Last night, my mind must have been pondering why, as an adult, I could be duped by a sexual predator and I heard these words…”Well, the only thing wrong with me is that I had been molested when I was a child.” I recognized the self-blame right away. What I should’ve heard was—”the only thing I can see that possibly made me more vulnerable to a predator was the fact that someone sexually abused me as a child.” But…that isn’t the thought that took root.
In fact, what I heard was—”the only thing wrong with me is…” I cringed when I thought about the implications of that statement. I really thought I was further along in my healing. Was my subconscious busting me? Revealing what I truly think?
Nothing is wrong with me. Nothing is wrong with us. People did something wrong to us. Those are two very different concepts with two very different outcomes. Depending on which side of that coin we see will drastically alter the course of our lives.
Victims of sexual abuse, especially young children, do not see there are two sides. Unfortunately, they see only the one—something must be wrong with them. They can’t fathom that something wrong happened to them, and this erroneous belief sets them on a crooked trajectory, one where shame and self-hatred dominate. As a result, abuse that may have been a onetime occurrence now haunts for a lifetime.
It lingers—an incessant chant—something is wrong with you, you are not normal, you should be ashamed. In the frenzy of life, the voice may get quieter, but it is always there, silently and powerfully reminding…you are defective, you are broken.
There was another side to that coin.
That is why I started this website and why I wrote a memoir telling my story of adult abuse. I wanted victims who are still being harassed by those shame-filled messages to know that there is another way. They can be free.
I did not understand that I was listening to that garbage until a “Christian” psychiatrist took advantage of me in counseling at 42. As he was increasingly inappropriate with me, I had a front-row seat, observing my reactions to his behavior. I watched in horror as I made excuses for his actions, accepted blame, and denied reality.
I couldn’t see that there was a pattern emerging, a sinister plot unfolding. Thinking they were unrelated incidents, it disgusted me when I got out and could see the bigger picture. Even more disturbing was the realization that I was living my life based on lies that earlier abusers had instilled in me. Here I was a grown woman, and I was still only seeing the one side of that coin.
I got busy. I began writing. I needed to understand. I wanted to know how I allowed an evil man to hurt me, and to continue hurting me long after I suspected it. I had had enough. I wanted to uncover the lies, all of them.
It took time, but years later I had a finished manuscript. And in it contained the secret I had been looking for, the answer to the whys and hows. Why had I allowed this man and others like him to use me? How had I allowed it to happen over and over and over?
I list a set of “rules,” or unspoken beliefs, that I realized I had been living by that made me vulnerable to a predator. These rules were the lies I’d been listening to since the age of three, when the first abuser left his mark on me. I couldn’t believe I was still buying into that crap, but I realized I had never challenged the voice either. Not successfully, anyway.
Since I knew previous abusers had skewed my lens, I needed an accurate source. I needed the truth, and I knew only the Author and Creator of my existence could provide it. I pored over scripture and read messages from the One who knows me inside and out, the One who knows the number of hairs on my head. Only He gets to say who I am. Everything else must step aside.
At first, I struggled. I could see the words on the page and they sounded nice, but they weren’t penetrating my carefully constructed walls. I had to dig deeper.
I began writing love letters to myself from God. I told Him I was unsure His professions of love applied to someone like me, someone who was marred, tainted. I allowed Him to respond, and His counter-arguments and professions of love seemed to pour out of me as if I was watching the pen glide across the paper.
I wrote and I wrote, and I wrote. And slowly I could see changes, first in me and then in my marriage and family. I noticed an inner peace. As a result, my household became a calmer, happier place to be. I was accepting my identity in Christ. The old tapes were still there, vying for my attention, but they got less and less of it.
I started focusing on the other side of that coin, and with that came freedom and the chance for a new life, directed by the One who loves me and wants the very best for me. In time, my old life, the one based on lies, fell away like a snake molting its skin. I had new skin and a new outlook on life.
It enthralled me to see God at work. He changed me and those around me and opened up doors I never thought were possible—like writing a memoir, like starting a blog, like standing up to a sexual predator.
So back to my earlier comment. Was my conscience telling on me, letting me know I had work to do? Had I backslid in my healing? No, I had not, but it was a healthy reminder. We need to be careful of the words we use, especially ones that relate to our identities. Words carry power. We know that because many of us have had our lives controlled by our abusers’ words and actions, so we want to catch those messages and redirect them before they can take hold.
And as for those lies I’d carried around for decades. The ones our abusers instilled in us. The ones that labeled us as damaged goods. The ones that made us susceptible to abuse. We must recognize them, challenge them with God’s truth, and then give them back to their rightful owners. The shame was never ours. It has always belonged to the abuser.
The coin with two sides? Now when I flip it, whichever way it lands, I see a new inscription. It reads: “Daughter of the King.”
If this speaks to you or if there is any way I can be of help, let me hear from you!