After getting catcalled and nearly followed home last night after committing the crime of picking up a pizza alone at night and not noticing a man who felt entitled to my attention, today’s #BelieveSurvivors protests have me in a Big Mood. I know I dance around the subject a lot, but I am a survivor of sexual abuse.
This one thing that Barcelos knows that I wish she didn’t.
The thing that I hate most about it, over two decades later, is that I have to be vague. For one, what happened to me happened over a long period of time. I don’t have exact dates for exact incidents, and I never will.
It wasn’t sexual at first, but looking back as an adult, it’s painfully obvious now that I was groomed. I was a lonely kid that just wanted to be special, and my abuser picked up on that. At first it felt good to be singled out, but eventually, I knew what was happening was wrong. My boundaries were being pushed and I caved without much resistance. Again, it wasn’t sexual at first, but once my abuser knew that I was pliable, he began to push me more and more. I never initiated but I never stopped him. I didn’t want to lose that feeling of specialness.
The second reason I can’t be specific, why I won’t name my abuser, is that it would hurt too many people who don’t deserve it. Most survivors of sexual abuse are abused by someone close to them, and my case is no different. When an adult (my abuser and I were pretty close in age) found out what was happening, they put a stop to it immediately and made sure he was never alone with me again. However, I know that making that discovery and coping with what they had seen absolutely destroyed them, and I won’t put them through that again.
And finally, I can’t be specific because it is so easy to forget things after twenty years. Not only is it easy; it was necessary. At first, I felt like what happened was my fault. That I had led him on. That I was a willing participant. I didn’t want to be that person. So I buried her. She was dirty. She was bad.
So I pretended it never happened. That worked for about ten years or so, but you never completely forget something like that. It always informs your worldview, consciously or subconsciously. I didn’t look back and unpack what happened until I was nearly thirty, and by then, my abuser had been scared straight and I couldn’t undo the choices that made me the person I’d become.
Nor did I want to. But I learned to accept that I was a victim, and there is no fault in being a victim. It’s been a conscious part of my worldview ever since, not something unnoticed. It was something in me that made me brittle, but now I draw strength from it.
When someone tells you they’re a survivor, believe them. Even if they dance around the subject. Even if they can’t give you dates and details. I know that can’t, but I know what happened to me. I have blurred my memories or let them slip away so I can live a normal life, but I know what happened to me.
I’m sharing this because there are so many people like me that I can’t share their story. On the one hand, I know I’ve been light on the details. On the other hand, this is the most explicit I’ve ever been about this, and far more explicit than many victims will ever be. I feel like I have to share what details I can because I’m a relatively visible person. Everyone needs to see that people like me, victims like me, exist. We are everywhere.
But I don’t owe you any more details than I care to give. I know what happened to me. Believe me.