Identify the Victim, Identify the Perpetrator

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According to my stepfather, he was the victim of my sexual abuse. In his way of thinking, he wasn’t responsible for what happened between us.

He said over and over to me “See how much you want me Kimmy”, “See what you make my dick do Sissy” and “I can’t help myself, Sissy, you are so beautiful.” To him, I wanted him. He would do things to make sure I was sexually excited and then tell me ” See how much you want me?”

Because he had said things like this to me for years, I thought it was my idea to have sex with him. This was one of the reasons I felt guilty when I told, I thought I was telling on myself.

It was the summer of 1975 when I told Mom Jack and I had been sleeping together. I sat in a folding lawn chair in the backyard. My body felt heavy like I wasn’t going to be strong enough to hold myself up. I felt it everywhere. I was breathing shallowly, feeling slightly dizzy from the lack of oxygen.

When I said, “Jack and I had been sleeping together”… (wrong I know now). I remember thinking I would be in so much trouble because I had wanted to do all those bad things. Somehow at the age of 4, I had the idea to have oral sex with a grown man, somehow, it was my idea, I felt like I was telling on myself for having done something wrong.

It was disastrous telling her, she responded by asking was there anyone else who knew. I said yes, my uncles, cause Jack had tried to get them to have sex with me. So she left to talk to them about what happened. That was it. No nothing else.

Later Jack came home and asked where she was. He told me to get the kids in bed, so I climbed in bed with my little sisters, while the boys got in bed in their room.

We all fell asleep. Later I woke up with Jack and Mom arguing in the kitchen, Mom saying “why would she say something like that?”

He responded with I don’t know, maybe she didn’t want to do the dishes anymore.

They were back and forth for the longest time while I drifted off again. There was a little bit of hurt when he said what I had told was being reduced to something so petty as not wanting to do dishes.

Later, he complained to me about how I had upset my Mom and gotten him in trouble.

So when I look back on this I realize that I thought I was the problem, I caused him to do what he had done for years. It took years for me to correct my own thinking. I didn’t cause him to do anything, He did it. He was the perpetrator, he was the criminal, I was a child, I know now how I had to distort my own thinking in an effort to cope with the things he did to me and how I tried to make sense of it in my young child mind.

And recovery takes so long because there is so much sorting out to be done. Because I was so young, I didn’t have a basis for what was wrong or right. And my whole childhood was built around those lies he told me.

Now I can identify that I am the victim, he was the perpetrator of a series of crimes. Not just to me, but my whole family.

Recently a friend died who experienced childhood sexual abuse.

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She never told anyone in her family about what happened when her uncle sexually assaulted her at the age of 10. She went to her grave thinking she was protecting her family by not disclosing what happened.

It reminds me of all the women I have known who were sexually violated as children by family members. There are too many.   Most of them wouldn’t tell another soul what happened.

This particular friend said she was going to get over it, that it somehow didn’t really hurt her as much when she was young, As a middle-aged adult she understood exactly how it hurt her and it was too much to bear at times. The damage to her ability to trust others, to love deeply, to accomplish things in her life.  She wanted to feel healthy and whole and trusting.

But she (and to some degree all of the people who are sexually violated) don’t feel much of anything good.  She felt so conflicted.  She wished she had told what happened when it happened, but since it had been so long ago, she felt it wouldn’t do any good at all, just cause trouble.  She felt so isolated, because she didn’t and wouldn’t tell.

I think about the people who I have known in my life who physically survived. Emotionally didn’t make it through.  It breaks my heart to know so many who didn’t survive at all.  It occurs to me there is little hope in stopping childhood sexual abuse except to tell. Until the people who haven’t experienced it are on our side. Until they can see that the numbers of survivors is bigger than we think. That the damage is persistent and life long.

Not one person alone can make this happen, but if enough children who grow into adults tell what happened to them as children, then we can do something about it. It’s by telling what we experienced and who did it that we can stop it. It helps us get over feeling powerless. It is how we can do something about it.

Reasons its important to tell

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So it won’t eat up your emotional life. Are you holding back to protect the abuser or some other family member?

So you don’t miss the opportunity to love another person and have them love you for who you are, if you want to.  Really, really know you, who you are,  wounds and all. 

The general public has no idea how many people are sexually abused as children.  Making it personal makes it real.

The general public has no idea what childhood sexual abuse does to us, the children.. Help them know  

By telling others, it will dispel the ignorance.  People treat us ignorantly when they are not educated about childhood sexual abuse.

So we don’t hide our history of abuse.  Were not safe just cause we don’t tell. It doesn’t protect us  

So we don’t  protect criminals. We may love them because they are our parents or siblings but they have to be stopped.

So we can get clean, clear honesty into our lives.Its the one thing that will help us stay sane.

 So we start to know that we matter (are important) and worthy again. (or maybe for the first time if you were very young when it happened). They taught us what we wanted and needed didn’t matter, but thats not true. 

