from the babysitter’s family for her own convenience. I had to be in close proximity to the abuser and his family, who teased and mocked me.
My father knew I wasn’t being treated well at home, and did I nothing to help me. When I looked to him for support because of the sexual abuse, he blew me off, like I was asking him for something trivial.
Both my parents EXPECT me to keep in contact with them and GIVE the privileges other grandparents have. They mostly seem inclined to blame me for being estranged from them, or behave as if we are on some kind of two-way street. No way, not when it comes to my children. From where I’m sitting at this time in my life, that would not be wise for me or my family, especially since they have still failed to earn my trust, by making no effort to change.
Don’t Blame Me
My dad had the privilege of knowing my vulnerabilities and weaknesses and unfortunately used this sacred knowledge to his benefit when he wanted to hurt me. He used to write me and my brother typed letters as we were growing up. I never knew when we would get them or what they would say. And his poison words were aimed mostly at me, his eldest daughter and most frequent target.
In one of these letters, he accused me of being cold and unwelcoming, of shutting him out throughout my teenage years. His tone was much like a little boy who felt rejected, spitting and spewing and crying on his own offspring.
He didn’t have the capacity or maturity to see that his teenage daughter’s “coldness” was a defense mechanism to try to block out unwanted sexual behavior. ‘”DO I HAVE TO SPELL IT OUT?!” I wanted to scream. “You are an over sexual, drunk freak unleashing all your anger and sexuality on your children. Why do I have to teach YOU what is appropriate? You are the parent. You are supposed to know better!!! You are confusing me and hurting me, dammit. Leave us alone, you damn freak!!’
There has been some acknowledgement on his part of his wrongdoings, though he mostly thinks that I should forgive him or else, ‘”This is going to kill you.” Again, it’s still about him. Forgiving him.
He is no longer allowed access to my vulnerabilities and life and love and hurts and fears and happiness. He violated my heart too many times. I am no longer concerned at all about keeping or maintaining a relationship with him.
And my Mom. I often wonder how traumatic that must have been for her—my sick father taking out all his issues on me, her beautiful, first born, blond, shy, sweet-natured, quiet-voiced, innocent baby daughter. But at some point she had to make a decision. And making a decision by not making a decision to leave or get a divorce also counts as making a decision, albeit a passive one.
Finally, finally, I got the courage to start asking my mom questions, looking for that shred of leftover childhood hope that somehow she would rescue me. My wish was that we could travel back in time and she would rescue me from him. She responded with, ‘”I told your father not to drink so much.” And “Well, I wasn’t going to divorce Daddy.” Then in the same conversation, “Absolutely not—that never happened.”
When my mind was still open and I was still vulnerable to needing comfort from my mom, she said, “You wanted it.” God. That one hit my soul. She’s my mom after all, she knows me best, maybe I really did “want it’” as a toddler…Thankfully, I have now had much time away from her to know that her statements are utterly impossible.
So, why do I have to teach THEM? Why do I have to open up my heart and mind for MORE poisonous confusion? Sexual abuse is the ultimate betrayal between a parent and a child and it cuts to the core. It’s not about “getting over it” or maintaining a relationship with sick people. It’s about me putting all my energies towards healing myself whether THEY understand, support, disavow, condemn or even, still love me after the truth is spoken.
Sit With Me In My Pain
My experience is a little different but my needs are still the same. I was sexually abused by both parents and it was very hard to begin the healing process. I felt I was crazy and that no one would believe me.
A lot of my memory of the abuse had been pushed back. When it started to surface, my whole world came crashing down. I had to completely leave my family and had no support system. That was when my mother’s best friend said: “I believe you and I’m here”. That was the beginning of my healing journey. She became my parent figure and it made a world of difference to know someone was on my side. It’s so important to have someone to say, “I believe you. It is not your fault. We will work through this together. They can’t hurt you any more.”
Tell Me I’m Worthy of Protection
All I ever wanted from my mom was love and nurturing but all I got was hate and blame. I told my mom what was happening when I was twelve. She said, “Oh well” and went to bed, never doing anything to help me at all. My Grandma told the cops. They believed me, but my mother told the detective that my grandma and grandpa put words in my mouth, so he didn’t believe me.
When I turned twenty-one, I moved to a YMCA self sufficiency program to get away from the abuse. I longed for that love I never had, so I moved back. Things always got better for a short time and started again. On Easter, my mom made the comment that she would never let anyone abuse her granddaughters, my brother’s kids. But it was okay that the man she is now married to and lives with hurt her own daughter?
I have no contact with father’s family now and see my mom twice a year but only when I’m with someone. It’s been hard because my real mother and father never loved me so how can anyone? Everyday, I feel like a nothing.
Accept Responsibility For Failing To Protect Me
My mother told me at eighteen that her father had abused her. My reply was, “Then why the heck did you send me there on my own for holidays then?” My mother has never accepted any responsibility for my childhood, in fact she says that I abused her emotionally from the age of eleven months.
I was so angry at her. She knew what her father was like. And then to dismiss my words as she had been hurt more than me, because she married my father instead of getting me aborted like her mother wanted. It was your choice to have me, not mine, so it ain’t my fault. I was the child not the adult. I couldn’t speak to her for months without sniping at her because of her disbelief and denial of blame.
She doesn’t like the fact that I do not blame my father as much as I do her. Well sorry, Mother Dearest, but your influence hit hardest and lasted longest. You deny my facts and experiences because they do not reflect what you want it to, and then still try to control me. The time for your dominance is over and I guide my life now and it is a lot less stressful now that you are not in it very often.
