A few years ago I was sitting in a temple prep class (it’s a Mormon thing) when the man giving the lesson told us the story of his childhood. He had been raped and sexually abused. At the end of his story he told the small group that when he walks into a room and speaks to people, he can tell which of the others in the group had also been sexually abused as a child.
I felt like he was looking right at me.
Maybe he knew, maybe he didn’t. I don’t know that I’ve really kept it a secret the last few years, but I’ve never publically announced it. I’m getting ready to, however. Not because I feel like I’ve been holding this deep dark secret, but because I feel like my story helps others.
The recent news of football coaches and other authorities at Penn State covering up, or covering their eyes, to child rape and sex abuse has others coming out to tell their stories.
(And just because I really need to throw my opinion in here: I think the focus should be on Mike McQueary and not Joe Paterno, who should never hold a position of authority again. How he could WATCH a child being raped and not immediately stop it. To make matters worse, he waited till the next day to tell anyone, and it wasn’t even the police. I don’t care what the laws say or how terrified the man was of losing his job – he is one of the many people responsible for allowing child sex abuse to continue. Every person involved should feel ashamed and disgusted with himself or herself. There is nothing more precious in this world than our children. If you allow them to be abused by monsters, realize how you are shaping our future. And I hope Sandusky rots in hell.)
In light of the news, Goldie Taylor decided to tell her story on CNN of how she was raped by a teacher at her high school. She had never said it publicly. Based on her comments, I feel that she may have been ashamed and felt guilty for what had happened to her. I sympathize with her completely. I’ve been there.
But I don’t fully agree with everything she said last night.
I was sexually abused as a child. In a book I am writing about the dangers of allowing children to come in contact with pornography, I open with my story. It’s a story that may greatly upset those close to me and those who always wondered what skeletons I was hiding in my closet. Don’t we all have them?
But I have learned from sharing my story with individuals, that it brings them a sense of hope. I am not victim. I am not a survivor. I am a warrior. I can choose to “cope” or I can forge ahead passionately and make something incredible of my life.
I made mistakes, lots of them, as a young adult dealing with the pain of being abused as a child. But I chose to leave it behind me. In fact, after counseling, I no longer feel that aching pain inside when I think of the things that happened to me. I don’t feel sorry for myself. I feel sorry for my abusers.
I chose to forgive them for their choices, and I chose to forgive myself for the mistakes I made afterward. It has made me stronger. It has made me a fighter. It has made me a better and more alert parent.
Maybe there are days when I see the childlike Jennifer pushing through, making me scared and vulnerable. And I embrace that part of me because it makes me human, realistic and more willing to accept faults in others.
I still make mistakes. I’m still untrusting in relationships. Some days I am still afraid to let a man get too close. But I control my future. No one holds me back except myself. And that I have full control over. I strive every day to be a better person, mother and worker.
You can, too. Don’t let someone else’s mistakes hold you back.