FYI – the following post may be more than some feel able to read/know at this time about sexual abuse. If that is you, please be kind to yourself and don’t read on.
In ministry, in employment, and in volunteer settings I have worked with women of all ages who have experienced and endured sexual assault and long-term sexual abuse. It has been my privilege to hear their stories, to believe their truths, and to be present in their suffering. It has been my honor to be a part of their healing and to speak about life and hope as they continue to figure out how to make peace with their deep and sacred wounds.
In my private life, I have my own story of being a victim of sexual abuse, sexual assault, inappropriate touch in the workplace, and of being stalked. I am grateful for all my sisters and brothers who have heard my story, made space for my sacred wounds, and have participated in my healing. I am particularly grateful for the men in my life who have been safe, who have loved and protected me as a woman. I am grateful for their trustworthiness, and for the many ways they continue to strive to make safe spaces for the women in their lives: their wives, daughters, sisters, mothers, female friends and co-workers.
And yet, it isn’t over, is it? Sex-trafficking, ongoing sexual abuse of women and girls, of children, sexual abuse of boys and men (which we speak about even less), abuse of and hatred of the LGBTQ community, and so much more, continues on. It feels like too much to hold in our hearts – the wounds we carry and the wounds of our world. I find the #me too movement to be a beautiful, poignant, awful, necessary, grieving, crucial opportunity to say out loud – me, too. You, too. We, too.
Friend, if abuse is part of your story, know you are not alone, you are not alone. If you can’t tell your story yet, draw strength from those of us who have made it far enough to tell our own. We have all had our times of hiding out, of curling up in a fetal position, of whispering – help – and hoping that someone would hear us. Someday, you, too, might be able to tell your story; just don’t do it until it is safe to say the words out loud with someone you trust.
And, if you, like me, have made the mistake of not believing the story someone told you of their experience of abuse, or you didn’t have room in your own beat-up soul to receive their pain, please don’t get stuck there. If you can, seek that person out and say, I’m sorry. Forgive me. What can I do now to make it right?
Above all, be gentle with everyone around you. Survivors of sexual abuse typically aren’t obvious about their abuse. Though we’ve been there, experienced it and survived it, we don’t want the t-shirt. We don’t advertise our devastation, yet we are often right next to you: on the bus, in the grocery store, in the next office cubicle, or sitting next to you in church. We work hard at leading normal lives while what we’ve known is not normal, not the way it should have been, not the way we would have scripted our lives. Let’s work together to honor each other, to be careful with each other, to be patient and kind. Let’s not shrink back from the truth of our world; instead, let’s make sacred spaces for ourselves and those around us as we find our unique paths to healing and peace.