Life After Sexual Abuse

Back in 2009 I wrote a blog post on my recent coming to terms with the fact that I had been sexually abused. You can view that here. Since then I’ve experienced a lot of growth and healing and had the opportunity to write about that for Boundless webzine over at Focus on the Family. Check it out!

Worthless, unlovable, undesirable, insignificant — all identities I used to live under. I remember sitting on a dock one night with my small group leader just a few years ago. He and I recently started meeting one on one. I felt comfortable enough to open up to him, so I shared something I’d been struggling with: I never could truly accept that people loved me. He asked if I believed he loved me, and I admittedly said no. Jokingly, he acted like he would push me into the lake, frustrated that I wouldn’t accept or acknowledge his love. The problem didn’t reside with him, but with something I had ignored and minimized up to that point — sexual abuse.

Between the ages of 9 and 10, an older teenage boy sexually abused me. The residue of these events kept me from receiving love. Little did I know, the encounters would shape the person I became, how I interacted with people, and how I viewed others and myself in the years to come.

Reality of Impact

For 14 years I completely ignored and discredited the abuse. It didn’t impact me. I couldn’t even call it abuse, because part of me enjoyed it. I felt just as responsible for what happened, and it proved best to keep it hidden away. All of that changed when I began seeing a counselor about two years ago. I quickly glossed over the abuse as if it had no bearing on my life, and he responded rather oddly. He pulled the break on the trolley of my minimalist ramblings and seemed concerned and troubled. His sympathy shocked me. He posed that the abuse did in fact influence how I viewed others and relationships.

As history dictated, I shrugged off this notion as nonsense. He reacted too sympathetically. He didn’t know what happened. But I went along with his conclusion — after all, he donned the counselor role. I began reading about sexual abuse and its effects. We began to delve deeper into my problems, and it took only a few sessions for me to finally admit — I was sexually abused. The impact of reality left me emotionally and spiritually paralyzed. Embracing the brutish truth that what happened didn’t evaporate with my willful ignorance, but in fact marred my identity and relational being, spiraled me into depression.

Most mornings became torturous. I only wanted to stay in bed, keep the curtains drawn and hibernate in the darkness. Crying happened instantaneously with no hope in sight. Is there anything else God? That’s what I’d ask. Why would such a loving God allow all of this to happen to His son, leaving him confused in his sexuality, skeptical of other people and unable to trust?

I didn’t want to go to God. It seemed like all He did was disappoint. Tired of being hurt, I chose to handle everything on my own. Going down this path only led to more depression and hopelessness. No light seemed to be visible.

Relationship’s Double-edged Sword

By turning inward — escaping people and their potential to reject or hurt me — I inadvertently turned away from the opportunity for healing. I had been wounded, defiled and abused in relationship, yet only in relationship would I find healing, restoration and freedom. The clarion call I heard from my counselor became this: “Take risks!” All my teenage and young adult life I ran from risk. Risk proved to be too painful. How could I trust anyone when I’d been violated? The challenge seemed ridiculous, promising only to bring the all too familiar result of hurt and rejection.

But thankfully I took my counselor’s encouragement and began to truly invest in a friendship with my small group leader. I knew he planned to leave roughly six months after we met, which made me apprehensive to really try. I’m so thankful I did. God used that friendship to burst through the walls of my protected heart. I released my self-protective desire to control and allowed my friend to get to know the real me. As a result, we grew to be the best of friends. I consider him the most influential friend in my life to this point, and he’d say the same about me.

I allowed him to “affect” me. I allowed him to love, challenge and hurt me as all people will do eventually. He even showed through his extroverted nature that my skepticism of all people proved baseless. I found the power in thinking of others over self and the richness that comes with that. When the six months came to a close, I had no problem telling him what would have been so hard to say a year before: “I’m really going to miss you. You’ve meant so much to me, and I hate to see you go.”

Before this friendship, I could never utter those words. I couldn’t let anyone know how much they meant to me, because that would give them the power and control to hurt me. But I released those words to him with sincerity and the freedom of knowing I didn’t need control with him. I finally believed in and received his love. In that freedom I met with my counselor the day he left and cried tears of joy for the times we had together and the growth I found. That friendship was worth the risk. Finding peace and freedom to open up and receive and give was worth the risk.

Relationship distorted my world at 9 years old, but relationship transformed, healed and restored my true self 14 years later.

Click here to read the rest of the article posted at Boundless.

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