I've heard that abuse, whether it be sexual, verbal, emotional or physical, never goes away. It may get better over time, but the effects can resurface at a moment’s notice. It is almost never the way that it is depicted in television shows or made for cable TV movies. In those series, the topic is almost always wrapped up in a completely neat package and the person suffering the abuse gets the help that he or she needs and then they are courted off to the arms of loving parents or guardians, never to be heard from again.
The hurt that a person receives at the hands of someone else never goes away. Sometimes, it gets buried deep down within an individual; so deep that it appears that the person never suffered any form of abuse at all. Sometimes it lies just beneath the surface and anything or anyone can trigger it the survivor to be reduced to tears with no obvious reasons why.
But we survivors know what it means. We know more than anyone that the pain of CSA (Child Sexual Abuse) is just as bad if not worse than the actual abuse. Because it isn't the physical act of the abuse that's most harmful; it's the aftermath.
We survivors look at ourselves as damaged goods. We see ourselves as broken and we need to be repaired but don't know where to go to fix was has been taken from us. We don't know why certain smells trigger us to cringe. We don’t know why certain songs we hear elicit a vile response. Or maybe we know why but don’t want to face what happened when we first smelled the scent or heard the song.
I’ve learned that for years, I thought that I was damaged goods. At one time, I thought that I was shattered beyond repair. The simple truth is that I was. But I didn’t have to remain there. Fighting the effects of abuse is one of the hardest things that we as a people can do because unlike a Lifetime Movie, real life does not always have a happy ending where the subject is tied up in a nice, neat little bow and served with a scoop of ice cream with a cherry on top.
Most times it’s a struggle. Sometimes you feel worthless when you have nothing to feel worthless about. I’ve struggled to find my place in society. I’ve questioned everything from the love of my family to the motives of friends and acquaintances. I’ve experienced uncontrolled crying when I’ve had too much to drink to mood swings with no viable reason as to why.
The load that I carried throughout my life was heavy. I carried it through relationships…never telling anyone what happened to me when I was a little boy. I never gave it much thought. I never thought that damage was done. But I know that I was harmed in ways that I couldn’t begin to imagine.
But here’s the thing…we can adjust our mindsets about what was taken from us. We can choose to forgive and work on ourselves or we can live in a state of perpetual emotional turmoil. I’ve forgiven my uncle, teacher and friend. But I also know that forgiveness is a task that must be repeated, and you do it over and over until it becomes a part of you.
I’m not saying that things will be perfect. Life seldom is. But with guidance from a licensed professional and a loved one that you trust, you can reclaim a piece of yourself and slowly begin to knit the broken pieces of your spirit until it forms into a new you.
~ J.L. Whitehead
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