Most women, when asked, or when telling, don’t stand tall and shout out the words, “I WAS SEXUALLY ABUSED!” Watch. When a woman finally speaks her truth the words are hushed. The body is sunken. The head is lowered. BECAUSE, she tried to speak her truth and was shut down, ignored, battered more, victimized again, or shamed. It is not as if admitting you have been attacked gets you a medal pinned to your shirt. You don’t get recognition or awarded for valor because you told what happened to you. The world did not respond, family did not respond, loved ones, friends, did not respond how they should have. So when you finally break the silence again it is hushed. Understandably.
Shame is brought down upon us by the perpetrator, his supporters, and sometimes those closest to us.
Shame is huge. Shame makes us put our heads down. Shame makes us not want to say the words. Shame perpetuates the silence which will eat away at you moment by moment.
You have to take your body back by not claiming the shame. The shame is not yours. What was done to your body is not your shame. I know what you are saying to yourself, ” But I let it happen, ” and ” But I should have stopped it,” and “But I chose to not leave,” and ” But I let him do those things.” I know these thoughts because I had them. It is the blame game and it will hinder your recovery. Know now, an abused women is not to blame. An abused child who choses an abusive boyfriend is not to blame. No. You are not. You think that, because they made you think that. You did not choose an abusive boyfriend. You chose a boyfriend that then chose to abuse you. Huge difference. And even if you DID choose a man and stayed with him after he abused you, you are still not to blame, because you knew no different. How can I say these things? Because I know first hand.
When I got sick with the first signs of this muscle disease I was very weakened. I chose the first person who gave me attention and love. I thought I chose him. He chose me. He saw my weaknesses as something he could manipulate and control. I thought by allowing him to do things to me that I did not want, meant I was to feel shame. I did feel very ashamed. Why did I let this happen? Why didn’t I just tell him no? I let these things happen because I gave up. I had no strength to fight his ways. Allowing these things to be done to me by this boyfriend is his shame and his shame alone. He chose to do these things to me and I was in no condition to fight it, he knew this. He used my body with no regard to me whatsoever as a human being. Definitely not something someone does to someone they love. I could list the things he did to me. They were repulsive. They were disgusting. But they are not mine. They are on his list of things he did to me. They are nolonger part of MY list.
Do you think that because he was your boyfriend it was his right? It was not. Just like it is not your husband’s right. Your body stays your body. No person has a “right” to it. Your body is to be respected and honored as the carrier of your heart and soul. Anyone who chooses to take advantage of that bears all of the shame. Your boyfriend does not get special rights to violate you when you are vulnerable. Your husband does not have the right to push you sexually when you say no. Relationship status does NOT give priveledge. Trust me when I tell you that you did not “let” it happen. That puts the blame back on you. You simply could not STOP it from happening. Two completely separate things. Know the difference. Whether it is a boyfriend, stranger, or husband, anyone who touches. you in a way that you do not want brings shame solely on them. So you may then say, “But I didn’t tell him to stop.” Another way that puts the blame on you and perpetuates this shame. You should not HAVE to tell him to stop. He KNOWS what he is doing is wrong. “But what if no one told him that it was not okay?” You ask. This conversation could go on all night long. They are all ways that a sexual predator makes a victim question what happened, question themselves, and blame themselves. A man KNOWS. But lets just take him for the moment out of the equation. Lets focus on you. What has been done TO you is not ON you. EVER.
I thought,years ago when I applied, there is no way I can become a chaplain, too much has happened, I have done too much, I’ve allowed too much. The list is too long. I have too much garbage, baggage, and taint to ever do God’s work.I thought, I am damaged beyond repair. So many men. I had been abused since I was a little girl. It was all I knew. I felt dirty from all of the hands. I felt unforgivable for the choices I made with my body after that abuse. Those choices were rooted in abuse. I didn’t think God would allow me to do His work. I wanted to be a Chaplain. I wanted to give love to those who had none. I wanted to honor and give dignity to those on their final days. I didn’t want those who were dying to end feeling shame, remembering the bad, I wanted loving them to be their end. Nothing was stopping me from doing my calling except my own judgment. God had no judgment for me. I had judgment for me.
I had to claim my body. I had to take my body back and make it my own. No amount of scrubbing brings back your body as your own. Trust me, I have scrubbed until I bled. I HAD to give the shame back. I had to take the shame off. I had to stop blaming myself. Once you give the shame back and put it where it belongs, your body becomes your own again. Some people use God to help them through this. They pray that He will renew them. They pray He will heal them. Some do it through meditation, some with words, some with writing. No matter how you choose, you have to consciously choose to give it back. Give the shame back. It was never yours to begin with.
I was blessed to become a Chaplain. I could have denied myself that by beating myself up for things that were in my past. I chose not to do that. If God can forgive me then I should be able to forgive myself. Forgive myself for things that were way beyond my control.I could have never controlled my way out of abuse. It was out of my control because I was a victim. Instead of feeling unworthy, I chose to love. Loving others healed wounds. Loving others brought me closer to God. Loving others showed me God. I sat with, prayed with, listened to, comforted men and women of all ethnicity and all religious background. I saw a little piece of heaven in each person that I had the honor of being with as they left this earth. I hold their memories in my heart. I could have missed that love had I chosen to stay stuck in shame. If you stay stuck in shame you will miss all the beauty in life.
Very very shameful things have been done to my body in the past by very very shameful men. I give them over to God. They are nolonger my responsibility. My body has been washed of their shame because the shame is not mine. I know the pain. I know it well. My PTSD reminds me. I know I will never fully forget. But when someone asks me, or I have to say the words now, I will say them as a woman who nolonger takes on a predator’s shame, ” I was sexually assaulted and it was not my fault. It is not my shame.” Say it over and over and over again until you believe it. Because you are a precious soul. No man, no abuser, can take that away. Speaking the truth may not give you an actual medal but speaking your truth makes you a hero to every woman who has ever been silenced.