I am convinced that when it comes to childhood sexual abuse, somebody almost always knows about the abuse while it’s happening, or at least suspects something is just not right, but for whatever reason, the person does not take action.
When I finally told an aunt that her brother had routinely sexually abused me as a child, she did not believe me and came within half a breath of outright calling me a liar.
A few days later, still angry and in disbelief, my aunt disgustedly relayed what I’d said to another brother of hers who in fact confirmed the abuse. Now how did he know? Because, he had inadvertently walked in on his brother molesting me, (I’m sorry, but for me, molest is too benign of a word for raping a child. It doesn’t capture the violence, trauma, and crime committed against the child’s psyche and body. So, let me begin again). Now how did he know? Because he had inadvertently walked in on his brother raping me. When asked why he didn’t tell someone, his response was, “She was so young at the time, I didn’t think she would remember it.”
Later on, another family member told me that as a child, she was always cautioned to never go in his room before going to grandma’s house. I was never told who gave this warning, but more importantly, why didn’t that person do anything to stop him from raping children? Who knows? Maybe that person did tell someone, and it fell on deaf ears and ears of disbelief accompanied by threats of being ostracized or disowned. But the point is, at least two family members knew that my uncle was a pedophile and didn’t do a damned thing. They didn’t beat his ass and run him out of town; they didn’t call the authorities which could have been done anonymously; they didn’t forbid him from being anywhere near or alone with any of the children for any reason. But they CHOSE not to protect us. I know of others in my family who were repeatedly raped as children by this same uncle.
I have heard so many stories like mine where someone else or several people knew there was a pedophile in the family and did everything to protect the pedophile and nothing to protect the children.
When I lived in Indiana, I had a friend whom I’ll call Jasmine. Jasmine was my ride or die chick—my home girl. If you saw me, you saw her and vice versa. We talked several times a day on the phone and visited each other’s homes quite often. She is a smart, funny, talented artist and scientist who is financially successful. She is also traumatized and suffering from Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from being raped repeatedly as child by two males in her family.
When she initially came forward as an adult and confronted one of the abusers (the other was long dead at this point) she was met with disbelief and anger from her family; how could she make such a heinous accusation? Those family members who did believe her, admonished her to “Get over it!” It happened a long time ago.” This included one family member who when told who the other abuser was stated, “I knew it! I’m not surprised. I always thought he could do something like that.” Slowly, Jasmine began to collapse into some dark place within herself. She was successful and highly respected in her industry, but with the resurgence of suppressed memories of the abuse coupled with the re-traumatization by her family’s disbelief and dismissal of her horrific experience, she had a mental break. When she was discharged from the hospital, she seemed like herself. She let go of her business and decided to embark on a new career. Her reason for embarking on the new career made me nervous. She had been interested in a particular industry when she was a child, before the abuse began, and she was convinced that had she not been sexually abused, she would’ve had a career in this industry all along.
I think most victims of childhood sexual abuse have thoughts along these lines. “Who would I be; how different would my life be if I had not been abused? How differently would I feel about myself? How different would my intimate and platonic relationships look?
You cannot help but wonder. Jasmine was determined to find out. She was going to recreate who she thought she would have been. She probably isn’t the first person who has attempted to do this. Jasmine was determined that she was going to get back what had been so brutally taken from her. That attempt, to be who she thought she would have been, required her to keep visiting the time and space of the violation and, it destroyed her.
We can’t go back, and it’s not fair, and it’s fucked up to be gutted and hollowed out like that as a child. There is so much of ourselves that just evaporates when we are abused as children that can’t be measures or even put into words, and a lot of that is because many of us were violated before we even had even acquired language; we could not even articulate the dread and confusion over the awful thing that was happening to us. And if we could talk even a little bit, we and/or family members lives were threatened.
We lost parts of ourselves, and practically every day, we grieve that loss. It’s like having a child stolen, murdered, and dismembered, and you search and search for all the body parts so you can bury all the body parts together— whole, so you can get closure. We are that child we’re looking for.
Yes, the innocence we were born with was ripped from us, but our voice was taken from us before we had had a chance to find it.
So, I got it. I got what Jasmine was trying to do. She was trying to heal the PTSD caused by the trauma of sexual abuse. She was seeking wholeness. That wholeness would be her triumph over the abuse: the prying of their foul putrid hands from her body, the purging of their wretched sickness from her brain cells, spinal cord, relationships, career, self-esteem-her life. Her wholeness would be long overdue justice against her violators—the ass whipping and death sentence she wanted meted out to them.
However, I knew that the exorcism she was trying to perform could not be done by living in a past that was the site of her desecration.
But at the time, I was at the beginning of my healing journey, and I didn’t have the language, testimony, or experience to guide her. All I could do was listen, caution, and make suggestions, but it was not enough. She began a slow painful descent. She became someone I barely knew; she was practically a shell of who she had been. Jasmine went from being a vibrant tough as nails self-made business woman, and artist who loved to go on weekend trips to a woman who was unable to work, and barely come out of her house.
I started mourning the loss of my friend long before her next breakdown. I felt useless and angry. I’m telling you, it’s sheer and utter hell to watch somebody slip away, and no matter what you do, you can’t reach them. It also didn’t help that her family kept urging her to get over “it” and get on with her life. That caused her to withdraw even more. I did what I could to stay in contact with her. I’d call, suggest we go out somewhere, hangout for the weekend at some of her favorite getaways, ask her to come over to my place or I’d ask to come over there. After a while, her phone would just ring and she’d never return my calls. I became worried. I’d drive over to her house, ring the bell, knock on the door and call her name through the open window. I’d see the car parked in the driveway sometimes, but she’d never answer.
I gave it a few months. I called. She answered a few times. She had met a man and was in a relationship and from what she was telling me, it sounded like a toxic one. But that is what plenty of adults survivors of childhood sexual abuse often do—get into toxic relationships. On the one hand I was crushed, because she deserved so much better, and I knew this might take her further into the rabbit hole. On the other hand, I was so happy that she was well enough to take calls and want to hang out. I was glad my friend was possibly on her way back to life among the living.
As you can probably guess, the relationship went south and not in a good way, and she isolated again. I tried her back in a few months. She answered. Her voice sounded so far away—so lost. But at least she was talking. She even called ME a few times. The last time I heard from her she said she was going to a local Buddhist Temple. She was really trying to keep herself together she said and had been frequenting the temple. If I wanted to, I could meet her there at such and such time. That’s the last time I heard from her and that was two years ago.
To this day, I can kick myself in the pants, because I didn’t go to the temple. I don’t know what I was doing or feeling that day prevented me from meeting up with her. I did call her later asking or a rain check. Jasmine assured me she’d let me know when we could get together next. But afterwards, when I called I got no response. I called another time, a man answered and hung up. When I called a couple of months later, the phone was disconnected.
And just like that, I lost one of my best friends. I miss her terribly. I continued and still continue on my healing journey. I’ve learned plenty and have information that I wish I had years ago. I would’ve probably been spared a lot of pain, shame, and suicide attempts. Had I known then what I know now, I could have possibly helped Jasmine. I wasn’t able to help her, but I can help other adults who are still suffering from PTSD from childhood sexual abuse. Loud Clear Voice is for all of us Jasmines out here who are seeking agency and freedom from the vise of childhood sexual abuse. It is possible and doable. Do not give up! Please don’t give up! The person you know you can be, that you want to be—your voice, is waiting for you.