I grew up in a small Midwestern town where you could walk or ride your bike to most places. I remember a childhood filled with bike riding to the beach, getting ice cream at the local Baskin-Robbins, watching movies with my friends, and having crushes on boys. It was a good childhood for the most part; me and my siblings were never without. My parents were immigrants who worked many hours in their low-paying jobs, and they were able to provide the basics and then some for us. They did their best to survive in a country that was so foreign to them and they lacked the language and skills to move ahead.
My parents’ long work hours and lack of funds to pay for childcare, left us in the care of family members during their absence. Unfortunately, I experienced sexual abuse as a child in the care of some of these family members. It happened when I was very young from ages 3-6 years old. The long hours our parents worked left us with these assailants who had access to us; they knew they could abuse us at their leisure. I can’t and won’t speak for my siblings but for me, I can say the abuse occurred many times for me.
The physical act of the sexual abuse was not what traumatized me, but it was the fear that someone—a close family member—could hurt me whenever they wanted to. Thinking back to my childhood, I experienced a lot of anxiety and low-self esteem, which I still struggle with today. I used to think I did something to attract these abusers and something was wrong with me. I tried to tell my mother a few times that the family member was taking my clothes off, but she hushed me and didn’t seem to believe me. I was really left with no one to help me. I was too scared and ashamed to mention it to anyone…even my own siblings. As I got older, the abuse stopped and I was relieved.
However, little did I know the total damage wasn’t quite done. Even though the sexual abuse stopped, it very much was still a part of my psyche. It inhabited much of the way I thought about people and situations…were they out to hurt me if they wanted to talk or see me in private. I always had so much fear that anyone could strike again at any time. Although, I never was diagnosed, I can say with much confidence that I had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
As an adult, the impact of the abuse caused me not to trust people, not want to be social, and I felt isolated most of the time. I told my parents about the sexual abuse when I got older and was a married adult. The rejection from my parents in their belief of the abuse created more resentment and strain in our relationship. My mother blamed me for the abuse and said it was my fault. I couldn’t even understand her rationale, but I am sure it was denial to the largest degree. Most of all I was hurt that the people who were supposed to protect me—my parents—they did not do their job, and in the aftermath, I felt I still didn’t have the apologies or support I needed to move on with my life.
My adulthood consisted of resentment, hate, and distrust of anyone who I felt was overstepping their boundaries with me. It could be comments, expressions, or interactions with people, and I would be filled with rage. I built a physical and emotional safety net around me, that not even my husband could get in. I was a force to be reckon with. It wasn’t healthy for many reasons, but mostly because I was only hurting myself and giving energy to those who hurt me. The abusers probably had forgotten and moved on with their life, but here I was sulking, angry, and resentful as hell.
There have been a series of events that occurred in my life where I really had no control over the situation once the sh*t hit the fan, and these events have taught me that I need to let go. I had to make the daily efforts to move forward; I couldn’t lie in my sorrows or ask anyone to feel pity for me or even feel sorry for myself. I knew I was the only one who would be able to pull myself out of the emotional distress and take action to get out of the situation and move ahead. The truth is that life happens and whether it is good or bad, I know I will be okay because I can’t control it and I can only do my best. I am only a small part of this world, but I can try to make it better or make it worse with my attitude and choices.
Healing to me means letting go of those who hurt me, those who won’t say sorry for their actions, and those who wont’ believe or support me. We are all a part of this universe, so our actions impact each and everything out there whether it seems to be a negative or positive impact. I learned that some good can come out of the bad that happens in this life too. Today, I am here writing and sharing my experience with you. For anyone who has experienced abuse and/or trauma know that there are definitely better days, don’t let the hate consume you. We can’t give those who hurt us all of us— we can’t give them the good part of us— our soul. There is still so much good in each and everyone of us that we need to share it with others, so that they too can move forward. Hang in there, have faith for a better tomorrow, and remember to love yourself even on your ugliest days.