Sexual Assault: You're Not Alone
By RichI was sexually abused when I was a child. (There, I said it.) I was sexually abused by a family member when I was a child. (That’s even more uncomfortable to say.) I was sexually abused by a male family member when I was a child. (This is getting more and more difficult.) I was sexually abused by a male sibling when I was a child. (OK. It’s out there now.)[divider type="thin"]
OK, I said it—out loud—and here in print—to a number of people. I’ve admitted that this happened to me. So I guess it can only get better from here. Right? [divider type="short"][dropcap background="yes" color="#333333"]T[/dropcap]he events, the actual moments of abuse, were horrible and disgusting. Yet, they weren’t long or ongoing. They were short vignettes. But now, the worst of it is far from over. Although the abuse is long past, the pain of being reminded lives on. And it can be very, very lonely, even debilitating. It was 40-something years ago. I was six or seven years old.
In order to keep “normal,” I simply acted like it didn’t happen— although that wasn’t even a conscious choice on my part. I never “decided” that I would pretend such a thing. I just did.
It’s not like I revisit it all the time or think about it every day. I don’t, but I am reminded at different points.
When I do think about the abuse I endured, I wince, and say “fuck” out loud because that’s how I deal with it right now. It’s a regret that I can’t change. It’s a ghastly image that’s burned into my consciousness. Then I get on with life and “the next right thing.”
Being abused or violated is awful. It’s shameful. I didn’t deserve it. [divider type="short"]
My brother! My own brother! He should have been the one to protect me from harm, to set a good example, and to be pleasant in dealings. That’s what older brothers are supposed to do, right? Not in this case.
He and I have always had a rocky relationship. For many, many years, we didn’t speak (all my choice—and not because of the sexual abuse, but largely because of the unfair and selfish ways he treated me).
When I turned 20 or so, I began to be able to acknowledge that I had been an unwilling victim of sibling child sexual abuse. I had blocked it out for so long, it was like it wasn’t even there. As I got older and stopped self-medicating, I began to give it more and more attention.
The emotional pain is in the regret—that I was the victim in those instances, and that I can’t undo that. Because I can’t change the past, I’ve had to learn ways to reconcile myself to it; to forgive it. [divider type="short"]
[dropcap background="yes" color="#333333"]A[/dropcap]round the time of his abuse (and it happened just a few times), when I was six or seven years old, I got blackout drunk on gin at the basement bar in my parents’ home. Also, on one occasion, (of necessity) I had to wear my sister’s panties (because we were going out, and I didn’t have any clean underwear). These were the real defining events of my life.
Getting drunk (and high) made everything OK. It made the unbearable invisible. It made me feel good about myself (and at that point in my life, I couldn’t stand myself). I furthered a career in alcoholism and drug abuse until I could no longer take it—to the brink of insanity and toward the gates of death. It was a wild ride, headed toward extinction. Something had to give. Luckily, the will to live outweighed the will to die. Today, that problem has been removed. I’m sober and sane for many years.
In addition, my cross-dressing may have started after the time of sexual abuse. I’ve always wondered what propelled me toward the desire to dress as a girl then (as a woman now). After all, it, too, brings me comfort. I feel OK when dressed up as a woman. I’ll never be able to say for certain that it was caused by being a victim, but there may be a logical connection there.[divider type="dotted"]
It is very important to share my story with my feminist community for a few reasons:
- I’m being my most honest with you. This is me. This may be the last frontier for my deep, dark secrets. There’s really nothing worse than this (for me).
- Described here is an example of another way in which I identify with women (unwillingly, in this case). I was the victim of sexual violence. I was overpowered by a young man who was stronger than me, and ignored my cries of “no.”
- This, or something like this, may have happened to you. If it did, at any age, I’m sorry that you were/are a victim. Like me, you didn’t deserve it, and it shouldn’t have happened to you.[/well][divider type="short"]If something like this did happen to you, reading this article may give you the courage to speak with someone else about it, especially if you haven’t already. Being abused is shameful and lonely. It’s dark.
And not much good stuff grows in the dark.
When I use my courage, and admit to someone else that I was once a victim, it makes it a little easier for me. Discovering others who have a similar life experience (although it’s not a badge of honor) connects us and reinforces that we’re not “the only ones.” There is strength in unity, and that is necessary to move through and rise above this.
It’s good to know that I’m not alone. You’re not alone either.