Surviving Childhood Sexual Abuse Should Not Be This Hard

there's a difference

Our headlines are full of politicians and priests and ministers and teachers and doctors  who have abused children.  We turn our anger towards the individuals and the organizations – meaning the disembodied structure.

This is a plea.

Politicians and priests and minister and teachers and doctors … and parents, and anyone else … even the organizations … cannot do what they do without the support of the people around them.  There are people around the paedophiles, who at worst support and aid what they do, and at best, know and do nothing.  There are people who did not know but when they find out, do nothing.  There are people who make the victim the criminal.  People who do nothing to reach out and support the victim.  People who close their eyes and say it does not involve them.

It has become popular to have compassion for the perpetrator, to be concerned about reconstructing their life.  We are not so keen on the survivors.  Perhaps that is because these people will carry the damage with them for the rest of their lives, a damage, that while they may learn to cope, to carry on  … they will still wrestle with it in moments of quiet, in the dark of the night when they are left alone with the pain.  There are real consequences for the survivors.  It is not something time can “heal” anymore than time can heal a severed arm.  Sexual abuse imprints on the soul.

I am trying to write this without the anger that I feel towards all the people who have said to a survivor, ‘you need to move on,”  “let it go already,”  “that was years ago…”  I think about all the people who shunned the survivors like they were dirty or did something wrong.  I think about a system that does not take into account the damage meted out by a sick pervert on a child, years later when that survivor is a drug addict, or struggling to get through life, or to have meaningful relationships, or dealing with constant health problems.

People do things accidentally that cause harm and we hold them to a higher accountability than we do paedophiles.  Someone who drinks and drives and hits a child, someone who leaves a gun out and a child is shot, someone who does not dispose of caustic materials and a child gets scarred … why?  Is it because the damage is visible?  A paedophile thought about what they were going to do, they chose a child, they continued on with no regard for the tears or cries from the child, they often threaten the child not to tell, they covered up their acts and they repeated them.  It is not just about the reprehensible act.  It is a sick idea, repeatedly carried out without any sense of the victim’s anguish.  WHY are they held less accountable?

Every one of us who are so shocked and disbelieving that our fellow church member, or family member, or beloved friend could do such a thing … every one who feels so sorry for THEIR family and what they are going through … spare a second to consider the life long damage done to the survivor … to THEIR families and friends.  Consider that their pain goes on long after the court case (if there is one) and long after the prison sentence (if there is one).

Life changes forever.

Survivors shouldn’t have to spend their lives making sure everyone else is ok dealing with what happened to them.

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5 thoughts on “Surviving Childhood Sexual Abuse Should Not Be This Hard

  1. Thank you for writing and sharing this! In a way, we are the forgotten children. We are told to let it go, it’s in the past – wrong! It remains ever-so-present.

    • Sarah, thanks for sharing your journey. It is incredibly frustrating that people insist the perpetrators paid their time and we should provide them with support and understanding when none is lent to the victims. I hope you have people in your life that you can talk to when you need to. It is not that it is a constant issue we need to talk endlessly about, but there are moments, we are triggered, and the pain is deep. I will hold you in my heart and include you in my thoughts of healing. I am here, if you ever need to talk. My email address is aeappleford@hotmail.com if you want to take it to a more private arena.

      • Thank you so much! I will definitely add you to my email contacts. Yes, it sure does seem like sometime people are more interested in protecting the abusers, while leaving the victims out on their own. I’ll never understand it. I think it’s good that you and I are trying to get ours and others’ stories out there. You are in my heart as well sweetness!

  2. I’m a 52 year old male who just started dealing with a childhood of verbal and physical torture and sexual abuse from my father. This abuse occurred from the time I was a toddler until my father began having an affair with an 18 year old whom he eventually married. I didn’t even realize I had been tortured or sexually abused until I was in my early 20’s. The memories came back in flashes. In my late 40’s the memories came flooding back. Although I had been treated for 25 years for Bipolar Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder and had been treated with medication, hospitalization and even Shock Treatments, not one of the professionals I saw ever asked me whether I had any trauma history. The symptoms of my mental illness and those of PTSD overlap. Flashbacks and body memories are beginning. I can now remember and am experiencing dissociation. There is no forgetting anymore. I am that terrified alone abandoned child again. At least now the healing can begin. I’m striving not to become a survivor but a thriver. Thank you for bravely discussing this most important of all topics.

    • I think many people would be shocked to know how many people, who were abused as children, have no memory. That we have memories that are triggered and start to surface years or even decades later . . . is like being abused all over again. We suddenly have understanding of why we felt and acted certain ways, of medical concerns, of relationship problems, but we don’t get to go back and have it all made right, or people told we were not bad people. It makes forgiving ourselves very difficult. AND, in many instances, the abusers are long gone and any proof that we could give to anyone is gone with them. As a male, you face even more difficulty in coming to peace with your past. My heart goes out to you and I wish you the very very best. I hope you have good people around you who can love you, especially when you forget to love yourself.

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