Does my story even matter?
I’ve asked that question of myself often as I have ventured into the realm of publicly sharing my story. I’ll tell ya, it’s hard enough being a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, but being a survivor in today’s era of technology and in-your-face news, buckle up!
I come from a generation where many children didn’t speak up about the ugly secrets in their families because it wasn’t something anyone talked about, at all. My own aunt didn’t come forward about her abuse until she was in her thirties, and that was primarily because I spoke up at the age of 14 which initiated an investigation against my paternal grandfather (her dad) for molesting me.
After the outcome of that trial, it took me decades to reach a place in my life where I could shoulder-up with my childhood. Now, it has been just over three years that I have been facing my realities, processing my grief, healing the effects of my abuse, and trying to advocate for other survivors.
With age has come perspective. As I grow older, as I raise my own children, I realize daily just how important I am to them and how heavy my own losses truly are. I have become unquestionably aware of how my experiences have affected me and shaped my perspectives of the world. The healing that I have to do, my journey of trauma recovery, is not an easy one by any measure.
It is important to talk about this, to put a face to this struggle and to talk about how sexual abuse and assault affects us. We also need to talk about the importance of how we are received when we do garner the courage to disclose, and why so many of us would rather choose a lifetime of lonely suffering and silence.
It has always been in my blood to speak out against injustice.
I have grown weary of how people discredit survivors online (and in the media) when the accused is someone they politically align with. So confident and brave behind their computers, many of them absolving themselves of their hypocrisy by claiming “objectivity”, cleansing their immorality with “I’m a survivor too”.
It’s no wonder so many women just live with it. It’s no wonder so many of us stay silent.
I try to tell myself that everyone survives differently, but it is heart-crushing to see the mental somersaults some people do when it comes to accepting the sexual abuse of children, and the sexual assault and subjugation of women. I am sure most people want to be as compassionate as they claim to be – but I believe that the realities of what survivors have actually experienced often times fall outside of most people’s ability to comprehend and process.
Since I began speaking out publicly, I have seen so much ignorance, aggression, and callous dismissal of what abuse and assault survivors experience. It’s been triggering for me, I imagine for many other too.
Stop making it political. Sexual abuse, sexual assault, and rape are not political.
Through the course of my life, I have watched numerous celebrities and political figures accused and/or convicted of rape, sexual abuse and sexual assault; some in the court of law, some in the court of public opinion.
The only difference between the two courts: political opportunity, money, and influence.
History demonstrates time and again that whatever is politically convenient for the media/government/pop-culture at the time of the disclosure determines which court we end up in – sadly, it has nothing to do with justice for the survivors.
We continuously witness abuse victims’ lives dragged under a microscope, memory issues used against them, their own personal opinions put into evidence like that has any relevance to the attack. Are we going to start talking about what the victims were wearing too?
We really haven’t evolved much in this regard, have we? There is such a lack of understanding regarding how the brain and body responds to trauma in the short-term and long-term.
No two survivors will respond the same; symptoms of trauma manifest differently in people. Still, the mental effects and the feelings of personal violation – the healing that must be done – it is always similar, and very often lasts a lifetime.
I watch people I know hashtag #MeToo and #BelieveSurvivors in solidarity and then fall silent as woman after woman comes forward corroborating a history of sexual misconduct and abuse against candidates they support.
Any type of sexual misconduct should immediately disqualify a candidate. Period.
Sadly, it doesn’t.
I live in a country where people believe it is okay to tell me to just get over it when I express why I will not support a candidate with a history of sexual predation.
Now, as we enter an election year with two men accused by multiple women of sexual abuse and assault running against each other, there is an army of keyboard warriors (on either side) telling me if I don’t vote for one sexual predator that I am clearly supporting the other sexual predator. I am told repeatedly that I only have these two choices.
Do these same people realize this is why I struggle so hard to shake the shame and personal guilt of my abuse; the feelings of how completely inconvenient it is, I am, to others and their personal agendas?
This is why so many women stay silent their entire lives.
We are reminded over and over that our abuse doesn’t really matter. Our pain, our justice – it’s not really important, not in the grand scheme of things.
This is what rape culture is: a social grooming and collective acceptance of the objectification and maltreatment of women: excused and/or ignored when inconvenient – persecuted when beneficial.
The media, current political leaders, their pundits, and the vast majority of their rank and file supporters are telling assault survivors worldwide that the violations on their minds and bodies aren’t as important as winning elections.
I live in a county that easily, almost happily resorted to picking between two men for President, both accused of rape and numerous forms of sexual harassment and assault. I live in a county of people that will shame and attack survivors who refuse to vote for men that remind them of their abusers.
We must do better.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post when I write about: Something I always think “what if” about.
Catch up on other posts from this writing challenge here.
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