The shame of sexual abuse is strong and lingering. Though my now fully developed, grown up brain tells me that, as a child, I could not be held responsible for the actions of those much older than myself, that abuse is not ever the fault of the victim, there is still a huge piece of me that returns to shame if I am not vigilant against it. There are some secret moments of my life I can’t imagine ever sharing, wince-inducing instances that are guarded under lock and key. There are others, however, I can share in hopes of robbing them of their strength, bullet points that, when written out for the world, are exposed as the ridiculousness that they are. And, so, here is a list of (some of) the things I did that shadow me in shame still today.
- I met my 14 year old foster brother as he requested. I hid with him in closets and bathrooms, when we ended up alone or late at night when he would wake me. I believed him when he called me his girlfriend, and I believed him when he told me that what “we were doing” was sexually immoral and that God would be angry with us. Fearing the wrath of my (then) religious mother, I repented of my sins but didn’t tell her what was happening, even that time he scared us both by making me bleed.
- I liked the attention, even when it hurt.
- I was afraid of the creeping, stalking, groping, rubbing, tickling man that was my father, but, once it was revealed, I used his obvious weakness to my benefit. Despite my middle-of-the-night fears, I enjoyed the spoils of his guilt by day.
- I let my mother do nothing by doing nothing myself. When she decided not to report him, I decided to go along with her. My inaction brought a brutal escalation of his sickness to my baby sister. While my mother doesn’t have the heart to blame herself, I will likely never forgive either of us for such an absurd lapse in judgment.
There are others. There are vague shames and lingering feelings of wrong doing. Several more in my childhood that I am too ashamed to speak of. Many more as an adult who should have known better but hadn’t yet found a way to live above the trauma of an abusive childhood.
- I told people, and believed myself, that sex was “basically the same as hugging.” I stripped the act of intercourse from all beauty, all sacredness, all intimacy and would say that if I was willing to hug someone I was probably willing to have sex with them.
- I lived that statement. I had sex with just about anyone, just about anywhere. I never had sex sober but I almost never went to bed alone. There are innumerable stories to be told to highlight this point that I won’t tell. There are cars in parking lots, bar bathroom stalls, strangers, friends’ partners, married people, men, women, bosses, employees… but the details, when shared, can be mistaken as impressive in a sex and porn obsessed culture. It wasn’t awesome. Not then and not now.
- I have no idea how many people I have had sex with.
- Even though I was lonely and ashamed, I liked the attention my reputation as a sexually voracious, modern day woman brought me.
- I have a very difficult time opening myself up to intimacy and sex with my husband that I love and desire very much. It is, today, my very greatest source of shame and embarrassment. Fortunately, I have come to understand that this one stems from all the rest and will be pursuing counseling to overcome what is likely PTSD.
And so, there we have the bare bones of it.
Here’s to wellness.