The author was abused from the time she was seven throughout her high school years by her neighbor who was like a brother. Her abuser was two years older than her. They lived on the campus of the boarding school where their parents worked together and she did not disclose the abuse to her parents until college because she was concerned about the effect her disclosure would have on her family, his family and their lives in the small, rural community.
I’m a survivor of long-term child sexual abuse. Because we lived in a small, tight-knit community on the campus of a boarding school, I never felt like I could reveal what was happening to me. I felt I needed to protect my family since the community was so small and my abuser was not only like a brother but also the son of my parents’ coworkers and an athletic popular boy from next door. In fact, the one time I did try to tell another girl in my early teens, she said she didn’t believe me. Why would such a popular, attractive boy want anything to do with an awkward, quiet, unpopular girl like me? He had a pretty and popular girlfriend.
Another reason I didn’t disclose the abuse was that my abuser threatened to make up lies about me and tell my friends, saying I was on drugs, pregnant or I was a slut. I was afraid of not being believed, that our parents would lose their jobs and that we would have to move.
My first feelings that I was not alone as a victim of child sexual abuse came from an unlikely place—television. I watched several episodes of the Oprah Winfrey show where she and others shared their experiences as survivors. But I still didn’t reveal what was going on in my life. I dropped hints and hoped someone would ask me, but no one did. To the outside world, I presented myself as the “good” girl that the media told young women they needed to be, but on the inside I was in pain and turmoil.
At 16, I finally got the courage to tell my abuser to leave me alone, but the damage had been done. Several years later, during my freshman year in college, I told my mother about the abuse and asked her to tell my father. I thought I would feel relieved, but I just felt deeply saddened. After leaving a difficult relationship with a codependent boyfriend in college and a suicide attempt, I entered therapy and was diagnosed with complex post-traumatic stress disorder. I began the long, ongoing process of healing and I expressed myself through art and writing.
After earning a B.A. and a Masters in teaching, I taught in a third world country. When I returned to my hometown, I got married, became a mother and taught in the local public school. Today, I continue the process of healing by taking care of myself with the tools I have learned, expressing my feelings through collage, painting and writing and reaching out to help others who have been abused. I am a survivor. I endeavor to be a trauma victim advocate providing victim centered trauma informed care with abused or trafficked children and young adults. I feel like I can make a difference by attaining a position in the trauma victims’ services field. I made the journey and am ready to help others begin theirs.
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