Being sexually abused by three different men before the 3rd grade: Why do I feel like it's my fault for letting it happen so many times?

I was abused by an older family member from...I don't remember how old I was when it started, but it ended when I was 11 and my mom found out. Her immediate reaction was to blame me (which she later told me was wrong).

I too didn't know what was going on --like to the point where later, in my early 20's, I realized he had been ejaculating. I thought it was pee. My parents didn't give any of their children sexual education, and we were very very religious, and I think the combination was bad. I would think I was over it mostly, and then I'd remember and would feel horrible and go back to being depressed.

I felt ashamed for so many years, and went through a lot of counseling too, you're not alone. Here are my thoughts:

  1. Of course it's not your fault. The tough part for me was that so much of my immediate social community and family had this idea that virgins = pure, sex before marriage is bad, etc. I remember my mother telling me that no man ever wants to be just friends, they all want to have sex. It's a culture of shame, and it tends to put the burden on the victim.

The way I got out of it was by leaving that culture--first I left my town, and after several years, I left that religion (or any religion). I'm not saying you need to do that, it was just killing me inside to deal with gender roles and men being in charge but men also not being able to control their hormones --I just don't think that is reality, and all the "sshhh no talking about sex" seems to make things worse.

  1. Being abused in various ways before you are 8 --of course you want to protect yourself. Of course you don't want to get anyone in trouble. Of course you're confused about boundaries and what's right and what isn't.

It's not your fault you wanted to protect yourself and didn't know how to deal with it. And there's no "right" way to heal--just by going to counseling and talking about it openly, you're on that path now.

  1. I remember someone telling me, referring to someone who got raped "She says she remembers it every day,and she will forever." And I thought "Oh, that's how I feel. I have to live with this every day, every moment of my life?"

It's not that I forget what happened, but as I've gotten older, and as I've repaired my relationship with my family, I've seen that what I thought at the time (my parents were a team, communicating together, and they made the decision to not get me help and keep it a secret because they wanted to save face) wasn't the whole story.

My dad started going to counseling in the past year or so and only very recently acknowledged what happened and apologized. I don't expect my mother too. But in speaking with my dad, and understanding more about my parents and family, they were lost and scared too and had no idea what to do.

I'm not saying that was the case in your situation, I'm just saying there may have been a lot of adult dynamics you didn't quite understand but were aware of on a subconscious level, and that contributed to your response.

I'm kind of rambling but my point is -don't beat yourself up for doing the best you could, and if you keep down this path of healing, it will get better. Some days it will be worse, some days it might hit you like a truck when someone says something or a tv commercial comes on, but overall, it gets better. This isn't going to be your life always.

  1. The best thing (for me) to do was self love and honesty with who I am and what I want.

By self-love, I mean focusing on relationships with people who treat you well, and giving yourself the time and energy you need to be healthy. Plenty of sleep, journaling, counseling, shedding crappy friends or significant others. It was really hard for me to make ME a priority--I felt like I had to prove something to the world, what this image of who I was showing to the world was.

By "being who you really are" -that takes some time to figure out, but basically I realized I didn't fit into the mold my siblings and friends did and that was ok. Was it because I was abused and learned not to trust authority? Maybe, I don't know. But what matters is who I am now, if I'm doing things that make me happy, and how I treat others. Period.

  1. (This probably won't be super popular) Sexual abusers are people too.

I think it's easy for someone from the outside to say "People who abuse children are MONSTERS." I saw something this week on Facebook where a guy had this meme or photo about how pedophiles should get the death penalty.

The issue with that (for me) is that many people who sexually abuse others are family members, or close family friends, or respected members of the community, or, I don't know, Woody Allen.

Buying into the mentality of sexual abuse being a HORRIBLE thing to happen that people can NEVER get over and leaves them SCARRED for life means 2 things:

A-The person who it happened to is told repeatedly they won't get over this. I don't think that's true, and I don't think that's healthy. And it's just a crappy thing to hear--it encourages people to think they will be in this vulnerable state forever, or forces us to prove people wrong in an "I'm fine, I can get through this with no problems" kind of way and ignore our emotions.

B -declaring abusers are completely monsters discourages abusers from seeking help, and it also divides the family because if a MONSTER was responsible, you can either shun that person or refuse to believe/accept what has been done. That's really hard on the person who was abused too--if they tell, people are forced to take sides. Most people don't want to do that.

Most people end up believing the person who is an adult. It just puts everyone in a bad situation, not in a situation where people can talk openly and figure out what's going on and heal.

The last thing I'll say is - you are strong. I am strong. A lot of parts of adult life have sucked, but I have noticed that I tend to take things in stride more than other people and overcome challenges.

Fired from my job? No money? Going through a horrible divorce? Working full time while doing school full time while signing my house over to my ex so I can get the divorce?

All those things are a million times better than the childhood I lived through. When people say "ah, remember the good old days" I can't identify. Many things have been tough since I left after I graduated high school, but nothing was tougher than going through my childhood.

I see friends or family members who fall apart under pressure or stress and someone breaking up with them or whatever is the worst thing that happened to them, they tell you as they cry.

And I feel bad for them, because my life has only gotten better. Because I went through the worst. You went through the worst too, and if you keep (cheesy, I know) your heart open, and you keep trying to get through this, you'll be strong and happy.

So. That was super rambling and I don't post on Reddit very often, and I probably should have done this under a throwaway account, but oh well. Hopefully some of this helps you. Email me or however they do it on reddit anytime.

/r/TwoXChromosomes Thread