I’d like to share my story with you…
Between the ages of 6 and 17 years, as a victim of molestation and rape by a close family member, personal experience taught me early how child abuse can paint the picture of a future of victimization on the canvas of our minds and lives so that we tend to blindly accept abuse as a normal way of life. Personally, it painted me into a corner of fear and believing I had very little, if any value. That perception stayed with me well into my mid twenties. Knowing my perpetrator would be protected by family members (and probably society), I felt defeated in the midst of the ongoing battle. He repeatedly assured me that I’d be blamed. For years the words, “It’ll be all your fault,” haunted me.
Child abuse ranges from voyeurism to rape and incest, with a wide spectrum in between. Most child sexual abuse is not reported out of fear – fear of repercussions such as rejection, disbelief or hearing, “She’s just a child. She has such a vivid imagination.” I was also convinced if I told anyone what was happening to me, I would be personally responsible for tearing my family completely apart, if they even believed me at all. So, silence became my ally. I hid in silence and fear, expending most of my youth attempting to keep it all a secret, while maintaining a “Merry Sunshine” persona in public, only to retreat immediately to my bedroom which was my sanctuary, sitting curled up in a corner, trying to come up with a plan to avoid the next occurrence of victimization, molestation and rape.
Statistics reveal to us the following:
1. 60% of teens who become pregnant were sexually abused as children (Briere, 1989) 2. 95% of teen prostitutes were sexually abused (Jennings, 2001) 3. 32% of convicted killers in the U.S. were sexually abused as children (Blake in Jennings, 2001) 4. The chances of being caught for a sexual offense (of all kinds – exhibitionism, voyeurism, adult rape and child molestation) are 3%! (Anna Salter, PhD, 2003).
The fourth statistic alone surely gives victims more reason to bear a “Keep silent” attitude about the perpetration taking place against them. Why fight it, with a 3% chance of receiving justice? Since only 1 out of 10 child sexual abuse victims in the United States speak out and tell of the crimes against them, I can’t help but wonder how many thousands of victims are still out there shrouded in silence, too afraid to speak. There’s a very fine line. The victim has to take into consideration how much danger speaking out will bring to him/her, and if taking the risk will be worth it. I can only speak for myself. My personal liberation came at the age of 26, when I finally decided to speak out by attending The Road Adventure in Tyler, Texas; recounting the path from child molestation and rape, and ultimately, freedom from both. It was only after that when I was able to gain a sense of self-worth and speak up on behalf of others who have not yet found the place for themselves to open their mouths and talk of the traumas they have endured.
So, to the best of my ability, I shall continue to be a voice and a face for all victims of child abuse and sexual abuse, not only sharing my own life experiences, but helping others find resources and organizations available to help them discover freedom, as well. I now know I am worth it and that I have value. YOU are worth it, too.