“I was threatened by my adopted brother for two years to keep silent or I would regret opening my mouth. And so, I lived with my abuser for two years before I gained the courage to tell my parents.”
These words were spoken to me by a dear friend, one who wishes to stay anonymous but desperately wants her story told with the hopes of reaching someone in similar circumstances.
Do not live in silence, do not let the abuse you suffered define you.
Abuse comes in many forms and levels of severity. Each type of abuse leaves its victims tattered with physical and mental scars that may never completely heal. Some victims remain silent because they are threatened or fear ridicule or blame. My friend broke that silence and this is her story . . .
I was 12 years old and the youngest of five daughters. We had three adopted siblings that came from a very bad home situation, but we loved them dearly, and they loved us in return. One day, my adopted brother asked me to play “Hide and Seek,” which was a very normal activity for us, but on that day it changed everything. I was great at “Hide and Seek” and always found my opponents quite easily, but what happened when I found him caught me entirely off guard. Before I knew what was happening, I was shoved up against the cold laundry room wall and my pants were ripped off of me. I don’t remember if I screamed or fought him, all I can remember is that I actually feared for my life. I didn’t understand what was happening to me, I only felt the pain. I often ask myself, “did I try hard enough to stop him?” Even then, I don’t think he would have stopped, because it didn’t end there. On a couple of occasions, I woke up from a dead sleep to find him on top of me, touching me, putting himself on me. He took complete advantage of my innocence. I felt helpless, betrayed, violated, and ruined.
The next two years were a blur of discomfort and unease. I didn’t understand what was going on. He told me that if I spoke to anyone about anything that he would hurt me even worse the next time. I woke up every day thinking “what did I do to deserve this?” All I knew was that my body had been violated in the worst way . . . by my brother. A brother is supposed to be your protector, someone who cares for you. We were both young, but he was older, he was supposed to know better than me. His threats had me trapped in a prison of fear. I spent a good deal of my time avoiding him, and when you live in the same house, that proves to be extremely difficult. I had trouble sleeping for fear that he would creep into my bed while I slept. I drifted aimlessly, pretending that everything was perfect and that nothing had ever happened, until my family started planning a large vacation. We were planning a trip and we would be meeting up with some of our extended family. There would be younger girl cousins around and the harsh reality that they could be victims too if I didn’t open up, hit me like a ton of bricks. I would never be able to live with myself if someone else became a victim to him, simply because I didn’t have the courage to speak up. I was a little older, and had become a little wiser to the situation at hand. I knew that I would be safe from his threats, but there was still that nagging “what if?” that kept creeping back up. Finally, the night before we were supposed to leave for our vacation, I gathered the strength and told my mom everything. I cannot express the amount of relief I felt to having that burden lifted from my shoulders, but at the same time I realized this was only the beginning of some very difficult decisions for my parents. It came as a shock to everyone, and after a short period of time my adopted brother was removed from our home. I went on to receive therapy and am doing much better today. That was almost 10 years ago and I was able to heal. I am still healing. I want others to realize that in sharing your stories and seeking help, the path to recovery becomes more clear. Do not live in silence, do not let the abuse you suffered define you.
Fortunately for my friend, she found the courage to voice her abuse, which saved her and most likely others from more abuse over the years. Sexual abuse occurs on many different levels. We want everyone to be aware that any time you are forced to do anything sexually, or are shamed into performing sexual acts, then you have been sexually abused. Penetration does not have to occur; sexual abuse takes place any time someone touches you without your consent . . . period. Sexual assault, molestation, and harassment should never be taken lightly. These types of abuse can happen to children, adolescents, and adults. It can happen between a family member and a child, a boyfriend and a girlfriend, coworkers, teacher and student, church members, and husband and wife.
According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) 4 out of 5 sexual assaults committed are by someone the victim knows, and every 107 seconds an American is sexually assaulted. 68 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to the police and 98 percent of rapists will never spend a day in jail or prison. These are horrifying statistics! We must lift our voices up and let victims know that they will be heard and they will be believed.
I would never be able to live with myself if someone else became a victim to him, simply because I didn’t have the courage to speak up.
It is not your fault and you should not have to live in fear anymore. If you, or someone you know needs help, rainn.org offers different options, as well as a national hotline. It is important to contact someone. We need to work together to end abuse. We need to work together to end the silence. Speak up and you may save someone’s life.