What I Wish I Could Have Told Myself as a Child About Sexual Abuse
Trigger Warning. Content involves mention of child sexual abuse.
I felt like I censored a lot of my feelings from that day. I didn’t even think anything was amiss until I learned what happened was not okay at all.
To this day, I still have this weird internal battle sometimes (not all the time) where I try to justify the actions of my abuser. Some days, I write it off as a one-time mistake, and other times I feel embarrassed, and sometimes, I feel nothing when I think about it. And it feels like this: if I’m going back and forth all over the place, it makes me think that my trauma must not be that bad because actual victims would know exactly how they feel, right? I almost don’t feel like I should be considered a victim because there are so many other people who have endured so much worse. So what the fuck am I whining about?
When my internal dialogue swings from one end to the polar opposite in opinion, it almost feels like a split between my rational adult self and my naïve inner child. I wish I could go back tell myself to speak up and fight back, but it’s easy to say that as a 28-year-old woman. The world seems so much bigger and scarier when you’re that young.
Anyway, enough with the preambles. Here it is, what I wish I could have told that little girl.
"It's my fault."
No, it's not. A trusted figure took advantage of your ignorance as a child. You didn’t know any better and were told it’s a fun game, that it’s not scary. He was bigger, he was older, and knew fucking better. He had obvious leverage over your innocence and manipulated the situation to his advantage. That is never fucking okay.
"I said yes."
You were 9. A child cannot legally consent. Point blank.
"I chose not to say anything."
You didn’t know anything was wrong and you were told to keep it a secret. You were too young to understand. and just because years have passed doesn't mean it doesn't matter anymore. As a child, you might not have the capacity to reflect or understand the gravity of the situation. Sometimes it takes perspective as an adult to realize the trauma you buried inside and make sense of it with knowledge you have now that you didn't have then.
"If I tell someone, I'll get ___ in trouble."
I get it. This person is well liked, has done well for himself and has done noble things for his family. But this person made a choice. I understand that you might feel personally responsible for the consequences that may happen to someone else -- like ruin his career or reputation -- but YOU did not cause this. This person made a conscious decision to do harm. They need to be held accountable. Not you.
I'm not going to tell you you shouldn't feel embarrassed. I'm not going to tell you how to feel or to rob you of your process. But I think that this was horrendous and absolutely no one will think you’re disgusting. You have support.
"No one will believe me."
People that know you, and who matter will believe you. the ones who don’t aren’t worth being in your life.
"People will blame me."
It’s not your fault. A trusted figure took advantage of your ignorance as a child. You didn’t know any better and were told it’s a fun game, that it’s not scary. And the ones who do are too stupid and dense to understand.
"It’s not that bad, others have it worse."
Does anyone really win in the comparison game? No. So stop it. Yes, other people may have had different levels of trauma, but that doesn't excuse or diminish the fact that something totally wrong happened. Don’t let the experience of others eclipse your own pain. You are allowed to feel your pain, and then move on from it.
Even now, I still have to remind myself how to be a full person from time to time. It’s still an ongoing process but I had to re-learn firm boundaries and trust, un-learn that my self worth isn’t measured by my appearance, build my self-esteem, and extinguish self-blame and denial.
I feel like I never really coped with it. I just moved on and only ever revisit that chapter of my life if something triggers a memory, and then I’m instantly brought back to it like I’m still there. There are still some things that trigger it, like hearing his name, or driving by the building where it happened. Other times, the memory feels far away — it never fully disappears, but it just feels dimmer. In my head, it’s kind of like watching an old home movie projected on a wall in a dark room, where you see yourself on film but almost don’t recognize or remember yourself in that moment. There isn’t really a conclusion to this, my memory is just a video that occasionally gets stuck on loop.
National Child Abuse Hotline: