Maybe because it’s the clients who come for run-o-the-mill depression and anxiety always have a story- a story that begins with, “I’ve never told anyone this before…
Maybe it’s because my friend just texted me for PTSD resources because her childhood friend is finally getting treatment for the trauma in her past.
Maybe it’s because at bible study, the ladies talk about it like it’s real, and it happens, and it happens to one in four women, and if it hasn’t happened to us, it’s happened to our friend or our sister or our mother.
Maybe its because the recent Duggar family reports of sexual abuse are now in magazines and blogs and the news. What was well hidden is finally reaching the light of day.
It’s probably because of all these things together, that I’m overwhelmed with the damage of Sexual Abuse in our society. Sexual Abuse is real. And it hurts. And it stays with you long after its expiration date.
My college students and I were discussing the pros and cons of reading Fifty Shades of Grey last semester. I teach at a small Christian college with a diverse population of kids from the farm, the hood, uptown, and fresh out of their mamma’s kitchen classroom. You can imagine this sparky debate. After the banter died down, I simply sighed and said, “But your brains. Your brains just can’t handle that kind of stimulus. They’re not even fully formed yet, and your sexual experiences haven’t even culminated in marriage yet, and geesh…. Your neuro-pathways, and synapses, and desire and pleasure centers will learn to feast on trash so they won’t even recognize homemade ice cream as being good. And why is abusive sex glamorized, anyway? When, in our society, did it become sexually gratifying to be used?” I don’t know if those 18 and 19 year olds even knew what I was rambling on about- me with my hopeless shoulder-shrugging, and old-fashioned ideals.
But I know.
I know that the victims of an oversexed culture are always, ALWAYS the children.
I know that sex learned through domination takes a really long time to unlearn.
I know that sex learned from pictures that display submissive women and heavy-handed men warps the brain to only find desire in that set-up.
I know that sex learned at the hands of a trusted big person taking advantage of a trusting little person brings years of shame and worthless feelings.
I know that sex abuse begets sex abuse begets more underground sex abuse. That Shame begets Shame begets blame and underground deviance.
And no one could ever convince me that there is no real evil, no real Satan, no real wickedness because I’ve seen its handiwork on the ravaged soul of the victim.
And I also know that every abuser, whether we think him/her wicked, vile or sick, has once been a helpless victim of abuse him/herself.
And I hate it all the more that some of this sexual abuse happens in “nice Christian families” that look so “perfect” on the outside but are hiding a secret they feel too ashamed to share. It reminds of the “white-washed tomb” analogy Jesus used to describe the religious leaders and law makers of His day.
Sexual abuse happens in trustworthy settings like families, friends’ houses, schools and chapels. The victim always feels responsible at some level, and takes the blame and shame upon themselves. Upon finding out, adults often feel compelled to keep it quiet fearing shame or scourge may befall them all. They also fear what might happen to the abuser- will he be fired? Will he be angry? Will he retaliate? When the only appropriate question is, “Will he offend again?” Their inaction increases the felt shame of the victim, heightens their feelings of worthlessness, and gives silent permission to the abuser.
Bringing the abuse out into the light gives it a chance to heal. Exposing the darkness drains it of its power. Secrets serve to shame, but bringing pain out of hiding releases the pent up energy for healing.
So, if this is talking to you- if it’s ringing in your ears and pounding in your chest, then you know it’s time. It’s time to give yourself the priority your abusers never would. Reach out to a professional, a counselor, a specialist to talk. Healing can’t happen all by yourself in the dark. Journal your thoughts, your prayers and your pain. Record what’s been taken from you, and express your grief in a support group or counseling office. Tell a trusted friend that you are working through painful stuff, and you need their support and prayers. I know forgiveness is scary, but it will set you free.
And please, tell yourself that it wasn’t your fault.