TW -this post could be potentially triggering for people who have suffered abuse so read with caution.
I’m writing this post partly to share my own personal experience of abuse and to try to start a conversation about a very important but often considered a ‘taboo’ topic. Abuse isn’t something that many people feel they can talk openly about and I used to feel like I couldn’t speak about it to anyone. It was only when I was admitted into a Psychiatric hospital aged 18 that I finally opened up to the Psychologist I was seeing and subsequently some of the hospital staff. I had reached breaking point from repressing all the memories and associated feelings over the years of keeping silent. I’m not going into much detail about the abuse but I can explain the background to give you an idea.
So, aged 12 to 15 I experienced abuse from an older family member and for the first year I kept it completely to myself, trying not the think of it, feeling like it couldn’t be real and pretty much in denial. One night when I was about 13 I was speaking to my sister, who is 2 years older than me, and she hinted that she had had the same experience as me and eventually I told her the truth and we both realised that the other was also a victim. It wasn’t until I was 15 and had a huge argument with my mum (who couldn’t understand mine and my sisters behaviour) that we finally told her what had happened. I thought ‘maybe this is the end of the silence..’ hoping I could finally talk about it and start to get through it. No such luck. My mum was shocked but wanted to keep it all ‘hush hush’ to protect the family member and, I think in her head, her reputation as a mum. I couldn’t speak to my friends, my teachers knew there was something deeply wrong but I refused to tell them because of the pressure from my mum.
My sister’s counsellor (who she had only been allowed by my mum to see a handful of times) had to report the incident to Police due to child protection laws. My Mum still hadn’t grasped the gravity of the situation and had made us question the validity of our emotions and we started to wonder ‘was that behaviour wrong afterall?’. When the police and social services came round to ask about the abuse my Mum guilt tripped us into not making a statement, instead making us think she might commit suicide if we did tell the police. With no statements from us, the police couldn’t continue with the case and the family member who could’ve been facing a prison sentence and signing the sex offenders register instead had no repercussions for his behaviour. That infuriated and upset me for years, I felt like I was worthless and had been let down by my Mum, who I thought was going to help us.
Looking back, I think my Mum was in denial and didn’t realise how unreasonable her behaviour was as she was a single parent without a partner to help her through. I was angry with my Mum for a very long time but have started to accept the past, and the fact that it can’t be changed, all I can do is make the future the best future I possibly can. In hospital through talking about it I was able to deal with what had happened and my feelings were finally validated. I haven’t seen the family member in question in at least 3 years and have no plans to see him again. I’m trying to let go of the anger and fear I feel towards him, through talking about it I am definitely in a better place than I’ve ever been, having accepted what happened and cut that person out of my life. I think what I desperately needed was someone to acknowledge that what happened was completely wrong (and to be honest totally shit) and I was entitled to feel angry, sad, frustrated and disgusted.
The bottom line is that abuse is abuse; be it emotional, sexual, physical etc. No matter what others say or try to persuade you to feel, it is UNACCEPTABLE. If you have been affected by abuse I understand the pain and fear in you and I cannot stress enough how important it is to tell someone. I know it is easier said than done and it can feel like you can’t even say the words out loud without vomiting. Things will start to get better once you have talked to someone, whether it is about a past experience or ongoing abuse – no one deserves to suffer like that. Trust me when I say it can get better and the pain stops being so crippling that you can finally start to feel some happiness again.