#SWW: My Abuse Doesn't Define Me

Trigger warning: This post discusses childhood sexual abuse which may be triggering to survivors. Please read at your own discretion and, above all, take care of yourself.

I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.
— Carl Jung

Did you know that approximately 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused by their 18th birthday? I am one of them. It's not a group I'm proud to be included in and I spent many years trying to hide from what happened to me. And that path led to diagnosed depression and generalized anxiety disorder. It led to insecurity and feelings of hopelessness and unworthiness.

I did nothing wrong. I am not to blame.

I was 9 years old when my life changed forever. Maybe that sounds dramatic, but it's true. And for a very long time, I refused to talk about it. To deal with the damage. To acknowledge that something horrible had happened to me. But it was impacting just about every area of my life. I felt alone. I felt ashamed. I felt like no one would accept me or love me because of what happened. I felt like there had to be something that I did to invite this abuse into my life, even though I had no idea what that could be. The abuse was bad enough, but it was also compounded by the fact that the one person I told, who I knew for sure would support me, told me I was mistaken, sided with my abuser, told me to forget about it, and did absolutely nothing. Needless to say, trust issues have hounded me for most of my life. And I'm not at all surprised to know that sexual abuse often goes unreported.

I did nothing wrong. I am not to blame.

I'm 36 years old now. It happened 27 years ago. I'm sure there are people who think, That was a long time ago. Time to let go, honey! Get over it. Believe me, I've tried. And I've certainly made a lot of progress through the support of my husband and friends, writing angry poetry, going to therapy, and talking with other survivors. I'm much more at peace with it now because I know that it's not my fault. I also know that it doesn't define me. But it did happen and it affected me greatly. It still does sometimes - when I smell a certain cologne, when I get short of breath, when someone (usually male) sits too close to me, when I’m exhausted and my mental filter isn’t working.

I did nothing wrong. I am not to blame.

My self-worth is not defined by someone else's deplorable, inexcusable actions. I'm a strong, capable, worthy human being. I'm a wife, a mother, a daughter. I'm a writer, a goofball, an introvert, an aficionado of corny jokes and cheesy action movies, an empathetic ball of emotions.

I did nothing wrong. I am not to blame.

As a society, we still have a long way to go in dealing with the stigma surrounding sexual abuse. There's been a shift in our culture with the #metoo movement that has helped many survivors of sexual trauma to speak up, to know they aren't alone, to know that they aren't to blame. But with every push there's always a pull. Often survivors are met with blame or humiliation, viewed as shameful or damaged goods. Our every word, clothing choice, decision, relationship questioned and analyzed by people who have no idea what it's like. But the truth is we're fighting battles every day that others can't always see. And most importantly, it's not our fault. It never was. It never will be. We can overcome what has happened to us.

It is my sincere hope to break the silence in an effort to bring about healing and to know that there are other survivors out there who need to hear that hope is still possible. Silence isn't the way.


Please know that if you're a survivor of sexual abuse, I see you. I know how hard it is. But truly, you have nothing to be ashamed of. Lift your head up high. Raise those eyes. March forward with hope and love and all that life has to give. Don't be afraid to own your story. No one can take your voice away, not anymore. No one can dismiss your pain, nor your strength, ever again.

You are so loved. You are so worthy. You are whole. And I am, too.

Don’t judge yourself by what others did to you.
— C. Kennedy