(TRIGGER WARNING- SA)
I was told recently that I ‘take a long time to get over things’. And I know it wasn’t meant in malice, or said to make me feel any sort of way; but the truth is, it hurt. A lot.
From the outside I can see how it would seem that I take a while to process the damaging things that happen to me, and it may be true. But the thing is, I don’t know if I deal with things in an appropriate timeline; because I just started trying.
I am 32 years old. Less than 18 months ago I admitted to myself that I was sexually abused from some unknown beginning until I was 13. Almost 20 years of burying that trauma. Almost 20 years that were filled with other traumas; other abuses; other abusers.
I had lost my voice long before my sexual abuse stopped. I was silenced by those around me, intentionally or otherwise. My vocal chords stripped by indifference to the things I made known. Cut by the other abuses I experienced and vocalized that were allowed to continue. The verbal, psychological, and physical abuses I faced were observed by those around me and were ignored. Again, and again, and again. This taught me that the things that caused me pain were normal, and I would be met with only indifference to my plight.
If no one cared about what they could SEE, why would they care about what happened in the dark?
So I buried it. I buried it, and all the traumas before it, and all the traumas that came after. I let it hurt, for a minute, then I turned it off. I turned off my voice. I buried it. I never said a word.
My abuser used what he had done as a tool to manipulate me even into my adult years. While it was still happening he used it as a means to control and silence me. If I fought him, he would tell. He would tell and no one would believe that I wanted him to stop. No one would believe that I didn’t want it to happen. He convinced me that everyone would blame me. That it was my fault because if I didn’t want it to happen, why didn’t I tell someone? Because I was older than him; in spite of him being larger and meaner and stronger than me, I was responsible. I had been responsible for so much, how could this be any different?
As an adult, he would threaten to tell people if I didn’t give him the other things he wanted. Money, a place to sleep, transportation. When he turned to drugs I saw my out and his power was stripped by the poison he imbibed. Now it was my turn to tell him ‘no one will believe you’… Still I said nothing.
There were so many reasons for my silence. Or so I had convinced myself.
But then, the #metoo movement started, and gained traction, and I saw so, so many stories of people just like me, with stories so similar to mine. I saw kindred souls, and rebirth, and renewal, and salvation, and freedom, and I knew… I knew my voice, though silenced for so long, was still there.
I shared my trauma with my husband, one very drunken night while he drove me home from a wedding. I sobbed, and dry heaved, and relayed the deepest darkest secret I had. I expected him to be repulsed by me. I expected him to leave me. I expected him to be upset that I hadn’t told him sooner. But that beautiful, wonderful man… he cried WITH me. He cried FOR me; and when we got home he held me. He held me and he told me it wasn’t my fault. He told me what had happened had been done TO me, and not BECAUSE of me. And that night I heard my voice for the first time in almost 20 years.
Less than 18 months I have been processing YEARS of sexual abuse. And I don’t know how long it will take. I don’t know how long I will be angry. I don’t know how long I will hate my body. I don’t know how long I will choose to avoid my abuser. I just don’t know.
Since finding my voice, I have started processing my past. All of it. And yeah, just maybe it has made me a little crazy. Just maybe it has made me a little distant. Just maybe it has made me focus on myself a little more, and on everyone else a little less. Maybe since stitching my vocal chords back together I have become hard and aggressive and defensive… but if I am, I am unapologetically so.
I don’t know how long it will take to process what was done.
I don’t know how long it will take to ‘let go’ or to ‘move on’ from it.
What I do know, is that I AM.