This week being on social media was tough. So many people hurting and sharing on why they didn’t report on their sexual abuse or rape. And so many people thinking it’s easy to walk into the police station after the attack and report it.
My heart is bleeding because I’ve been there more times than I’d like to admit and it’s bleeding because so many people don’t understand the trauma that happens on the inside. And it’s not that I don’t think they don’t care, it’s just they don’t understand because they haven’t lived it.
I get it. People have a hard time wrapping their minds around the part on why people don’t speak up sooner, why they don’t go after their attacker, but let me share with you that it isn’t quite as easy.
I for one blocked out YEARS of abuse. I cannot remember the first five years of my life and have a physical reaction just by thinking of a specific sexual act. It makes me gag and shudder. This is my body remembering the abuse while my mind did what is believed to be best for me: block out every single memory.
But there are the ones I do remember, the ones I have addressed and spoken out about, only to not be believed. Flashback can be triggered at any given time, and when I was raped at the age of 13, I had one that shook me to my core.
I spoke up and no one believed me. I was living in a group home and for years I believed that I didn’t matter and my story didn’t matter because I was living in foster care.
It was my mother’s boyfriend when we all shared a bed together and he rubbed his penis on me.
It was a fellow foster kid coming into my room one night and took what he wanted.
It was all the boys that thought they had a right to fondle me, kiss me when I didn’t want to be kissed – sober or drunk …pretty sure that doesn’t matter.
It was a friend who I trusted, dated and celebrated my birthday with who roofied my drink.
And life carried on. It carried on in me being hypersexual and destroying myself with alcohol not really wanting to be alive. I never thought of myself to be suicidal but I do know this:
I didn’t want to live.
I didn’t want to be a girl or a woman.
I wanted to be something other than a female so I could no longer get hurt.
If only I could be a boy or a man to not be sexually attacked. But then the truth is boys and men are being attacked too. Neither gender is safe.
Neither gender is safe!
I didn’t report the date-rape because it was about protecting my family. I didn’t want anyone to go through the mud that would no doubt be slung at me or them.
I just couldn’t do it.
I couldn’t put my family through this.
I couldn’t bear imagining my kids seeing me broken, crying in the corner.
And so I shared it quietly with those that I trusted but this trust wasn’t easy because again I was putting my heart on the line.
Would they believe me? Would they doubt me? Would they still be my friend?
I spent years coming to terms with what happened and walking through the trauma so I can heal. I face it again and again when my body remembers the anniversary of the attack or the abuse. Anytime there’s a thunderstorm my mind goes back to the day I remember being molested. Every year around my birthday, I remember.
I can’t go hiking on a trail by myself. I love running on the trails too but I fear I am not safe. I look around me everywhere I am, always aware of who is around me and side step to let people pass me so I am not vulnerable to an attack.
And it shows up in how I react to the world because trauma is deep in the core – emerging and every time it does I face it – and sometimes I lash out at the person that had zero do to with it.
And I am supported. I am loved. And I am believed.
And now I am watching men and women attacking each other and giving a gazillion reasons why they do or do not believe the stories of people coming forward YEARS after the trauma. And then it’s not hard to connect the dots and realize THIS is why people do not report.
It’s the lashing out. The questioning of what the individual did to contribute to being assaulted. It’s the questioning of the ulterior motives of the person reporting. And how we struggle to doubt the character of a person.
It’s not enough that survivors of sexual abuse and rape are already filled with shame and guilt. We already beat ourselves up over it – again and again until we are ready to no longer give it power. But this takes YEARS and sometimes we aren’t ready to face it head-on. It happens in spurts, one step at a time.
And that internal war is the biggest war I have ever faced. It isn’t just coming to terms with what happened, but it’s coming to terms with the person I have become in the process.
The moment we speak up, we are attacked again and not believed. And healing trauma takes years and it is so very different for everyone.
And yet, I also understand the counter argument of that one single report can ruin someone’s life. I am not denying or even try to say that doesn’t happen. That be foolish.
There are always three sides to a story: His, Hers and the truth.
If people could believe that they were supported when they report their abuse or attack, then we wouldn’t be in the throws today wondering what the hell the truth is.
It’s time that the collective listens, and I mean actually listen without interrupting and just hold space. Sometimes that space is all we need.
For someone to sit, be open and allow us to share our hearts with them, to be vulnerable with them and give us the space to share. Because when you are able to do this, to really listen, you can hear and feel the truth behind every single story.
[bctt tweet=”Sharing our stories leads to healing and mending the parts of us that feel broken. ” username=”petramonaco”]