It was a metal door. For some reason, I remember that door so vividly even though some of the other details of the room are a blur. I remember the door being shut behind me and being led by the hand to a bed. And I remember all the details of what would happen next. Yes, this is my story of abuse. I have had this story written on a folded piece of paper for years. It has been safely tucked into my daily planner, but I had not felt the urge to publish it until today. I hope my story can help others begin their journey of overcoming sexual abuse.
I don’t remember exactly how old I was. I think I was around two or three. And while most people can’t remember anything they did at that age, I remember so much. And I remember those instances and almost every detail of what he did to me. He was a child himself, maybe 16 or 17. He was a family friend. I don’t remember if he lived with us or would just come to visit, but no one seemed to view him as a threat. Well, no one but me.
He would take me to an isolated part of the house. It was a large room located on the second floor of my grandparents’ house. It sat over the maids’ quarters. You had to go up a narrow hallway with stairs and pass the laundry area. It was the only way to access this room; you couldn’t get to it from any other part of this large house. It was the ideal and convenient place for my abuser because it was no where near the main living areas. It was unlikely anyone would come into the room.
It had been my grandfather’s room for a long time. It was where he slept on his hospital bed during the final stages of his life. I have one sweet memory sitting on a step looking out of the balcony, madly scribbling on a coloring book. Grandpa was sleeping and I was keeping watch. He later would die in that room. This was before the abuse.
The entrance to the room, had that gray or blue metal door. I don’t remember the exact color, but I remember how my abuser would lock it. No one was getting in. I was a very quiet child and I didn’t fight, nor complain, nor question why he took me there. I guess I just trusted that he was my friend. As I lay on the bed, and he started to do what he did to me, all of a sudden it did not feel right. I remembered feeling so ashamed. I felt I was doing something wrong, but I somehow still didn’t question him in my mind. I didn’t question his bad intentions. I internalized all the guilt and bore it upon myself.
I sometimes wonder how I knew it was wrong even though no one had ever talked about this with me. I was a toddler and this was Guatemala in the late 70s early 80s. You didn’t tell kids about predators. You certainly didn’t talk about sex in our strict Catholic household. And I didn’t tell anyone. My guilt made me keep it a secret and I bore that for so many years.
It wasn’t until I was twelve or thirteen or so that I came to realize that none of that had been my fault. It wasn’t until I was twelve or thirteen that I began to hate my abuser. For whatever reason, it was that time period in my life where it all came to a head. That had not been the only difficult part of my childhood, but it certainly dominated my thoughts more than any of the others. I began to suffer from severe depression and self-cutting and I was rebellious. In a burst of rage or anger, I think I finally told my mom what had happened. She had had no idea.
There are a few things I have learned about myself as I have healed from these wounds. I learned that the abuse helped form a dichotomy in my head. I had a deep rooted distrust of men, and yet, in my early adult years, I sought sex out as a way to be loved and nurtured. It was a horrible trap. On the one hand, I had a fight or flight mentality with men and with authority in general. I did not submit easily (to my husband, to my bosses, etc.). On the surface, I might have said okay to an authority figure, but on the inside it would fill me with so much anger. I mistook authority for dominance. I mistook godly submission for victimization.I mistook authority for dominance. I mistook godly submission for victimization. Click To Tweet
On the other hand, I wanted to be loved. And in a childhood filled with so much rejection, my mind somehow connected love with sex. For most of my childhood, I did not have godly examples of godly love nor godly nurture. My parents were in broken marriages and I was part of a broken family. Somehow, as perverted as it may seem, the one time I had felt wanted as a child, it had been for sex. And that stayed with me well into my adult years. I led a promiscuous lifestyle, even though I was a professed Christian, and it took years to break free from that.
These are not easy words to write. It is not easy to let the world see just how messed up you really are. But I write these words because I know I am not the only one. I know that the effects of sexual abuse will remain entrenched in the psyche of an individual until is dealt with head on. I want to urge you that if this is your story and you still feel trapped by it, seek help. I want to urge churches that in an age where 1 in 5 women and 1 in 6 men have been sexually abused to talk about it openly and be intentional about helping those that have been abused.
Do I feel that I have overcome this? I have overcome a lot of it, but I know there is still some scar tissue there. However, I knew I made a huge leap when I began to feel sympathy and an overwhelming sadness for my abuser. I had heard that this young man had been killed and in my anger my initial response was, “Good riddance.” Now, I don’t feel that way at all. I wonder about the abuse and rejection that he himself suffered that led him to do what he did to me. I feel sadness at the real possibility that he died without knowing the gospel, without having a chance at eternal salvation.
The ability to grow out of that dichotomy that I talked about earlier did not come because of some great sermon I heard. It didn’t come because of an article I read or a Sunday school class I took. It came because my mom and dad, who are pastors, helped me take this bull by its horns. They have extensive experience dealing with abuse cases and they themselves went through their own healing of abuse. They took me through a path of confession, and prayer, and tears, and bringing it all out in the open (the abuse, the sex, the irrational feelings) to finally be able to release it to God. It also came from years of having a loving, steady, and forgiving husband who knew how to show me godly love when I myself didn’t even know what that was. It was a process that began the day I confessed Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. It was a process that was accelerated when I finally understood how much Jesus actually loves me. It was a process, not a moment nor an instance, that finally helped me break down that metal door.
Psalm 139:13-14 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my souls knows it very well.