I was 7 years old the first time I was sexually abused. It wasn’t some evil man who grabbed me and pulled me into a white van from my bus stop. It wasn’t some stranger — it was a family member. Someone I loved, someone I trusted. One in 9 girls and 1 in 53 boys under the age of 18 experience sexual abuse or assault. That statistic sickens me, not just because it is awful, but because I am a part of that statistic.
According to RAINN, The effects of child sexual abuse can be long-lasting and affect the victim’s mental health. Victims are more likely than non-victims to experience the following mental health challenges:
- About 4 times more likely to develop symptoms of drug abuse
- About 4 times more likely to experience PTSD as adults
- About 3 times more likely to experience a major depressive episode as adults
Turns out I am another statistic, I fit these statistics 100%. I have survived drug abuse as a teenager and young adult and I am proud to say I have been clean for 11 years. I have been diagnosed with both PTSD and depression and am on medications and see a therapist for treatment. All of this because someone I loved and trusted betrayed me in the most awful and vile way possible.
I was 14 when I had my first nervous breakdown and told my Mother what had happened to me until I was 12 or 13. I have never seen my Mother look so hurt in all my life. I truly believe it hurt her almost as much as it hurt me. I first tried to kill myself at the age of 16. I tried 4 different times in all, and I now thank God that I was found before I died in those attempts. I started cutting myself. I was in so much pain that I felt the only way to get the pain out was to cut it out. I was so delusional then. I credit my therapist with saving my life and helping me turn over a new page in life. She consistently urged me to confront my abuser — to take back the power.
It took me years of therapy before I was able to confront my abuser. I confronted him with both my mother and father present and he admitted to the abuse. I couldn’t believe it, but he admitted what he had done. I then proceeded to tell the rest of my family what he had done. He didn’t deny it to them either — he admitted what he did. I thought my family would be broken forever. And I think I might be right that it is. It certainly damaged it so badly that even now we have issues because of it.
I still have to see my abuser. I have had to interact with him my whole life — even after everyone knew what he had done. He hasn’t gone away somewhere, he is still present in my family life, though thankfully he lives hours away from me. He was supposed to come to my Grandmother’s 90th birthday party — with his wife and CHILD. I couldn’t handle it. I made an ultimatum — he goes to the party then I don’t. My family stood behind me and he was uninvited from the event. I have never felt more loved by my family than at this moment when they all stood behind me to say “no more”.
I have to endure photos of him and his family plastered up on the walls at my Grandmother’s house. I literally have to look at his CHILD’S face on the mantle. It makes me want to vomit. My abuser is still always present in my family life and it makes me have flashbacks, night terrors and panic attacks whenever his name comes up. I am 35 now and I am STILL feeling the effects of his abuse. I don’t think I will ever not feel them.
I am now a married mother of a 10 year old. Soon she is going to ask questions about the pictures on her Great-Grandma’s walls. I don’t know what I will say when she asks. I am terrified of that day coming. But for now, I am comforted by the fact that my husband and parents will always stand behind me and be there for me. At least I have that, not everyone does.
The reason I wrote this piece is to make others understand that you MUST be careful with who you leave your child with. Most of the time it isn’t some stranger — it is someone they know and love. Someone who is supposed to protect them or be there for them, and they twist that relationship into something horrible. So please parents, I beg of you, watch your children like hawks, do everything in your power to make sure your child is safe.