Read the blogs of child abuse victims and those concerned for them. Somewhere along the line, you will find mention of what the abuse damaged or destroyed outright.
Our innocence. Our childhood. Our peace of mind. Our self-confidence. Our self-esteem. Our ability to trust. Our capacity to select loving partners, and sustain healthy relationships. Our faith. Our voice.
And from far too many, the abuse took their very lives.
For many of us, what the abuse left behind was isolation, grief, anxiety, depression, rage, and a permanent sense of violation.
Unfortunately, that we will never be the women (or men) we might have been is not helpful information. We are who we are…marked by these scars.
In some sense, the scars are our badges – if not of honor exactly, then certainly not of shame. We were the ones sinned against, not the ones sinning, no matter how we were made to feel about the torture inflicted upon us.
As with the veteran who has lost a limb to war or the woman who has lost a breast to cancer, this is simply our reality now.
No single statement can characterize us all, except that we were blameless.
Some of us were victimized by priests; others, by family members or strangers. Some of us pressed criminal charges against our abusers; some chose to remain (or were forced to remain) silent, sometimes for decades.
Some of us lived in denial, maintaining a painful status quo in our attempt to protect loved ones. Some of us fled to the streets, from one kind of horror to another. Some changed sexes or became sex addicts. A few fled from sex, itself.
Some of us forgave; some never will.
The abuse did not make us bad citizens, bad neighbors, bad employees, or bad friends. Many of us became high achievers, first at school and later at work.
A surprising number of us have found a strength we did not realize we had. We have found a way to use our anger to fuel the struggle against abuse and injustice; use our pain as a subject for art and literature.
A surprising number of us have reclaimed our joy. We remember the past, but choose to focus on the present.
Somehow we managed to survive the onslaught against our hearts, minds, souls, and bodies. Whether by luck or fate, intestinal fortitude or grace, we survived the fire. We are here and entitled to live our lives.
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4 responses to “Surviving the Fire”
I hope you’ve reclaimed your joy.
Child sexual abuse is rampant! My wife and I watched “48 Hours” last night (about sexual abuse in a school) and they said that as many as 7% of students have experienced some form of sexual abuse from a teacher. That is millions of kids!
Thank you, Bill. Loving parents and grandparents can make a tremendous difference when a child is molested. Often, children are left to deal on their own with the violation and the torrent of emotions it generates. Even today, children may face accusations of having lied or having somehow engineered the situation.
Yeah, when caught, the molester often claims that the child invited the sex, but that’s why we rightly have age of consent laws – even if the child did come on to the adult, the adult still has to back off. I would think it’s extremely rare that a child would be the initiator, even after extensive grooming by the adult, and, I would think, that in those rare instances, the child has already been abused by someone else and has a warped view of love and sex…
Sadly, given human nature, this is not a problem that will ever be entirely eradicated. Not until we see a new heaven and a new earth.