“Badger, this is hard for me to share. I was molested when I was a kid. And since then I’ve found it hard to speak up. Sometimes when someone asks me to do something that feels wrong to me, I feel paralyzed and clam up. What can I do?”
I’m very sorry for the pain you have experienced. It’s great that you are reaching out—that is big. My first advice is to be gentle with yourself and seek out professional support. They are the ones who know how to really help get into what you’re going through deeply. You just don’t know what else in your life this may subconsciously be spilling into. Avoidance will not help at all, so it’s good you are starting to reach out. I know that not everyone has access to a professional, or for some it can be pricey. I strongly suggest saving up and finding a supportive therapist. Until then, here are a few suggestions:
- Support group: Search for a local support group where you can meet others who have experienced this same abuse. Many others may have already been speaking about this for a lengthy time and can support you when your triggers present themselves and you have to work through them.
- Tell a close friend: Let someone close to you know what you are going through, as it’s important to have the support. Remember that although they can be there for you, ultimately this is for you to process, to do the work, and to seek out skilled support.
- Speak up when something makes you uncomfortable: With sexual abuse, often the abuser has told their victim not to say anything—usually using words such as “I trust you” against you to keep your mouth shut. This creates an ingrained reluctance to speak up when something feels uncomfortable. It may trigger past experiences, including creating cognitive dissonance and feeling frozen in the moment. It can create deep confusion when someone uses said trust against you to keep their agenda private. Be aware of such people or such instances—sometimes the people themselves are unaware of what they are asking of you—and stand up for your own voice. You are important, your voice matters, and it is very important that you feel good and comfortable. Those around you who are true to you and love you will understand when you take a stand for you.
- Writing: Sometimes everything may seem too intense to talk about. Writing is a great place to start. It can be as simple as a sentence at a time—even abstract if it’s too painful to write linearly. If this is still too much to start with, try fiction. Fiction is an excellent way to create the perpetrator and just completely get your pain and anguish out. They are fictional characters that do not exist, so it’s safe, sane, and healthy therapy to write it all out.
- Artwork: Artwork can also be amazing therapy. Even if you’ve never painted before, grabbing paints and a canvas and just letting your feelings rip can feel really, really good. Your painting doesn’t have to look like anything, or it can—up to you. Abstract can be really great too. The key is no to critique yourself, just let it be the feelings that come up. Let your feelings be the art. Pain, rage, all of it.
All of these outlets can help you to get your voice back. It may take time or it may happen sooner than you think. Most important of all is trusting yourself. When such an abuse happens, guilt can come up, you feel as if you should have said something, or you can’t trust yourself, or that you had no one to protect you, or you may feel guilty because the abuse may have felt pleasurable. You couldn’t have done anything else; this is not your fault; please be gentle with yourself and remember that. Violation is not the fault of the victim—ever. You couldn’t have done anything or said anything different. You were a kid, and the abuser used this to their advantage. You can trust yourself—it was them you could not trust. Friction creates pleasure and that does not mean you enjoyed the abuse—it just means that friction did what it does. I wish you the very best through this process. It’s not easy, I know. You were left with pain you did not ask for; however, you have the power now to shift it all and reclaim your voice. Remember to be gentle with yourself, and if it ever seems overwhelming, reach out immediately for support to a hotline or a friend or family member. You’re worth it—never forget.
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