As a survivor of sexual abuse it’s common to feel like you’ve lost your voice. Saying a simple word like NO becomes very complex and difficult. Often times you are so desperate to scream out those words like STOP and only air escapes your mouth. It’s easy to become helpless and hopeless.
Coming out as a survivor is never easy and at times even as difficult as the traumatic act itself because often it’s clouded with doubt and negativity. In a perfect world a
victim survivor should be embraced with love, understanding and validation but often the opposite happens. Shame is a common and occurring feeling for the survivor. This is only amplified when other’s discount the trauma you have endured.
For a male survivor this is very true. We live in a world where society tells us that Men can’t be rape or victimized because we are suppose to be strong and invisible. When your abuser is also a male that can really make the event even more traumatizing, especially when you have to tell others what happened. The shame of having another male abuse you might bring you to secrecy to cover up the abuse because what it might mean to others that you allowed another man to abuse you.
That was the first thing that crossed my mind after I was sexually abused, what will other’s say that another male touched me in that way. Honestly I didn’t think anyone would believe me, so I chose to hide it and the longer I hide the abuse the more shame I felt. The shame grew until it was taller than Mount Everest but secrets have a way of coming undone. After trying to climb that horrible mountain I grew tired and weary, to the point where I couldn’t climb that mountain anymore.
The risk of coming out didn’t come close to the pain of holding it in. Just like a balloon I couldn’t hold in anymore shame and finally one day I exploded, and everything came gushing out.
Yesterday I saw an article posted on Facebook about Project Unbreakable, an initiative to increase awareness of the issues surrounding sexual assault and encourage the act of healing through art. As I read and viewed the pictures the tears began to swell up and gush down my cheeks like a river overflowing.
Project Unbreakable has featured over two thousand images of sexual assault survivors holding posters with quotes from their attackers. As I read each picture in the article I began to think about my own sexual abuse and wondered what I would say in my picture. Instantly I was stumped because my abuser never said a word to me because everything done to me was when he thought I was sleeping.
As an adult I beat myself up for not standing up for myself. I’ve wondered a million times what would have happened if I would have let him know I was awake and why did I return to that bed each night knowing what could happen. I blamed myself over and over again, until it became my fault because I coulda, woulda, shoulda stopped him!!!
For a moment I thought I didn’t fit into Project Unbreakable because I couldn’t write his words but then I remembered it wasn’t his words that hurt me, it was his actions… and then I realized I had every right to be apart of Project Unbreakable. While he never verbalized his words what he did to me spoke volumes and I had filled in his blanks with words he was saying to me by taking my innocence.
“You deserve this!”
“No one will believe you!”
“I will beat you up if you tell anyone!”
“You don’t matter!”
“You’re an object!”
I could fill a book with everything he said to me…
For eight excruciating years filled full of pain, silence, secrecy and a victimization. I didn’t know there was another way, nor did I believe I deserved anything else.
When I came out of the closet about the abuse I was met with anything but compassion. Those eight long years were only enforced that I should have stayed silent. I think how others in my family handled the news traumatized me just as much as the act itself.
My father made it clear of this by going hunting the next day with my abuser. When he found out that I was upset, he told me that I needed to forgive and forget. Here was someone who was suppose to love and protect me telling me that I had no reason to be traumatized and that I should just move on with my life. His words cause me to relive the shame and hurt from the ripping of my soul.
When you are sexually abused the person rips a hole in your soul. It is the attempted genocide of a persons soul. A child without their innocence grows up feeling less, vulnerable and unprotected. They grow into adults without being able to shed that clout of shame, fear and ugliness. How others respond to their trauma can only add to all of that.
It has taken twenty years for me to realize when other’s respond to your abuse with dissent, disbelief and negativity it’s their own shame that they are trying to hide. It’s much easier to cover the abuse up and pretend that it never happened, than it is to face it and bring it to daylight. They are blinded by their own guilt and shame, and the fears what others will think about them. They do everything they can to protect the families reputation. I call it sweeping it underneath the rug.
There is still so much stigma in regards to sexual abuse, making it very important that we continue to spread awareness to help protect others. Bringing the abuse to the light of day will only help the healing process and give survivors the much needed voice. It will also give others the courage to stand up and use their voice that previously they didn’t know existed.
We are not alone. While there will always be others who will try to silence us, doing whatever possible to keep the secret hidden, there will always be others who will give us a platform to use our voices. Those who offer healing, love and understanding.
If you are a survivor and would like to share your story by picture you can send an email to Project Unbreakable.