Ending the Stigma of Sexual Abuse

With all the news about Harvey Weinstein and other predator stories coming out, I am both saddened to read all the victim’s stories, and I’m also proud that our society is starting to talk openly about sexual abuse.  Only until we take the subject of sexual abuse out of the shadows, and shine a light on it, more and more victims will be abused and in fear of coming forward.  Speaking out about sexual abuse is the first way we can try to end the stigma associated with it.  I, and most women, have experienced sexual abuse or harassment at some form or level.  The only person responsible for the abuse is the perpetrator, it doesn’t matter what the victim looked like, what they were wearing, or even if they somehow ended up in a dark alley.  Blaming and shaming a victim are done by those who believe women are unequal, and if someone believes any gender or race is unequal to them, they have a core misunderstanding about what the meaning of life is truly about.  But we mustn’t let those who are ignorant of the truths abuse victims face, keep us and our stories in the dark.

And so, this is my story.  I have experienced sexual harassment my whole life, from being oogled, cat-called, and full on groped by men who saw nothing wrong with their behavior.  As a woman, this is something that just becomes “a part of life” that has to be dealt with, because we know the justice system and the court of public opinion is not on our side.  But that is not my main story.  That began when I was just a child, and my grandparent’s neighbor and friend, who could have been my grandpa, started sexual abusing me.  A little girl is taught to do what adults say because they are to be trusted and respected.  And when I tried to express that I did not want to be around that man, I was not listened to by my parents.  Looking back on it, I’m sure I didn’t express outright to my parents about the abuse, because predators groom their victims to stay quiet.  But I know that when I when I begged my mother to not send me over to that man’s house, I was told that I had to.  I was one of many who got abused by this one older man, for when I became a teenager I heard other stories about how this man sexually abused all the kids in the neighborhood.  Even older my cousin had experienced abuse at his hands too, when she was a child.  My cousin had told no one of the abuse, until I came forward to my parents about the abuse I had endured, and word got around to the rest of my family.  That means that my cousin had been sexually abused by the same man, nearly 10 years before I became one of his victims too.  If my cousin had had the courage to tell someone in our family, perhaps I would have been spared from the damage it did to me psychologically.  I do not blame her though, as I don’t blame any other victim that is too afraid to come forward.  It was the predators fault.  All of it.  I blame him for forever changing so many innocent children’s lives, and I know that in the end, the justice he will receive is far worse than anything he would receive in this world.  He died many years ago, but I am still dealing with the psychological and emotional trauma he inflicted upon me.  I grew up believing that the only thing men would ever want from me would be my body.  That my physical form was my only worth.  It has taken me into my 30’s to release a lot of the negative coping mechanisms and unhealthy beliefs that formed because of my childhood sexual abuse.

I feel hopeless sometimes, looking out into the world, seeing all of the hate and degrading actions men are making towards women.  As a mother of a daughter, I fear having to one day explain to her that because she was born a woman, she is thought of as less than and only an object to be used, by some in the world today.  But I also have faith that we are in a special age right now, where the truth and the light are coming out to expose and reduce the stigma and acts of sexual abuse and harassment.  I also know that as a mother, the biggest impact I can have in changing the world, is for it to hold more aware and empathetic beings, by making sure my children understand that everyone is equal and sacred.  That we honor each other and their bodies, never imposing one’s will on another.  I teach my son that girls are to be treated with the utmost respect and that girls are just like boys.  (I feel the gender barrier which children experience at a certain age contributes to this unequal treatment later on in life.  There have been many studies that show that kids feel a bigger barrier between genders than between races.  I’ll go into further detail in another post, but I whole-heartedly believe that if we could help bridge the gender barrier earlier on, there is a better likelihood for boys and girls to see themselves as the same and equal).  And furthermore, I will teach my daughter that no one ever has the right to diminish her worth to something as superficial as her appearance, and that she has the power within herself to stand up and fight for what’s right.  And what is right, is stoping the sexual violation of children, women, and men.

To anyone who has also experienced this type of abuse, I am with you and I believe you.