For every story of abuse or assault there is an abuser, but you never hear their side of the story, do you? I was sexually abused throughout my childhood and raped in high school and when both of my abusers were faced with having the title “abuser” or “rapist,” they denied that there was any real damage and said that what they had done wasn’t that bad. It was as if them seeing a lack of “damage” in me changed the reality of their actions.
But just because they didn’t see damage doesn’t mean it wasn’t there; it means that I got good at hiding it.
Seeing those two men violently deny that they could be one of “those men,” the kind who abuse others, got me thinking. How many unaware abusers are out there living their lives with no idea how much damage they might have caused to others in their lives?
Abusers who reject their acts of abuse cause victims to live with a constant nagging voice that says “maybe it was my fault” or “maybe it wasn’t as bad as I remember.” But let me just make this very clear. If your abuser doesn’t recognize that he is an abuser, he still is. You are not the only one who has had to fight for what you know happened to you. There are way more abusers that never acknowledge what they have done than those that do. So, rest in the knowledge that you are not in the wrong just because he won’t admit what he did.
For me, the biggest challenge in silencing those self-blaming voices has been to learn my value. If something isn’t valuable, breaking it isn’t a very big deal. So when my abusers said that their actions weren’t a big deal, to me it spoke very clearly and loudly about my value, or lack thereof. But where is a young girl to find her actual value from? I started with the opinions of guys around me, and you can probably guess how well that went. The opinions of others, and even my opinion of myself, is constantly changing. Relying on my mood that day or how many guys were giving me attention only led to shame and comparison and, honestly, dug a deeper hole.
After all that my question still remained, “why am I valuable? Why does it matter if someone hurts me and walks away?” What I have come to learn is that for me, my value comes from the love of Jesus. Jesus put infinite value on my life when he died for me. He wanted so much to have deep relationship with me that he covered everything that I have ever done wrong, and says with open arms “It is finished. Come to me and rest.” I really did try it all, but God was and still is the only place that I could run to in my brokenness, not to be judged but to be completely understood and healed.
In saying all this, the task of healing and growth is not a simple one and cannot be represented fully in a statement like “God healed me”. There are deep lows and beautiful highs in this journey of healing and learning to love myself. But there are two foundational truths that I can build my healing around; no part of my abuse was my fault and the damage that was done to me is real. It matters, because I matter and I am valuable.
-Anonymous, Fraser Valley BC