I’m not exactly sure where to start with my story. There are some things I know happened, but I also strongly believe there’s abuse I don’t cognitively remember.
The first instance I’m aware of happened a couple of weeks before I turned 3 years old. I’ve always known that I had been inappropriately touched by my uncle, but I never really knew the extent of what had happened. I told my mom something about the abuse afterward, but no action was taken other than telling me to stay away from him.
While going through therapy through LDS Family Services, I had a couple of snapshot memories of the sexual abuse I endured as a toddler–the touch was much more than I had thought. His actions against me were more severe than I previously allowed myself to think. This discovery shook my reality, my sense of security, and made me question so much of my life.
Sexual abuse continued throughout my childhood and perhaps into my pre-teen or early teen years (again, I’m not very sure on timelines or all the details. I have scattered memories I struggle to piece together). This was not just from my uncle, but from others in my family or people in my life. They say lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place, but maybe it does. How does one person, one child, get abused more than once by more than one person?
The conflict between right and wrong, and what I was basically raised in as normal, created a raging inner turmoil. What I was being taught at church and what was happening at home were not in harmony. It is a confusing situation for anyone to be in. Like, sex before marriage is wrong and pornography is wrong, but is it when that’s what’s happening at home? How is a child supposed to discern what is really right and really wrong?
Eventually, I disconnected somewhat from my home life. I busied myself at school with many extra-curricular activities including theater, speech team, badminton, and various clubs. I tried to become someone other than who I believed I was. I attended seminary and read my scriptures regularly–surely I could pay a penance of sorts and make up for all I thought I had done wrong, right?
As a result of the trauma of sexual abuse, I have dealt with many emotions, feelings, and thoughts. Such as:
- Disgust for myself and my body.
- Self loathing.
- Fear or discomfort around men.
- Lack of trust in others.
- Feeling abandoned or alone.
- Suicidal thoughts
- Feelings of unworthiness.
- Striving to make every other aspect of my life perfect, hiding all the “yuck” inside me.
- Anxiety and depression.
- Low self-esteem; low self-worth.
- Believing I’m unlovable.
Going through therapy at LDS Family Services a couple of years ago, helped me to see the many ways the abuse had infiltrated my life–affecting how I think and
respond to many circumstances. It helped me understand myself better. I was also given lots of tools to help deal with memories or negative emotions as they arise.
Although I was hoping I’d be completely healed after that, I wasn’t. My highs got higher, but my lows got lower and lasted longer than before. Though I understood the source of the negative thoughts and emotions, I couldn’t just “get over it” or move past it.
I’m currently doing another different type of therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) which is supposed to be effective for trauma such as sexual abuse. I’m hopeful I’ll find continuing relief, but I suspect issues will still come up from time to time.
I think it’s important to understand that healing can take a long time and the process is different for everyone. The effects of sexual abuse can also vary person to person, though the symptoms are similar. The memories will never go away, but hopefully the sting and triggers will lessen, if not disappear entirely.
Don’t get discouraged if you’re not healing as fast as you’d like. Keep fighting to heal. Keep working toward becoming more whole. This is so tricky and frustrating, I know. Wanting to be healed now, and yet, knowing it takes time. The atonement of Jesus Christ will heal us, even if all that healing doesn’t come yet or perhaps not even in this life.
***To share your story, either anonymously or with your name, please submit using the “Contact/Submit a Story” tab at the top of the page. Thank you!