Carol Anne Derry
Don’t Tell Me to Get Over It
You would never cast off a cancer survivor and tell them to get over it once it’s “stopped”, however parents not supporting their own children are leaving them to fend for themselves in a life long cancerous battle.
It would mean the world for me to have my family support me in this struggle. It would mean Christmases and birthdays, Easters and weddings. It would mean spoilt grandchildren and life lessons and stories passed down.
I have not only lost one set of parents through this abuse. I have lost two families and all of my family history. To have my family’s support would be far more than just physical or emotional comfort and belief. It would be a gaining of the past and an opening and welcoming of the future.
Don’t Pretend That Nothing Happened
My father abused me for years. I tried to tell my mom and she got so angry and told me to shut up. Even though my father abused me, I had a better connection with him than with my mom. Even to this day, when I think about it I get that feeling in my stomach and I hate myself.
At sixteen, I ran away, They found me after two days and when I tried to tell my mom again, and she only listened for a day a two. After that, everything went back the way it was. I didn’t have friends and was doing bad at school. I squeezed a whole bottle of hand cream into my mouth and swallowed it. After that, I took a few pills at school. Still nothing came of it.
I’m 45 years old. I’m married with three children, and it took me that long to realize MY MOM DOES NOT LOVE ME. I keep that for myself and it hurts. If parents really want to help their children, they must not go on as if nothing happened! Don’t smother the child with love all of a sudden. Just show you care, and be there for them. Just maybe if I had that…
Don’t Ask Me To Have a Relationship With My Abuser
My parents have continued to show support and love to the ones who did the abusing. One was an older neighbor and the other was my deaf sister. Before I was age twenty, they had been informed twice I had been abused. Both instances left them blank faced and not one physical touch of comfort or one word of support or love.
I can’t say I expected my parents to respond immediately, but twenty plus years later, I did expect some words of acknowledgement. An apology possibly for what they didn’t see or know—any words expressing sorrow at my loss of innocence would have met my needs.
I had never asked for side taking or any act of correction be given to those people. But I remain shocked and dismayed when the end result is the old man finished his life with my parents still caring for him and his wife until passing and that my sister remains in contact with my parents while I have been removed. I have been removed due to the fact I set a boundary with my abuser and since I won’t forgive and forget I am now being punished for it. I guess forgiveness would come quicker if any had ever been sought or asked for.
I lived for forty-four years ignoring the topic and doing my best to not make any waves. After a few instances of being rejected for not loving my abuser unconditionally, I took a stand and wouldn’t allow the topic to remain silent any longer. That act sealed my fate.
Don’t Treat My Abuser Better Than You Treat Me
My uncle came to live with us when he was ten and I was eight. He was my mom’s half-brother and he made my life a living hell. He had me do things that were forbidden by my parents, then I’d have to submit to whatever he wanted so he wouldn’t tell. Sometimes he’d still tell and I’d still get in trouble. In August of 1984, he took that a step further. That’s when he started to initiate sex with me. Initially, I didn’t think anything of it, so I submitted to it. Then it was used as a form of manipulation.
In March of 1985, my uncle wanted to go back home to his mom (my grandmother). Not long after that, I told a classmate what my uncle did. I thought it was all fun and games. That spread throughout the school and the next thing I knew, I was sitting in the principal’s office telling them everything that my uncle did and that’s how my parents found out about it.
I lied and said that it only happened once because I was afraid that I’d get in trouble. My uncle was so good at manipulating me, to the point that my parents considered me a natural-born liar.
The next year, my uncle was failing at school again and my mother wanted to bring him back into the house. My sister and I protested but we lost. My mother told me that what he did wouldn’t happen again and I still had to love him. I was so angry.
The sexual abuse did stop, but he still physically and verbally abused me. I would tell my parents about the abuse, but he would say something else and I’d get in trouble for lying.
When it comes to my father, he questions my sexuality. According to him, I need to be out there with the women getting my groove on. It hurts that my parents don’t believe me when I say that I’m not gay.
When I was twenty-two, I finally told my mom the truth of what my uncle did. She seemed so nonchalant about it. In fact, she said, all I can say is I’m sorry. Truthfully, I feel better not speaking to her. I love her, but need to keep my distance because it does not bring peace to my spirit. Until she can understand what she allowed me to suffer and more importantly, admit that she screwed up, we need to be apart. I’ve made it this far without her support, so she can stay out of my life.
Tell Me I Didn’t Deserve It
I told my mum directly after my abuse happened. I was crying, so she asked me and I told her. She told me never to tell my father because he was ill (mental illness). After that, great silence, never speaking to me.
One time she faced me with my private notebook where I wrote the story of what happened to me. She grasped me by my hair, dragged me and demanded to know who the boy was. I was screaming and crying, trying to get away from her. How dare you do that! You didn’t listen to me!! I told you when I was young!!! I was the one who was treated like I was bad. It makes me so angry to be treated so unjustly. I wasn’t the abuser, I was the victim. I’m so alone.
My mum does not respect my feelings and my dad does not even care. I have no worth and nobody can care for me or love me. When I’m suffering or in pain, I have to go through it alone. At the same time, they expect to have the right to be in my life in the time they choose. Not me, I have no rights.
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What We Wish Our Parents Understood About Our Sexual Abuse