Thursday, May 3, 2012

When Memories Haunt You

I was sexually abused. It didn't go on for years. I was just a child. Someone, a trusted adult in my life, coerced me to engage in sexual activity. I didn't know at the time that was what it was. I was completely naive, innocent, unsuspecting…and confused.

It took over 10 years to begin to make sense of the memories that haunted me and nearly another 10 years to actually talk to a counselor about what I remembered.

I cried a lot. It's hard to put words to the memories. Harder still to push through the shame to explain what I participated in. By then I had already believed the lies. I had already come to my own conclusions about what doing "that" said about me.

I was living in such denial. When a memory entered I escorted it away as quickly as I could. I had no idea the full impact of my denial until I sought counseling in my mid-twenties.

Counseling has brought perspective and healing into a difficult situation. It's been more then 10 years since I sat in the counselor's office for the first time. Although I cannot say that the memories don't surface every now and then, bringing the truth into the light was the best thing I ever did. The memories no longer have control over me.

There are consequences to hurts. Even with healing, scars still remain. The scars remind me of what I've worked through. They are a sign of the amazing healing I have already experienced. Dealing seems much harder then denial. And sometimes the lies are so indwelled that even though your head knows the truth your heart has a harder time actually believing it. I still struggle with patterns and attitudes that are connected to the abuse. I harbor a shame that I can't seem to shake. I possess a deep desire to feel protected and in control of things. These are the struggles that remain.

Silence is not healthy. Pretending things didn't happen won't help you. This is not only true for dealing with sexual abuse, but all hidden hurts and pains. You cannot deal with things you don't acknowledge. You cannot outrun memories, but you can speak truth into them.

This is why I feel so passionately about what my friend, Carolyn, is advocating. Many years in the making, Rise and Shine Movement was born from a children's book Carolyn Ruch wrote loosely based on her own face-to-face encounter with sexual abuse as a child. She ran away from a perpetrator and into the arms of her Father, who immediately took action.

Rise and Shine Movement is a non-profit organization seeking to empower adults to protect children from sexual abuse. A digital version of her book, "Rise and Shine: A Tool for the Prevention of Childhood Sexual Abuse" is available online for free to view with the children in your life. There is also a book trailer and discussion questions for adults to view and use as a resource for discussing this important topic with kids.

The best antidote for childhood sexual abuse is knowledge. Appropriate information at the right age will help protect your child. It's important to build a bridge of communication between you and your child so they know what to do if they encounter a perpetrator, especially if it's someone they know and trust (which is 90% of all perpetrators).

One out of every four girls and one out of every six boys will be violated by his or her eighteenth birthday. I cannot change what happened to me, but I can speak up now. The statistics demand we take action.

Isn't it worth it if you could protect even one child? Join the movement.

If you or someone you love has been sexually abused I highly suggest seeking professional counseling. There is power and healing in acknowledging it.

If you feel uncomfortable leaving a visible comment, please consider emailing me. I would love to hear from you!

Linking today with "Thought Provoking Thursdays" and "Getting Down With Jesus".

Since writing this post I have written more about My Passion and my story which you can find by clicking here.


Valarie said...

What an amazing gift to the child's life you are about to save!!! It is the hardest think to do. Unraveling the past, standing exposed so that you are able to hopefully change someone elses life. So awesome of you to share.

Unknown said...

Thank you for your encouragement, Valarie! I love the way you put it, "unraveling the past, standing exposed." Exposed, vulnerable…boy that is really tough to do (and often filled with guilt, shame, and self-doubts).

With God's help I am at a place where I realize I cannot change what happened to me, but I have the opportunity to make a difference for someone else, especially my own children (Romans 8:28). But that didn't come without a lot of Christian counseling and a lot of God's healing work in my life.

I also realize protecting my own children can be more complicated as a Survivor if I haven't dealt with my past abuse. It's definitely worth taking that step towards healing.

With love,

Jennifer said...

I am so very sorry for what you had to experience as a child. No child's innocence should ever be taken from them. It happened to my husband, too. I am a big child abuse prevention advocate, and every year I do a teddy bear drive, and I donate the teddy bears to Mission Kids in Norristown. They are a child advocacy center co-founded by our District Attorney to help victims of child sexual abuse. More places like Mission Kids need to exist, as they do wonderful things to help these kids. I am so proud to be affiliated with them! My greatest hope is that one day, NO CHILD will ever need such a place, and that no child will ever be hurt again! God Bless You!

Anonymous said...

I had no idea this issue was so prevalent. Many things were hushed up back in the 40s as I grew up. I only remember in retrospect one relative that we were warned against. I remember that for a time, two of my father's sisters were not speaking to one another because the daughter on one made an accusation against the husband of the other. (All of the people I speak of have been gone for many years.)
One day when I was about twelve, the aforementioned uncle saw me at a bus stop and offered to drive me home. I did not like the uncle, and told him I was not going home, but waiting for friends, which was not the truth.
I mentioned this in passing to my mother, and she told me I did the right thing, and only hinted at the cause of the distance between my two aunts. Events after that led me to the realization that something very wrong had happened between my cousin and that uncle, and that I may have narrowly missed being a victim. I cringe even now, and know that family secrecy is not always a friend.
Openness is the key. I do not mean scaring children concerning certain people, but having rules in place to keep children from entrapment. I was told always to let mother know when and where I was going and to keep distant from anyone who made me uncomfortable. Talk early and often of things like that and gently keep communication with your children open and trusting.

Unknown said...

Jennifer: Thank you for your support!

Anonymous: Thank you for sharing so vulnerably with me. Childhood sexual abuse is prevalent. Thankfully we live in a day and age where we can talk about it and that we can create programs aimed at prevention. What an amazing story you share about escaping violation! Praise God for that! And that you knew enough to refuse his offer of a ride home! Openness is the key!

Related Posts with Thumbnails