April is national sexual assault awareness month
by Dawn Scott Jones
I wish I had a different story. I wish it wasn’t one of horrific pain that left my life in a pile of ashes, filled with shame and sorrow. But I don’t have a different story.
What I do have, however, is the power to decide how my story will end.
Today I look at myself in the mirror and choose not to be a victim any longer. Today I choose healing. Today I choose life. I’m a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I tell my story hoping that others will feel encouraged to start their own conversation, and eventually, gain empowerment to overcome.
My story is unique to me, but it is not uncommon. One night I went to sleep with the carefree innocence of a ten-year-old girl, and the next morning I awoke with agonizing shame and confusion. My father, childhood hero by day, had become my perpetrator by night.
Over the next seven years, I was sexually molested, but I never told anyone. I believed that if I quietly endured the assaults, I would spare my other siblings from experiencing the same fate. Ah, the fantasies of children.
I spared no one a thing.
Today, I can’t be silent. A silent survivor can’t help anyone break free from the despair of abuse. I shatter the silence to break the grip of shame that had me bound by secrecy.
Because we can be healed from the trauma of sexual abuse.
6 Steps to Shattering the Silence of Abuse…
- Secure your Safety
If you’re in immediate danger or fearful for your or others safety, contact emergency services immediately. They will help you secure a place of safety.
- Share your Secret
Telling your secret is powerful. It releases pent-up hopelessness and despair, and many survivors feel better right away. Choose someone you can talk to who is safe, like a friend, pastor, counselor, family member, or medical professional.
- Seek Medical Support
If you’ve been sexually assaulted or abused, seek medical help and support. You will not only receive appropriate medical care if you need it, but you will also find valuable support, such as counselors, guidance, and resources.
- Stay Grounded in Reality
Trust yourself. It’s common for an abuse survivor to question themselves about their abuse after they begin to talk about it. If someone has assaulted you or is abusing you, it’s difficult to feel confident about what to do next, and victims can slip into denial. Stay focused and remember it’s never ok for someone to assault or abuse you for any reason.
- Start Your Journey
Healing is a process. The journey to wholeness takes time, so be patient with yourself. Keep talking, sharing, and clarifying the truth about your abuse. Resist the fear to stop the process and return to a place of isolation. Healing is on the other side of the journey.
- Speak and Stand
Don’t be afraid to know your legal rights. Help can still be yours, even if your trauma took place years ago, or you choose not to take it to the law. You can still be aware of what the law says and what options you may have.