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There's reasons why people with child sexual assault and child rape histories don't talk about their experiences. For one reason or another, talking can cause trouble. For me it was a big secret at first due to shame and uncertainty. Then the dam broke and I told a lot of people about my story that didn't need to know it. I was obsessed with the injustice. Angry that it happened. I talked to people who didn't care, but had no problem with using this very personal information to discredit me. Eventually, my need to purge was purged.

Now, I have a more nuanced (and healthier) perspective toward what happened and how to talk about how I was used. The main reason people don't talk about child sexual abuse is because these very personal stories often screw up our relationships. The unscrupulous use our disclosures for their own needs. What was about the victim/survivor/thriver gets co-opted and twisted into something away from the original crime into a new drama or an excuse to isolate the abused. Why? I couldn't say, but it happens.

Every once in a while a news story will break that "pings" on someone's personal experience, causing some fallout. The Catholic priest abuse accounts, Casey Anthony, the man who kept his daughter in the basement for 24 years probably triggered more than one assault survivor. For me it was Jerry Sandusky. That one got me. Got me PO'd. Got me bad. It pinged on my mental vulnerabilities like no other recent case. It made me want to throw up. It made me remember things I would rather expunge from my mind. The case had nothing to do with me, but it bugged me bad.

Why that case got to me and the others didn't, doesn't matter. The fact that it "got" to me does. That case isn't about me. It happened to others. I can stand in support for those people's experiences, but it's wrong for me to co-opt their experience for my own. Empathy for the victims is a good idea, obsessing about any one case is a clear path to a relapse. Knowing when to back away from a news story is key to becoming a thriver.

Going from victim to survivor to thriver isn't a one time process. There's back sliding. It takes time and effort. It isn't a smooth path and it doesn't come with a check list. Oh, does (sort of); but most people don't smoothly move from column a to column b to column c in an orderly fashion and I'm no exception. I took a Chinese menu approach - I have a few items from each column. I couldn't force it, but I manage it - most of the time. I have a full life of ups and downs like everyone else. What took a lot of time was learning how to see through someone who was seemingly supportive, but was really feeding off my experience for their own jollies. Disgusting yes, but hardly an unusual experience.

Joining others demanding we as a society face and fix the ugly realities of child rape and child sex assault is a call I willingly heed. Maintaining my mental balance while doing it requires effort. I've come to realize the many aspects of the fact that 70-75% of our population can't relate to my experience. That's just the way it is. These experiences aren't fair, but you can't unring the bell. It happened.

My story came out years ago when perps and their lawyers were pushing the false memory meme in the court rooms and the news lapped it up like cream. I was re-assaulted by my perp who convinced people that I had a hysterical personality that made the whole thing up. (I was eventually vindicated.) What happened to me happens to fewer survivors today due to the efforts of child advocates and people who have shared their stories educating people who don't have child rape and child sex assault on their radar. The assaulted still need to take care in how we communicate, our credibility can be destroyed in one thoughtless moment.

Sometimes the people who live with you and those who love you understand the least. Family can use my history as an excuse for any disagreement getting out of hand. I've learned to say, "I might have problems, but that doesn't mean you aren't being an asshole" which doesn't usually help much, but I feel better after saying it. It's also become a "safe" phrase that lets my family know when they are using my vulnerabilities to argue unfairly.

Sometimes the condescension is barely there. I went though some tough times years ago. Later, after I got my act back together, I mentioned to a friend who knows most of my life story that I felt blessed. He looked at me like I needed some serious therapy. "You're kidding!" No, I wasn't. I had come to the point where everyday of life was a blessing. I regained my sense of wonder and delight. I spent some time explaining why I felt blessed before I realized I was falling into the trap of justifying why I feel what I feel. I ended the conversation with, "What do you expect me to feel? Dread and loathing every day for the rest of my life? Why? Shit happened. I'm done feeling bad." We're still friends. He had a few sad events in his life over the past few years. I recently asked him how he was doing. He responded, "I'm done feeling bad." I can relate.

Originally posted to JDWolverton on Sat Jul 14, 2012 at 06:14 PM PDT.

Also republished by House of LIGHTS.

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