Wednesday, February 19, 2014

As a survivor...

I believe every child should be taught about sexual abuse. When a child is sexually abused, the bruises do not show on the outside and unless you are looking for the indicators that something is wrong with your child you probably wouldn't know. Most children who are victimized are told if they tell, someone will get hurt, usually a sibling or parents, pretty much anyone who is special to the child will be threatened. The other thing they are told is that if they tell, they themselves will be hurt. That is why most sexual abuse of children goes unreported until they are older. Kids need to be taught at an early age what is appropriate in their relationships with other people and what isn't. They should also be taught what to do if it is happening or has happened to them. Even if it is a family member. Sexual assaults are usually done by someone they know. What most people don't realize is that it doesn't just affect the childhood of the victim, it affects the rest of their lives.

I'll use myself as an example so people can understand the full scope of what a sexually abused child goes through in life. As I am only 28 I can't tell you what happens after that but I will tell you what I've experienced so far. My biggest problem is trust. I am different than some victims because I was physically and emotionally abused also but any abuse hurts a person for their entire life. When a child is hurt they will give warning signs; wetting the bed, overly emotional, acting out, etc. I did not have those and I believe even if I had, nobody would have noticed because of the neglectfulness of the adults in my life. The way I dealt with it when I was going through it and just after, was by blocking it. Not only did I block every bad experience, I also blocked the good ones. I have very few memories of the first 6 years of my life and the ones that I do have are the bad ones. I was very happy when I went to live with my grandparents. I was spoiled rotten and I was finally in a stable home. I had abandonment issues but my grandparents proved to me that they were not going to leave me. I was ok until I hit about thirteen. Then the memories started to come back. My counselor said that in situations like that, the victim will start remembering things when they are ready to deal with them, which could mean years of dealing with horrible things since you don't remember everything all at once. To this day, I will still have flashes of memory and each one makes me relive everything horrible that I remember. Thirteen was a horrible age to start remembering being sexually abused. Early teenage years are when you start noticing boys, but in my case, I had a very hard time getting personally involved. Sure, I had guy friends but they really didn't know anything about me. At that point, I don't think anyone but my family knew me completely. Each year brought new memories. By the time I was sixteen I was severely depressed; more than any teenager should ever be. I wasn't very active in school and hardly had any friends. I did have a few good ones who did help as much as they could. That year was the year I started counseling. Not one counselor I have ever seen has personal experience with sexual abuse. They knew the steps that the books talked about but when I asked if they actually helped, they couldn't really tell me. At one point, I began cutting myself. I wasn't doing it like kids do it today because it's "cool". I did it because I was hurting so much on the inside, I needed a way to let some of it go. I felt better as the blood ran out of my body because it felt like some of the pain was going with it. For me it was a relief and something only I could control. This continued everytime I had what I call a flareup. Just like any injury, you have certain times the pain will come out of nowhere. I've been told this will happen for the rest of my life. At the age of twenty I ended up in the psych ward on a 72 hour suicide hold. This was my sort-of rock bottom. At that point I realized I really needed to deal with what happened to me, not just play at dealing with it. So I started the process. The bad thing is that I will never fully deal with it. It will be part of me for the rest of my life. I will have good moments, bad moments, and really bad moments. I still have trust issues. When a family member hurts you in that way it makes you feel like you can't trust anyone. Before I will get close to people these days, I will make sure that I can trust them. This is earned over time and through experiences together. I have yet to have a serious relationship because I have not found a guy I trust completely. Also because the Mormon church has taught that sexual activity makes you "unpure". Even though logically I know it was not my fault and I wont be held accountable for what happened to me, there is still a part of me that is the little girl who will always ask "what did I do to have this happen to me?"

I am announcing publically to friends and aquaintances who have no knowledge of my childhood and what was done to me. This has not been easy, but I believe this is a necessary part of the healing process. I know I will never be able to have a healthy relationship with a man until I can talk about what has happened to me. I know I have strong beliefs on anything that can hurt children and I hope through these blog posts you can understand why. I am going to start advocating strongly for children to be taught about abuse and how to get help. Children and women who have been sexually or even physically assaulted do not report this because of fear; fear of what people will think of you, fear of being hurt by the perpetrator, and even fear of not being believed, which happens more than it should. I know that if I hadn't been through the experiences of my childhood, I would not be the person I am today. This has made me want to become a child psychologist who specializes in abused kids. I will help children who have been abused the same way I was. I will be able to tell that child that it's not easy to deal with it, but you can work through it and have a happy life based on personal experience. If you, or anyone you know, have questions feel free to ask. There are some I might not be able to answer but the majority of them I feel like I can.

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