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.
I’m Christina Enevoldsen and I’m the cofounder of Overcoming Sexual Abuse and the author of The Rescued Soul: The Writing Journey for the Healing of Incest and Family Betrayal. I’m a Strategic Interventionist and Certified Professional Life Coach with a specialty Life Story Certification. As a survivor of incest, sex trafficking and a 21-year long abusive marriage (now remarried to an emotionally healthy, loving and supportive man), I bring personal experience, empathy, and insight as well as professional training to help childhood sexual abuse survivors thrive.
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