POST 9: The Shadow cont.

I realized at an early age that I knew far more about sex than any of my classmates. I knew I was different. Beyond my hand-me-down clothes, dirty skin, and dysfunctional family there was another even more troubling and hidden layer to me. As I got older and my body began to change, I was heartbroken and repulsed. I grew to despise my body and did my best to hide anything about me that could possibly make me attractive. I loathed every inch of me - my stringy hair, my developing curves, my crooked teeth. Self-hatred consumed me. In the event that some one did say something nice to me about my appearance, I dismissed it. My mind and my heart were constantly tormented by self-loathing thoughts and I believed every lie spoken in the silence of my heart. I am ugly. I am worthless. I am unlovable. I am stupid. I have no value. I am unwanted. It would be better if I were dead.

I knew that what was happening to me was wrong. I knew I hated it. I knew I wanted it to stop. But it was as if my body and mind were numb with fear and I could not break free from it. It would be easy to judge me or someone else who has walked a mile in these shackles, but unless you've been there, you just don't know. You can't possibly know.

Is it a coincidence that so many children from broken and dysfunctional homes fall prey to this kind of suffering? Hardly. If you are a child who is unloved and neglected, who would you entrust with such a shameful and hurtful thing? I could have told my grandfather. He would have come to my side, I know. But you forget the shame. Oh, the shame! I thought being molested was my fault. Maybe I was doing or saying something to cause it. I wanted to tell someone (to scream it!), but I was afraid of not being believed. Sometimes I would be in a room full of adults and I would just imagine myself yelling it out at the top of my lungs all of a sudden. Just yell it out and get it over with! Sometimes I would open my mouth to do it... no words would come out. I would imagine me telling someone who would then scoop me up and say, "I believe you. I'll protect you." It was like having invisible duct tape put over my mouth. On the inside I was screaming! HELP! PLEASE HELP ME! CAN ANYONE SEE ME?! PLEASE MAKE IT STOP! No one heard me.

If I had been sexually abused even one time, it would have been enough. Even once. I'll compare it to someone driving a car that careens off of a cliff. The car spirals down the mountainside in a dozen or so flips and lands at the bottom of the cliff in a fierce and fiery explosion. When the person emerges from the car, he or she is broken, bloodied, disfigured, and terrified. If this kind of tragic event happened to you once in your life, it would be enough. You would have many things to work on and sort through before you were comfortable behind the wheel of a car. You might be afraid of fire. You might be afraid of driving. Now imagine a person is involved in this kind of accident multiple times. But make no mistake, whether it be one time, ten times, or a hundred times, sexual abuse has a way of haunting you. Crippling you. Changing you.

People say things like, "Well I had [insert traumatic event XYZ here] happen to me, but it was nothing like what happened to so-and-so." Not true. I think we try to dismiss these things in an effort to hastily move past them and forget, as if forgetting means it never happened or we've magically recovered. Why do we try to minimize our hurts? Can we quantify human suffering by measuring it in degrees and labels? Can you or I ever be a "little" molested? A "little" neglected? A "little" abused? A "little" bit of an addict? I'm not saying we should scour over our lives with a fine toothed comb intentionally looking for something horrific (and certainly there are people who endure human tragedies far beyond my personal scope of understanding) but if you and I look back over our years on this planet and something horrible and life changing jumps out at us... Do we acknowledge it? Do all wounds heal with just time alone? Are there some wounds that, despite a hundred well-meaning and superficial bandages, never fully heal on their own? The truth is if you and I have any hope to find healing our wounds, whatever they are, must be exposed to the Light. And treated.
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Some sobering statistics about childhood sexual abuse in the United States alone:
  • 1 in 4 girls is sexually abused before the age of 18.
  • 1 in 6 boys is sexually abused before the age of 18.
  • An estimated 39 million survivors of childhood sexual abuse exist today in the U.S. alone.
  • 30-40% of victims are abused by a family member; another 50% are abused by someone outside of the family whom they know and trust; only 10% are abused by strangers.
  • Over 30% of victims never disclose the experience to ANYONE.
  • Sexually abused children who keep it a secret or who "tell" and are not believed are at greater risk than the general population for psychological, emotional, social, and physical problems often lasting into adulthood.
  • Children who have been victims of sexual abuse are more likely to experience physical health problems (e.g., headaches).
  • Victims of child sexual abuse report more symptoms of PTSD, more sadness, and more school problems than non-victims.
  • Victims of child sexual abuse are more likely to experience major depressive disorder as adults.
  • Victims of child sexual abuse report more substance abuse problems. 70-80% of sexual abuse survivors report excessive drug and alcohol use.
  • Young girls who are sexually abused are 3 times more likely to develop psychiatric disorders or alcohol and drug abuse in adulthood, than girls who are not sexually abused.
  • Among male survivors, more than 70% seek psychological treatment for issues such as substance abuse, suicidal thoughts and attempted suicide. Males who have been sexually abused are more likely to violently victimize others.
  • Victims of child sexual abuse are more likely to be sexually promiscuous.
  • More than 75% of teenage prostitutes have been sexually abused.
  • Nearly 70% of child sex offenders have between 1 and 9 victims; at least 20% have 10 to 40 victim.
For information on how to cope with childhood sexual trauma or to receive helpful parenting info and tips on abuse prevention and recognition, please visit