This is first in a series about reporting sexual abuse. To read the next in the series, follow the link at the end of the post.
by Christina Enevoldsen
When my daughter was in her mid-twenties, she reported her dad for sexual abuse. I cheered that she had made that decision. I supported her throughout the nearly two year ordeal, heartily convinced that she was reporting a criminal who deserved to be behind bars.
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, reporting my own dad felt disloyal. Hadn’t he given me life? Hadn’t he worked hard to provide shelter, clothing and food for me? But all of the good things he did didn’t erase his criminal acts toward me. Being my father didn’t entitle him to use my body for his sexual pleasure. My dad abused his own daughter. That’s the real betrayal.
My shift from such invalidating beliefs about myself and my abuse happened in stages. The first major one was when I received a certified letter from my mother in response to me talking about my abuse. She threatened to sue me and claimed that she reported me to the police for “lying” about my dad. Instead of inspiring the fear that she hoped for, her letter made me angry.
For the first time, it was clear to me that my dad was the real criminal; not me. The injustice infuriated me. The sexual abuse during my childhood was awful enough without heaping more accusations on top of it.
With my new sense of truth, I considered reporting my dad. Still unsure of my decision, I mentioned it to a friend. Her response wasn’t supportive at all. My friend asked, “Is he still hurting anyone?”
That’s a question I’d asked myself for years as though the only valid reason for reporting sexual abuse is to protect future victims. My friend’s response jarred the truth from somewhere deep inside of me: ONE victim was enough!
It’s ridiculous to think that any perpetrator should get a “freebie”—that as long as they only abuse one child, they should be left alone. According to statistics, sexual abusers commonly have hundreds of victims, but even one is too many. Even if my dad was “harmless” (and I had no idea if his age or life circumstances or choices really had meant he stopped being a sexual abuser), he still deserved to be reported.
Something changed in me when I decided to report my dad. It was a declaration, to myself and others, that I’m important and what happened to me matters. It was an affirming step in living my new life where I know my value.
This is first in a series about reporting sexual abuse. To read the next in the series, click here.
If you’re interested in finding out more about how I took back my life after abuse, I invite you to read my new book, The Rescued Soul: A Writing Journey for the Healing of Incest and Family Betrayal. In it, I spell out the details of exactly how I’ve healed, using excerpts from my journal, very candid stories and detailed examples. It’s definitely up close and personal! It’s a healing guide, workbook and journal all in one. I put a lot of love into all 518 pages.
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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