By telling we develop self esteem.  We learn we are valuable, capable and able to be effective in protecting ourselves.

We learn to increase our Self approval.   Are you learning to approve of yourself instead of wanting the approval of your abuser (by not telling what happened)?

So we acknowledge just how much it hurts. Telling will put us on the right track to emotional maturity, instead of being buried at the age of our violation.

So we can become fully alive. Instead of staying our young wounded self. 

By telling people, we are no longer isolated as we were when we were being assaulted. Being emotionally free we can choose to be alone, which is different than being alone frozen in our past. 

Freedom will come when you take the risk of telling.Telling another person about our experiences, the truth of our experiences is a big turning point in our healing.Take your time, take it slow but do it. Speak up and out. Their sickness can only exist in the secretive darkness perpetrators rely on to keep violating children.

 

Can you think of more?

 

Because we shield the abusers, we make it possible for them to continue their behavior. Exposed facts will educate others to the seriousness of the problem

 

We have to show them the ugliness we have been exposed to.

The first time I told someone about the sexual abuse,

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Technically, I didn’t tell as much as I admitted it to another human being. I think there is a difference. I told later on in the evening, right after I admitted it, but here is how it all came out one night. 

 I had  just turned 17, and met  Tony at  The Freewill Baptist Church in Vandalia. He was nice, a little bit older than me by two or three years, he played guitar, lived at home and drove his mother’s car.  Basically he was at a stage where he looking for his place in life.  Our dating consisted of being at church, eating dinner after church at his parents, visiting other churches and once I remember we went to the North Star Drive In.

One night after church, he was dropping me at my house. We were sitting in the car, when he asked me if there was something going on between my dad and me. He said” Your  Dad doesn’t  act like other Dad’s of girls I have dated in the past, he acts like he is  jealous, like he’s your  boyfriend. He’s not like any Dad I have ever met before. Is there something going on?”

I froze. I stopped breathing briefly.

I nodded and admitted “Yes, there was something going on.”   We both digested what I had admitted.  The first thought I had, what seeped into my frozen brain, was the question “What have I done? I am going to get in so much trouble. “I wanted to tell him more but nothing would come out.  

 “Does your Mom know?” Tony asked.

 “No”, I didn’t think she did. (Cause, Jack was adamant about making sure I didn’t tell, that’s how I knew for sure).

 He told me “You have to tell your Mom, she needs to know. You have to tell her tonight.”

What I wanted was to die, but based on past experience, that wasn’t going to happen. Next best would be Tony would tell her, but I felt sure he wasn’t going to do that for me. I remember hearing him say, something about me needing to find someone who would help me.  I got out of the car, went inside to face the telling. I thought I would die. My guts were twisting all around. There was this sense of doom, just on the edge of happening. That sick feeling as you realize your about to fall. Hard, and there was nothing to do but go with it.  Even though  I thought I had experienced  the worst life had to offer to children, things could surprise me by showing me something else was  possible.  I had to face something I would regret.

 Mom was gone, probably at work.  Jack, no where to be seen. I sat down on the couch trying to figure out how I was going to tell Mom, when Jack came in the front door.  He had been out drinking with his friends while he was supposed to be home watching his children. But he really just wanted to go back out and was relieved that I was there so he could leave again. He didn’t want to look too eager for it, so he yelled at us for not being in bed. Actually we were all okay with him leaving again; it was easier with him gone.  Told me to get the rest of the kids in bed, while he was going to go out cause he couldn’t stand it being in such a noisy, messy house. When he got back, we had all better be in the bed, asleep.  Or we would all pay for it. He stomped out of the house, leaving me to get everyone settled in. My youngest sister was only a few months old so she was the easiest. Later, Connie and Scott followed suit, and then Jackie, who usually fought the hardest about doing anything. Then I went back to the couch.

I couldn’t understand what happened in Tony’s car.  How was this going to happen? Me telling Mom what had been going on for years.

 It didn’t seem that long before Mom came home bringing unclaimed pizza from work.

I waited until she settled in then said I needed to talk to her. She got a drink and headed outdoors to the back yard. She was probably glad for the cooler breeze after being in front of pizza ovens all night. Truth is, it was probably fitting that we sat in the back yard, in lawn chairs only partially lit up from the kitchen light shining out the back door. I worried about her seeing my face.

After I sat down, I waited a moment, and blurted out,  ”Dad and I have been sleeping together”  as if I had been a consenting adult. I looked at my feet, since it was the only thing I could clearly see.  After a bit, she asked did anyone know what had happened. Nothing else, no details, no “oh no’s”, nothing remarkable. Just “Does anyone else know? I want to make sure your not lying”.

“Yes, Uncle Brian, Uncle Barry”, I left out Uncle Vic, thinking he wouldn’t have told her the truth anyhow.  She got up and left the chair, left me sitting in the back yard, wondering what I should do.  After a while, I just went to bed.