I was sexually abused when I was a child. I kept memories stuffed away for a long time. At one point, when I was a teenager, I approached my parents about what had happened. But it was too close to home for them, I think. They were not prepared and didn't know how to handle what I had shared. We never spoke about it again.
I was married in my early twenties. It was a rough time. We fought a lot. We did not have sex. We tried, mind you, but there was something holding us back. I'm not even sure I can explain how I felt. It was suffocating.
It was clear there was something wrong with me. This was NOT how the "honeymoon" was supposed to go. We were not "normal" or so we kept telling ourselves. Everyone else was having sex. I relented and started seeing a counselor.
Some days it was talking about the memories of my abuse. Some days it was discussing why my husband and I couldn't make it a week without fighting. I didn't know at the time there were separate issues going on there. I don't remember a lot about the "abuse therapy". I know it took a long time before I could get through a session without crying the whole time. Maybe it was grief. Maybe it was relief, to finally be able to talk about it. To get it out of that place I always stuffed it.
It certainly wasn't easy. It was quite painful, in fact. But what I didn't realize as I was busy shoving my memories back under the rug, doing whatever I could to not think about it, was that dealing with it would have been easier then trying to forget it. Because along with the memories, I was also shoving down the lies I had told myself about it. That it was my fault. I should have known better. I asked for it. And the memories and lies infested a deep part of who I thought I was. If it was my fault and I should have known better then I should feel ashamed. The lies also told me that I need to be in control. That I cannot let anything like that happen to me again. That I need to protect and rely on myself.
I was abused by a close relative. He was absolutely trusted. And he took advantage of me. And I went a long with it because I didn't know any better. Because I trusted him.
This deep shame has left a scar on me. It had robbed me of true intimacy with my husband. The shame kept me paralyzed. With hard work and God's help, however, I slowly began to unravel the shame enough to be intimate. Intimacy was scary to me because it meant complete vulnerability, being exposed and allowing myself to be "out of control".
The remnants of childhood sexual abuse are far reaching, especially if you haven't been able to properly deal with what happened and how it has effected you. The crazy truth is you are less alone then you think. The statistics are off the charts. I grew up in a day and age where we weren't really talking about sex or sexual abuse. But it's 2010 and one of the best ways to combat childhood sexual abuse is by shedding light on it, talking about it, becoming informed, and working to keep it from happening to the children in our lives.
There is nothing I can do to change what happened to me. But I can change the choices I make because of what happened. I choose to be a survivor. I choose to talk about it and heal those wounds so that I can live a productive life, free from those chains. It will always be a part of my story. And I believe through it God has taught me some pretty extraordinary things about myself. And he continues to show me the things I still need to work on. I may never be completely free from the "shame scar", but I refuse to be taken prisoner by it.
If you or someone you love is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, besides good counseling, I would recommend the following books (all of which are available through amazon.com):
"A Wounded Heart" by Dr. Dan Allender
"On the Threshold of Hope" by Diane Langberg
"When a Man You Love Was Abused" by Cecil Murphey
Rise and Shine Movement
1. This Is My Solemn Vow