Why did I click on the link? I was sexually assaulted as a child and I read articles like this to understand what happened to me and to keep it from happening to others. Also Cord is a wonderful, thoughtful human whose opinion I value.
I was just a few words in when I realized the lede was very graphic. I didn’t stop reading. It was too late. I ran into my hotel bathroom and threw up. I sat on the edge of the tub, feeling sick and ashamed. Horrible memories started flashing by and I felt like a helpless 7 year old all over again.
God, the shame can be so overwhelming.
But life goes on. I had lunch plans, a plane to catch and cheerful texts to return. I put on my happiest face and moved on. Somewhere near the North Carolina/Virginia border and because I couldn’t shake the lingering shame, I decided to finish reading the piece. I’m glad I did. Not just because of the substance of Cord’s argument but to prove to myself that I can do this. Live in a world where there is always a finger on the trigger.
I was 19 when I finally told someone what had happened to me. The abuse stopped when I was 11 or 12. I don’t really remember because I blocked it out. I went through life trying my hardest not to talk or think about it. I wanted to tell my mother and couldn’t muster the courage to. I wanted to tell my father but didn’t know how he would react. I wanted to tell my sister but I was afraid she’d have a similar story. Instead, I obsessively watched every Oprah Winfrey Show episode on the topic. She became my therapist, carried my secret and throughout the seasons helped me cope with the shame and slowly become free of it. On the show finale she said: “People started coming on this show saying things they couldn’t say to their own family members. Little by little, we started to release the shame.” Church/preach.
I’d gone my whole life internalizing the abuse and for some reason on that trip in Mexico, the memories came flooding back. I had nightmares and was terrified of sleeping. I still remember the look and the love on Brittany’s face when I told her and she just held me and let me sleep in her bed.
That was almost 10 years ago and I’ve opened up about it more since to people I love. I still watch those Oprah re-runs. I go to a real therapist. I work really hard on loving myself. Most days are great.
Two days ago, I heard Ashley Judd talk about coming to terms with her own sexual abuse saying ”what was a wounding is now my strength and resilience”
Those words really stuck with me and I want to believe those words even more during the hard days. The days when I can feel those men’s hands crawling on my body. The days when even the slightest touch from my closest male friends makes me want throw up. The days when I can’t get out of bed because I’ve had a nightmare. The days when I’m paralyzed by shame because I think it was my fault. The days when I read about another graphic sexual assault on a child.
I don’t know that trigger warnings are always effective but I appreciate the illusion of safety they provide. I needed that safety today. You can read someone smarter talk about this here. I also really appreciate Cord responding and wrestling with this.
Little by little, we started to release the shame