With child sex abuse, speaking out is vital to survivors and society
I am writing to thank Jean Hargadon Wehner for her recent letter, “Thanks for standing up for child abuse victims” (March 15). I, too, am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I was not assaulted by clergy, but I was the very young victim of adults I trusted. I was so young at first that I could not comprehend what was happening to me, did not have words for what it was or how it made me feel about myself and my place in the world. Throughout my life, I sought to make sense of myself, to understand why I was the way I was. Along the way, I found a compassionate therapist, a supportive group of fellow survivors called “You Are Not Alone,” an extraordinarily loving partner and a circle of caring friends who believed me.
Some years back, I had the opportunity to be one of the featured speakers at a “Take Back the Night” rally sponsored by what was then the Sexual Assault Recovery Center in Baltimore. The event was covered by the local media and so parts of my speech were televised on the nightly news. What stands out most in my memory is what happened afterward when total strangers would stop me on the street to thank me for what I said. One, in particular, was an elementary school teacher whose brave, young student had seen me on TV and told her that he, like “the lady on TV,” was not safe and needed help.
In all of this, I have been steadfast and I have been lucky. Yet, as with any kind of trauma, the shadows of my experience sometimes hang onto me. There is no getting around that, it seems. Nonetheless, what I want to say to other survivors of trauma who may feel abandoned or lost is that it can get better with the right kind of support — and knowing in your heart that it was not your fault.
Speak up, if you can, and ask for help. You are not alone.