When I was seven, I started classes in preparation for my First Communion. Communion is an expression of unity with Christ. Girls dress up like brides in white dresses and veils, symbolizing their purity.
While planning for the day, I insisted to my mother that I couldn’t wear white. Normally, compliant and well-behaved, I absolutely refused.
Reluctantly, my mother took me to Sears and we found a beautiful powder blue dress. I didn’t look like the rest of the girls, but at least I wasn’t lying to God by presenting myself as pure and holy. God knew what I was; there was no hiding it from him.
A few years ago, my birthday was coming up and, after going through a very stressful and painful time, I was determined to have a great gift. I like choosing my own presents from my husband since the opportunities and possibilities of the hunt is half the fun.
After recently moving from Los Angeles to Arizona with only a few pieces of furniture, I wanted something to help fill up our home. I love to mix modern with vintage and my favorite place to shop is Craigslist. So the shopping was on!
I found a headboard for my bed (and I’m not even going to describe it because I find that style hideous now!) and it was just the price I was willing to pay. I made an appointment for Don to pick it up so it could be mine. Hooray!
I felt incredibly insecure about my healing process in the beginning. Most other survivors I knew, the ones really serious about healing, had hired therapists. I couldn’t afford one. I couldn’t even afford a haircut. I wondered how much I could heal without guidance and support from a professional. Whatever progress I made, would it be considered “legitimate”? I felt like an outsider even within the survivor community.
I was determined to heal. I would find a way. I had some ideas about how I’d start, but I’d have to figure out the rest along the way.
I noticed early in my process that healing required a lot of extra energy. My first clue was that I panicked when my phone rang. It was a threat and invasion and I had to get away from it. Everyone having access to me all the time was taking its toll.
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.
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.