The Telling: The First Moment the Universe Heard the Story of my Sexual Abuse

It is honestly difficult to remember the first time I spoke the words, “He hurt me” with out the memory being encapsulated in a snow globe. I watch it play itself out; nothing exists except for my house on Mosswood Drive, me, my mother and a Strawberry Shortcake suitcase. It is not uncommon for a trauma victim to have memories that can only be remembered as if you are a third party, a ghost, entering into the memory watching your physical self play it out while you loom overhead. Your emotional Self hangs out above, floating and separate from you. For what ever reason, this particular memory is even more distant, yet at the same time, in a snow globe’s tomb, immortalized in my mind.
I was eleven or twelve years old. We had moved from a condo in my home town to a rental house, now renting with my mother’s boyfriend and children. This was the second one following the separation of her second husband and as usual, I was having a difficult time adjusting. Change was like a stabbing knife in my chest. I knew I was supposed to ‘get along’, but it was this boyfriend that I finally readily rejected, tired of being told indirectly to roll with the flow. That day, I had reached a breaking point, weary of the angry tongue lashing that was not uncommon, especially if there was no one around to stop it. I packed my bag and I was leaving. Listen, I packed my STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE suitcase. What in the hell was I thinking?!! Clearly a person honestly capable of leaving would have a black leather suitcase. Every time I flip the snow globe and play out the memory in my mind, I stop dead when the childish suitcase is being packed. But I honestly was carrying heavy, grown up weight with no where to put it, except into my flimsy childish life.
My mother laughed at me while I sobbed, stuffing various clothes into my little girl life. It just made me hurt even more. Could she not see this pain? She was clueless…. even more clueless about the bombshell I was about to drop on her. My day bed faced the window out onto the front porch and was covered with a bright white bed spread, stuffed animals and flowery pillows. I originally bunked with my older soon-to-be step sister, but I was used to having my own space. I had white antique furniture, it followed me into every house I can remember, even in the houses of abuse. I had plenty of clothes. I always had plenty of stuff. But my soul was slowly dying.These words about soul loss may sound like drama, something Scarlet herself would mumble, but when we keep secrets, it rots our soul and each traumatic memory is wrapped like bacon in a thick layer of shame.
My hair was short and puffy. I remember wearing gray cut off Levi jeans with a white shirt that had hot pink and black geometric patterns on it. It was the 80’s in California. I am sure I had high top Reebok with multiple pairs of socks too. And I really was leaving. Anything. Anything to get away from this life. Anything to escape the indescribable pain of the past mixed with the emotional pounding that I was once again receiving from my mother. She seemed relieved when I was broken. This time I was desperate to use Strawberry Shortcake as my shield.
I went towards the front door, first turn to the right out of my room. She grabbed up my arm, became frantic that I was really leaving. Somehow I managed to get out on the porch, but never any further. I absolutely cannot remember how I made it from the porch with leaving in hand to the kitchen table, telling her, telling ANYONE for the first time.
I have no memory of my mothers face that day. She is a blur. I can remember the color of my shorts, but not her face. I cannot remember any consoling words except a vague idea that I was going to get help. I was at least heard momentarily and had some visions of seeing a therapist. But I cannot remember how the day ended. My snow globe goes blanket white and I want to remember if I even felt relieved. Did she hug me? Did she say she was sorry? I wasn’t even sure if she believed me.
Jump several days. I am watching myself talk to my first step father on the phone. His son was my perpetrator, my step brother. It was one of those old style, heavy, manilla colored phones with white plastic push dials. If you pushed just right, all the buttons would dial together and lord knows it was so heavy you could easily knock yourself out just trying to answer it. I am in my mother’s room alone, me and the phone to the right of the bed. My step father starts to ask me if what I said to my mother was true. He tells me as adamantly as he possibly can that “IF” this is true he will disown his son. I am grateful, but I also realize that this is the only person my mother has told and not to protect or help me, but instead help herself. He alludes to how my mother threatened to use the abuse against him in the divorce proceedings. I am betrayed all over again. I disappear into thin air in that moment, my ghost self sees the phone hang in mid air while I die from this sick pain that hollows out my chest. It will be years; Really, YEARS before it is ever brought up again. Now only my mother, my step father and I know the pain and we all bury it further away. I seal it up, like the snow globe and carry on with life, pretty, puffy and pink like Strawberry Shortcake.

Truths About Sexual Abuse

Image

There is never a more difficult topic to discuss than the sexual victimization of children. Unfortunately, if we do not discuss this with our families on a regular basis, our children are at risk for becoming victims of sexual abuse.

National statistics of sexual victimization of children are staggering. National organizations providing assistance to sexual abuse victims report that 1 in 4 females and 1 in 6 males will be a victim of sexual victimization by the age of 18. Nearly 70% of all sexual assaults occur to children under the age of 17.

Although society and media often focuses on the stranger who rides around in a car tempting children with candy, the biggest danger is typically within a child’s own family. Some statistics state the between 30 to 40 percent of victims are molested by a family member while another 50 percent is perpetrated by someone the child knows well within the family.

A perpetrator of sexual abuse (or pedophile) will most often utilize the nearest resources and are much less likely to risk luring young or adolescent children through the Internet or some other outside source. Child molesters are often a trusted adult or older child, either family or a close family friend. They typically use what is termed as “grooming”, spending a great deal of time or even money on a child to prepare for the possibility of being able to take advantage of them. The pedophile will attempt to use extra attention, gifts, lies about the family and most often guilt into both starting and continuing the sexual abuse. A victim often believes that their participation in the sexual act is their fault and is too ashamed to tell someone what is happening to them.

Contrary to some beliefs, pedophiles are often “stand-up” citizens and according to some research will not have ever participated in any other criminal activity.

Given the seriousness of this potential danger to our children, it is imperative that we start as parents to teach our children at an early age. As early as the age of two or three, we can talk to our children about what is a “okay touch” and what constitutes a “not okay touch” specifically labeling each of these as how we feel rather than directly labeling good or bad with certain people. It is in our children’s best interest to teach them that with these concerns, their body belongs only to them and it is their right to communicate when something feels good and when it does not.

We can teach our children proper language related to our body and how important it is to tell someone they trust if anyone makes them feel unsafe. When we open the door to this conversation, children are more likely to immediately come and tell us about someone hurting them.

One area of expertise in my eight years of practice has been to help victims of sexual abuse move towards becoming survivors. It is an all too common scenario to have an adult come for therapy, telling what happened to them as a child for the first time. Statistically, there are about 39 million survivors in the country today.

Although healing is a vital option for all victims of sexual abuse, prevention is necessary. We can teach our children about basic safety skills that will keep our children safe. If we can ensure that our children have an open line of communication with us, we can prevent more children from being abused. Know the facts and reality of childhood sexual abuse and never be afraid of protecting them even at the risk of concerning family. Look for unusual changes in their behavior and question them appropriately to ensure their safety. They will thank you for it and potentially prevent your child from being another victim of sexual abuse.