I was sexually and physically abused by my stepfather starting at the age of 8. My mother was aware of most of it especially the physical abuse. I'm 47. My mother tells me to get over the past and that it has no bearing on today. Why does she not understand? Feeling small all over again.
I’m sorry that this happened to you and I’m even more sorry that your mother has not only been aware of it but continues to ignore the impact it’s had on your life. Sexual and physical abuse have long lasting effects on the victim including sleep disturbances and nightmares, PTSD, depression and a laundry list of other complications. It’s 100% normal for you to still be dealing with the abuse and its impact on your life so please believe me when I say that yes, it absolutely does bear on today.
I can’t begin to imagine what’s going on in your mother’s life that makes her look at the abuse as irrelevant, but I’m really more concerned with you. Have you been in counseling? There are a lot of support groups for abuse survivors and there are great counselors out there who can help you work on overcoming the abuse you’ve suffered. Many states offer several free counseling sessions for sexual abuse survivors regardless of how long ago it happened or whether it was ever reported. RAINN has an excellent hotline (both phone and online) with advocates who can help you find resources in your area.
Your mother is wrong. You are entitled to your feelings about the abuse. It should never have happened. It was not your fault. And you are not alone. There are a lot of people out there who want to help you and be there for you, even if your mother isn’t. Look to them for strength when you need it and give yourself credit for every step you’ve taken in your life to move forward. You are a survivor and you are amazing.
Last year I had several separate incidents where authority figures crossed the line with me, harassment issues and an unwanted sexual encounter. I've been somewhat vocal about these incidents. I was honest about it. This has caused me to lose some casual friends. I've lost some credibility, sank into a depression, suffered nightmares, I moved because I didn't feel safe, I've developed trust issues. I could go on and on about the consequences that I've been dealing with, they seem to be endless. I thought that speaking up against these issues was the right thing to do. I've given up on trying to get people to believe me or to simply understand, they just don't. How do I move on from this with a little bit of dignity?
Dear Moving Forward,
You showed immense courage in being open and honest about the things that have happened to you and it is shameful, though not entirely unpredictable, that you are being met with less than the respect that you deserve. We (the collective we) have a hard time understanding the complexities of sexual harassment and sexual assault. You only have to turn on the news to see a culture full of victim blaming and inappropriateness when it comes to matters of sex, intimacy and consent. And sometimes our friends and family don’t know what to say and lean toward avoidance. I’m sorry that this has happened to you and I understand your wish to move forward with dignity.
Luckily, dignity is a feeling of one’s own self-worth, and while I’m sure those feelings have been tested, take solace in the fact that dignity comes from within and can be reclaimed. Recognize the strength that you showed in coming forward and telling someone what happened to you. The vast majority of sexual assault victims will never tell their story but in telling yours, you have taken a huge step toward regaining control over your life and your body.
The anxiety, nightmares and lack of trust you are experiencing are normal reactions to the experiences you’ve described and I cannot stress enough the importance of seeking professional help in dealing with these ongoing issues. Find a local counselor or call your local rape crisis center and ask them for a referral. And give yourself time. Trauma does not heal overnight, especially emotional trauma.
Turn to the friends that have supported you through this and let them continue to support you. While you may have lost some friends, the reality is that those people have shown you their true value as friends. The people who have stuck with you know that you are worthy. They will help you find your dignity in the moments when you feel it is beyond your grasp.
You've come to me looking for perspective, and here it is. You continue to reach out and to speak out which tells me that you want to heal…and so you will. Seek help. Hold fast to your friends. And insist that your boundaries are respected. You can overcome this.
Don't be shy! Say what's on your mind and get a good dose of perspective in return.