*Though there are no details, some of the following content may be triggering, be sure to have some self-care or coping strategies ready.
My sexual trauma story started at age 3, but it didn't shatter me until Post-traumatic Stress Disorder entered my life after seeing my step-uncle years after my abuse on a normal day at my grandma's house. I didn't know what PTSD was at the time, but it consumed my emotional health and made me feel all alone. My body and subconscious were remembering what my conscious mind didn't want to. And from then on I plagued myself with labels such as worthless, ashamed, guilty, fearful, lost.
The labels only became more negative and damaging towards myself when yet again, I discovered that my mind had repressed or ignored memories of abuse—this time from other family members. I was confused because these people were dear to me, we loved each other as family, and had a great relationship. I couldn’t remember them being “bad people” either. But, much throughout my life, I was grasping onto to a reality that not only no longer existed but that never existed in the first place.
I could not let myself believe that my uncle wasn’t the end of my abuse story. I went through all of the stages: minimizing, trying to think of every excuse why it wasn't true - my mind's way of rationalizing why something so bad couldn't have happened to me. I was losing my mind, in pain, trying to protect everyone else, angry and all alone.
Then I started to, eventually, allow myself to believe and trust myself. And I spoke my untold story.
People don’t know how to respond to sexual abuse; what to say, what to do, what to believe. I am sorry if you shared your story and didn’t get the response you deserved. Keep trying. I did. First with my cousin, then my now husband, then my grandparents, then my brothers. Their responses all varied. What I’ve learned is that you can’t control or predict how other people respond, and that’s okay. Eventually I found the first people who supported me and at the moment, my only. In telling them, I learned that it was okay to not like my father. It was okay to not want to be around him. It was okay to tell my story. That it really wasn’t my fault. I went to counseling, wrestled with myself and the lies that were the foundation of my core, and aligned my value and worth and courage with hope. I also had to make some very difficult, painful decisions.
What I realized is that every path I was going to take would have pain. Imagine the scene in Finding Nemo where Marlin and Dory are trying to decide to go through the trench or around it. Like in Finding Nemo, I could choose to swim around the trench with the seemingly beautiful, open waters. Or, I could choose to swim through the trench with the skull bones and dark, eerie waters. Facing our challenges head on– whatever that may be to you—always seems like a bad choice. It appears in the form of the dark trench. Avoidance, pretending, and denial all appear the more comforting options. If you’ve watched Finding Nemo, you know that the clear, beautiful skies led to greater pain for Marlin and Dory. Sharing my story was my dark trench. It terrified me. As I began to share my story, I realized that keeping secrets came with a pain that trapped. In trying to protect everyone else, I lost myself.
If you’re facing a dark trench right now, I urge you to choose a pain that unshackles over a pain that imprisons. Sharing my story has been the most empowering and liberating experience in my life—and I know that it can be for you as well.
Whether you're new or have already begun to explore and write your story of surviving sexual trauma, support is powerful. Pain needs expression and you have a truth that needs to be told. Heard. Believed. Acknowledgement of your untold story will bring relief and heal something inside of you.
This site, the podcast, the book, the blog, the course -- all of it is me, climbing down with you to your dark trench and I've I brought a ladder. Saying I know what it’s like down there and you’re not alone. This is me sitting with you, for as long as you need in silence because this is hard. This is me breaking the silence, offering to take the first step on the ladder, hand-in-hand. The second step won’t seem so hard when we climb together...