If I had a dime every time someone told me to just “get over it” – when referring to my childhood abuse – I would be a rich woman. Does that phrase mean to forget about it? Pretend it never happened? Or just tell yourself “it’s okay” and try to fool yourself into believing everything is fine. If it were possible to forget about 8 years of sexual abuse followed by a decade plus of physical & emotional abuse – trust me I WOULD! There is absolutely no way I would choose to carry the after-effects of trauma. The words behind “get over it” are truly painful, ignorant and cruel. It suggests that YOU are the problem and to blame. Several people in my family have said this to me and much worse:
- You are choosing to hold on to the past
- You are making a big deal out of it
- It happened a long time ago so why do you still let it bother you
- You can’t get over it because you don’t have enough faith
- You can’t forget because you haven’t forgiven
I’ve always known what happened to me as a child – I’ve never suppressed these memories as can happen with some people. At first I didn’t know what happened to me was wrong. I was very young when it started and eventually realized it wasn’t normal behavior. I slowly started noticing my molesters would try to hide our interactions and/or seemed nervous we would be discovered. It was then I was tipped off that it might not be right. So at some point I felt like I was part of it. I was in on a big secret that somewhere along the line I had agreed to (although that never happened) – I was to blame too. So this is when shame took its nasty grip and control over me.
What I hope you will understand is that when you are sexually abused it’s not over when the abuse stops. Every time you are touched, fondled and kissed it actually burns through your body, mind and soul. It leaves a nasty wound that seems impossible to heal. It changes you. The journey to overcome the trauma and scars feels like trying to climb Mount Kilimanjaro with no guide, equipment, or shoes. The seducing words told to you as a child maims you from opening up yourself to another in a healthy relationship. Each abusive touch on your body is what you now feel each time your husband tries to express his love to you. It was never my intention but my wounds have deeply hurt him. The abuse not only affects you but now strangles every other relationship you have too.
Your personality, reactions, choices, moods – EVERYTHING now is a direct result from the abuse. In my case I did everything I could to protect myself and my brother and sister. I became overcareful and disconnected from others. This has been difficult in my life to overcome. Due to my extreme lack of trust it is a challenge for me to easily have confidence and faith in others. I recognize this is an issue and for the last 20 years have intentionally worked to conquer this problem. 20 years! I am in a much better place now and have wonderful friends, but it never completely goes away.
The truth is that it is difficult to love me. Here is excerpt from another sexual abuse survivor:
“It is difficult to live with such a burden on your shoulders. The life of a sexual abuse Survivor is a never-ending struggle, never-ending fight to prove to others, never-ending circle of pain and disappointment, and dealing with it is not easy.
The sexual abuse Survivor doesn’t understand himself sometimes and cannot find the words to describe all the emotions and feelings he is going through. He wishes he doesn’t feel this way and he wishes just to wake up one day and forget everything, and start over his life. Impossible, right? With all this on your mind, it is not easy to believe someone else understands you really.
He seems to be so distant from you sometimes, and even like he is not present. Why is that? The self-defense mechanisms work like this-not thinking about the problem, or not talking at all and not getting attached to anyone saves you from pain and disappointment again. This is of course not a real solution of the issue, but a victim of abuse rarely realizes it and keeps it going on for years.
He doesn’t really believe you love him for who he is because he doesn’t really love himself and cannot accept the person he had become. The image of who he could have become if the abuse never happened to him is always on his mind.
He wants to be that imaginary person without a painful past, he wants to turn the time back and do something to prevent the abuse, to rescue his own life now knowing what followed the abuse, knowing what kind of a life he is living and what kind of a person he is.
Admitting or not, he blames himself for what happened to him and even though he knows it is not his fault he does not really believes he deserves to be loved or that he is going to be ever really happy. This is all the aftermath of the abuse. Only people who experienced abuse in their childhood know best that one little part of you always believes you could have done something. And you wish you knew all that by the time of the abuse.
The sexual abuse survivor, he cannot comprehend that someone else is able to accept and love him truly because he has never experienced a true love. The people who betrayed him were the closest to him and part of him still cannot realize that not all people are the same and not every person would do the same.
He is so many times cold and he has got his moods, he is sometimes distant and sometimes so open to you so you find it difficult to understand what exactly he feels about you. You want to know how to be able to help him, and he is not helping much.
He seems that sometimes he wants love, and sometimes he claims he is better off left alone, because any relationship would be another difficult issue he is supposed to deal with.
Loving a sexual abuse survivor is a constant battle.” http://riseaboveabuse.org/2013/10/it-is-not-easy-to-love-a-sexual-abuse-survivor/
Against the odds I found the love of my life 28 years ago. We have now been married for 26 years and have been blessed with a beautiful family. I honestly don’t know how we’ve survived so far and so much. He loves and accepts every part of me – even the parts that are hard to love. There have been many times I’m sure he has desperately wanted me to “get over it“, but has been nothing but supportive, faithful and loyal. I’ve recently started counseling again as it has helped me many times in the past. I can never forget what happened but I don’t want it to haunt or influence me any longer. I’ve made significant progress in the past that others might say is good enough. It isn’t for me – my vision is bigger. I desire a life that is truly whole and not governed by any part of my abuse.
I refuse to ever quit until I get there because my family deserves it and now I believe –
I DESERVE IT TOO!