As the beginning of the month has been approaching I’ve been throwing ideas around about what to write my blog about this time. I knew that I wanted it to be related to Sexual Assault Awareness Month (which happens to be in April). I found myself feeling pulled in different directions in regards to a specific topic. Do I write about the prevalence, sharing statistics and significance in our society? Do I write about the impact of being sexually abused or assaulted? Or do I focus on the aspect of healing? As I thought about my primary purpose for doing this blog….to provide hope, I decided to write about healing and hope for moving beyond the devastation. Although, if inspiration (time) strikes, I may tackle another topic 🙂 .
I’m finding it difficult to start writing about hope without first acknowledging why there is a need for hope. From the moment someone is sexually violated, their life is forever changed. This is true for children as well as adults. It changes your sense of self and creates/changes your world view. These changes can impact a person in long term, devastating ways. As a result, many survivors believe their feelings, behaviors, relationships, and life will remain the way they are…maybe always have been. With this belief it is difficult to try something different….maybe counseling, a different relationship, etc.
One of the best ways to instill hope in someone who has been living with the impact of sexual abuse/assault is to share an example of someone who has lived through the experience and come out on the other side. Not only surviving…but thriving. The following is a brief synopsis of a (real) survivor’s journey. I will call her Rheanna.
Rheanna grew up in a fairly dysfunctional home. Her parents divorced when she was 4. She lived with her mother and stepfather. She spent weekends with her father and stepmother. The sexual abuse by her stepfather started at age 5. It went on until she was 13. During that time she was also sexually abused by a friend’s family member. This went on for about 5 years.
Throughout this time Rheanna knew what the abusers were doing was wrong but blamed herself for causing it to happen. This created a sense of self that was bad, damaged, unworthy. Which in turn led to a life filled with believing she was unlovable, leading her into unhealthy relationships and continued unhappiness.
When she was 15 a family member sexually abused her. This only reaffirmed everything she already believed to be true about herself. Why else would 3 different people abuse me? There must be something about me that causes this to continue to happen.
Rheanna’s abuse experience is, unfortunately, quite common. Many victims of child sexual abuse have multiple abusers. Which, as described above leads to an idea of “proof” that there must be something wrong with them.
Rheanna left home, moving out of state, when she was 17 years old. She started her healing journey by understanding how she was impacted by the abuse. Prior to this she believed the unhealthy behaviors, poor decisions, lack of self-esteem were just a part of who she was. As if it was part of her DNA. This truly was the beginning of a whole new life for her…one she literally would have never been able to dream possible for herself.
Learning about the impact of abuse, realizing she was not alone, and processing her experience were all instrumental in getting Rheanna to where she is today. She has become the person she was meant to be. She believes in herself, while being able to recognize the areas of her life she can improve on. She is able to recognize that she deserves to be in healthy relationships, both romantic and friendships. As a result, being able to let go of relationships that only bring pain and drama. Rheanna has learned what happiness and joy truly feel like.
My purpose in sharing Rheanna’s experience is to help survivor’s know they are not alone and healing is possible. I welcome your thoughts and comments.