From One *Former* Victim of Molestation to Another

In March, I wrote a post called “Pedophilia May Have Physical Causes“, and received the following comment:

I too was molested by my step father and the repercussions that it had created has not been a pretty picture. For the most part I function in society. I have been labeled hypo-manic depressive with a slight personality disorder…  I wonder why. My mother denied the abuse and for that she has been forever cut out of my life. The next time that I want to see them both is at their funerals. It has been many years and the hate and anger will not go away and it affects me on a daily basis. Do you have any advice? The experience has only led to worse things in my life (being raped 2 times) due to all the drinking to kill the pain. I have since stopped that all together… I really don’t want to go for a third time. I have tried counseling and well, it has gotten me nowhere. – Dexx36

This comment deserves more than just another one in return.  First, thanks to everyone who commented.  Sometimes the hardest declaration you can make is the one you alone can hear.

Here’s what has worked for me, Dexx: meds, therapy, the support of friends and family, and resolution, not necessarily in that order.  Meds can help make the day-to-day more level ground for someone to navigate while they work through the damage in therapy.  The love and support of friends and family who will truly hear you, is invaluable.

The most helpful thing for me, however, was an act of “taking myself back” from the man who’d stolen so much from me.  I had no legal recourse, my disclosures were often questioned, and I had just grown sick and tired of hearing myself tell this same stupid story of how I’d been molested, and how I was angry, and how it was wrong and bad, and how he was a public official with a sterling reputation, and, blah, blah, blah.  I sounded pathetic.

So, I just shut up about it, and soon I realized that silence was the same as complicity.  By shutting up, I was holding up his cover, and perpetuating my own victimhood.  One day, in late June, and just a few days before I returned to college, I went to his office and confronted him directly for the first and last time.  It wasn’t the blast of four-letter words or judgments you’d expect; I was surprisingly peaceful and resolute.

My molester was an emotional bully.  As a child I was naturally less powerful than he, an adult.  That power is the real point of entry for a pedophile.  He was good at making me believe I was powerless, and I was good at believing it.  He spared no threat to ensure my silence.  A bully keeps taking a kid’s lunch money not because he can, necessarily, but because he knows the kid thinks he can.  So he does… until the kid takes a stand for himself and refuses to be a victim.

I quit playing the game.  I quit building armies of people who believed me to battle armies of those who did not.  I knew the truth, presented it to those who mattered (including the perpetrator), and let them make their own decisions, with which they had to live.  Most importantly, I truly took back control of how I was defined.

When I left my molester’s office, he was a sobbing heap.  I was 400 feet tall and bulletproof.  I went to a barber shop, and had my head shaved – a fresh start.  A week later, just off-campus, on Independence Day, I had my signature tattooed in the center of my lower back, at the waist.  Like a painting, I felt finished, complete.  Like livestock, I was branded, but with my own mark.  I was my own, again.  Of course, I still had a lot of work to do, but I’d taken the most powerful step I could have imagined.  I regained some power.

It doesn’t help that you have a parent who doesn’t believe, or won’t act upon, your complaint of molestation, but I would guess that she has a reason that is very real and formidable to her.  Even if we might consider her fear irrational, it is scary enough for her to remain quiet – truly a secondary victim with collateral damage.  That’s her issue.  Taking care of yourself might be the best thing you can do for her, too.

So what’s my advice?  Accept your situation for what it is.  Recognize your stepfather’s sickness, your mother’s weakness and your own determination to be well and whole.  Quantify it into steps you’re going to take to avoid being a victim, and continue being your true self, including your relationship to alcohol, which did you more harm than good.  Recognize your own role in your therapy.  Ask yourself if you’re really doing the work, being forthcoming, even taking reponsibility for your part of your victimhood, or the payoff (if any) you’re getting from telling your story.  If you feel good about the answers, recognize your therapist’s role as a human with his or her own baggage and limitations who has brought you as far as they can.  If what you’re doing isn’t getting results, try a different method: hypnosis, groups, blogging, all of the above.  Artistic expression can be incredibly cathartic, which doesn’t have to mean “painting pictures of your pain,” although that works too.  Whatever you do, take steps to regain your own peace, power and self-respect, and look forward, not back.

2 Responses to “From One *Former* Victim of Molestation to Another”

  1. Monday, September 8, 2008 at 7:40 am

    The day you learned to take away the lever from your tormentor was the 2nd most wonderful day of my life; I will never forget it. Your advice is sound and it still tugs at my heart that you ever had to make that journey all those years ago. However, the journey that you have taken since is rich and full. You amaze me.

  2. 2 Sam Page
    Monday, September 8, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    As someone who is going through therapy to try to untangle my brain, I second what you say about “having a role in your own therapy.” Everyone I know who’s been in therapy will tell you the same thing: You have the answers already. In the best scenario, a therapist is just a guide to show you doors you might not have thought to open. In my estimation, a good therapist has left me with more questions going out the door than I did when I walked in.

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