Trigger warning: Sexual Abuse
I was eleven years old when the world that I had known and understood for so long had turned upside down. I was terrified to tell the truth but I knew that if I didn’t nothing would change.
You see from the outside looking in my mom and stepdad and I were a typical kodak family. We went to Church. They both worked very hard and I was on the honor roll at school. However, I was carrying a very deep and shameful secret. I was being sexually abused by my stepfather. Being threatened and controlled by someone who had everybody fooled I was terrified that I would not be believed, and the constant thoughts that what had happened to me was my fault and that I was in some way culpable was also something that I was battling with. I was an eleven-year-old kid, but I knew if I did not tell the truth I was never going to be free and I was going to continue to suffocate inside.
I remember the day telling my mother the truth and as I shared what had happened the feeling of nausea rose up in me. However, I could not throw up. She believed me. I remember for the rest of the day everything was a blur. He left. Two days later I was told that I had to tell the cops what had happened to me. I thought all I had to do was say something once and I did not know I would have to go into detail. One cop showed up and I told her everything that I had gone through. Following this a male cop showed up and I then had to tell everything again and he wrote down what I said. Within the next several days I was required to tell this story over and over again to social workers, doctors, and psychologists. I had a very intrusive medical exam and all the while internally I was nauseous. I found it hard to eat anything. Sleeping became next to impossible.
I went through all of this only for the man who abused to me to flee the country and to this day I have no idea where he is.
In going through all of this for the next two years I was visited by various social workers at school. I was required to go to therapy by the court system for almost 2 years following all of this. Yet the feeling of nausea never left. The feelings of resentment and anger that I had were enormous. I was carrying so much as a child I did not know what all to make of everything. As someone who reported what happened and went through the system that I believe did its best to help me, I must say that I can understand why so many individuals do not report or have fear to report and here are some reasons why I understand.
The fear of not being believed even by family members is very real and present because unfortunately a lot of the time those who are abused are abused by people they know and the majority of the time those individuals that they know are family.
The fear of going forward in the system and being retraumatized and re-victimized over and over again by the system is real and I can say that while the system meant well in trying to help me that’s exactly what it did. In the long run while it tried to help me it hurt me in the process.
The shame one feels is immense and there is often very little done to express effectively to those who are the victims that what has happened to them is not a fault of their own and they have nothing to be ashamed of.
Following this experience as a child there were some instances where unfortunately I was taken advantage of and I chose not to report these experiences for a few reasons. The system communicated to me that what occurred when I was younger was complicated and I was put through a traumatizing experience of having to recount what happened in detail over and over again and the result was that justice never occurred for me at the hands of the American legal system, my abuser was not caught. I felt like following this there was no point in reporting only coping on my own with some very destructive activities.
I’m not there anymore. I’m in a place now where I’m living my life to the best of my ability. I am a survivor and I appeal to God for justice that I cannot achieve on my own. My experience and the evil that occurred in my life does not define me.
The reason I decided to disclose this is because it’s the truth and it is my story. Perhaps by doing this I will make room for countless others to express and share their stories. I have no ulterior motive. I simply want to create space for others to be vulnerable and maybe just maybe the faint feeling of nausea that has never left me since that day will finally leave me. Maybe reforms in the justice system will occur and we can band together so that there will be true justice for all.
May the God of Justice who sees you and me bless each and everyone of you with the riches of his grace and Serenity.