How Can I Get Help if I Don’t Know It Was Abuse?

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If I put myself in a topographical continuum that started with the rolling hills of Kentucky and progressed to the ferocity of Mt. Everest, I would likely find myself still placed in the Bluegrass State just as I am now, writing to you. I wouldn’t only be in the continuum in the physical sense of living in Kentucky, but also in the figurative sense of how extreme (or mild) I would rate my own sexual abuse. I was a rolling hills victim of sexual abuse, not a Mt. Everest victim of sexual abuse.

Let me take you back several months.

One day on vacation, my husband simply alluded to a romantic encounter. It brought me to tears—the kind that you can’t hold back even when your logic overtakes your emotion. Angry tears?  Hurt tears? Tears of fear? At that time, the reason was lost on me. I was confused; my husband felt unnecessary guilt, and that made me feel guilty. The confused, yucky feelings grew. I knew something was wrong. I knew other people wouldn’t have been brought to tears by lesser events that made me sob.

So I called my counselor of many years. We set an appointment for a few weeks later.

I didn’t have any notion of what was wrong. The only things I knew were that something was amiss, and my feelings toward sexual matters were fluctuating at best.

A few days later, I awoke at 2:00AM. My eyes immediately opened as if it was time to rise for the day. That’s when I clearly heard God make sense of it to me. In one statement, He tied my current relational struggles with an isolated event that happened to me when I was 3 years old.

“What? How can this be, God? That happened so long ago, and it’s never really mattered to me. It’s not like I was raped.”

But, the thought persisted. I shared it with my husband and then my counselor. And that’s when my journey of healing from sexual abuse began.

How do you get help when you don’t know you’ve been sexually abused? Not until I journeyed through extensive counseling could I even admit or believe that I was a victim of sexual abuse. Yes, I knew I had been wronged. But, I never would have placed myself in the same company as victims who had suffered daily rapes from their fathers or violent sexual abuse from a trusted family friend.

Author Dr. Dan B. Allender defines sexual abuse in his book, The Wounded Heart:  Hope for Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse as:
“any contact or interaction (visual, verbal, or psychological) between a child/adolescent and an adult when the child/adolescent is being used for the sexual stimulation of the perpetrator or any other person” (Allender, 1990).

If we revisit my topographical continuum, we see that on one end, we have rolling hills. The other end of the continuum is contrasted by the highest mountain on earth. Are they so different? Admittedly, one end is more difficult to traverse than the other. What is so easily missed here is that they are both on the same continuum. Abuse is still abuse even if it’s not as extreme or extensive as another’s abuse.

Healing cannot begin for someone until he or she grasps the fact that what they experienced was sexual abuse. Although the experience might or might not have included penetration or violence, do the words of the definition Dr. Allender provides for sexual abuse resonate?

Maybe your own parent(s) paid no attention to your abuse. Perhaps your friends think it’s just a part of your history and it’s not a very big deal, but is something stirring in your soul? Is something just not right, sexually speaking or otherwise? After walking through this road of healing, I’ve discovered that many of my personality traits (perfectionism, control-issues, suspicion of others, intuitive nature) can be linked to the abuse. Be encouraged to consider the event or events that took place and the possibility of addressing it with someone equipped in this area.

In all honesty, my process has been one of the darkest tunnels I’ve had to pass through. But, oh how bright the light shines when you emerge!

The Soul Care Collective occasionally posts articles anonymously in order to protect the author’s confidentiality in sharing sensitive material.

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This post is published anonymously to protect the author.

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