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Survivor or victim
Breaking the cycle…
I am not an expert or professional, anything, in fact, I know very little, about even less. I do know however, that doing nothing hasn’t worked for me, didn’t work for me, and isn’t working for anyone. I know that burying my head in the sand like an ostrich may have allowed me to ignore the problems and issues I couldn’t bear to face, but what I hadn’t factored in was, that burying my head, left me with my a$$ exposed.
Teen suicides, pregnancies, drug and alcohol addictions, these were all issues I faced growing up, just as my teens are facing now. My mother was 15 when she got married and started having kids, therefore, she, much like many teenage parents, found herself growing up and learning as we did. The problem is, as teenagers, we are rarely emotionally mature enough to handle the responsibilities that come with raising children. I was 22 when I gave birth to my first, 25 when I had my second, and at 40, I still find myself struggling raising my children.
I thought by sharing with my children about my childhood and the sexual abuse I endured, that I might break the cycle. I thought I was vigilant and aware and that I would be able to protect them from it. I was wrong, unfortunately.
My son was 13 when he came to me and told me that the young man we had taken in and had been raising for more than a year, had attempted to sexually abuse him, while he slept, in his own home, in his own bed, while I lay sleeping just down the hall. The fact that my son was so much braver than I ever was, and told me immediately thereafter, was of very little comfort to me. How had I missed it, how could I not have seen it, how could I have allowed this to happen? We took this young man in, hoping, wanting, to give him a better life. He had no family, no home, and foolishly, blindly, we took him in. I unknowingly, unwittingly, put my son (s) in harm’s way, something I struggle with on a daily basis.
He was 18 years old, old enough to know better, but we collectively agreed as a family that perhaps someone in his past had done the same thing to him at one time, and thought that perhaps if we showed him ‘mercy’ and forgiveness, he could and would make the necessary changes he needed to, to correct his way of thinking. While NOT living under the same roof as my children, of course. It was my 13-year-old son who suggested this, as opposed to just pressing charges. Nevertheless, this young man continued to doggedly pursue my son, even after we had put him out of the house. Therefore, we did what we had to and what we felt was best for not only my son, but for any future victims this young man may or may not harm. I did for my son what was not done for me, what I could not do for myself, I empowered him, encouraged him, and supported him, and we went after his predator, by way of the law. My abuser never had to answer for what he did to me, he was never held accountable for his actions, he was never even confronted, thus I remained his ‘victim,’ and years later, even after the abuse stopped, I remained a ‘victim.’ I blamed myself, I punished myself, I suffered and endured the guilt and shame, and I did so in silence. I felt then, as I did for most of my life, powerless.
The D.A. working on my son’s case was known as a ‘bulldog’ when it came to sexual abuse cases. When he learned of my son’s willingness to show mercy and forgiveness in spite of what this young man had done, he commended my son for his compassion and maturity, but when he learned this young man was still pursuing my son, he took it as his personal mission to make this young man pay for his actions. He set up a ‘sting’ and tapped our phone line and when the young man called our home, my son bravely spoke to him and was able to get him to confess what he had done.
So, although I was unable to prevent my son from being abused, something good did come from all of it. My son is not a victim, he is a survivor, he went to court, and he faced his abuser and he won. He is not ashamed or embarrassed about his ordeal; in fact, he is very open and talks about what happened to him with others. As a result, many of his friends have opened up about things that have happened to them. Not easy for most survivors of abuse, but especially difficult for many young men to openly admit and discuss. I told my son, keeping silent about abuse, sexual or otherwise, only protects the abuser, not the one’s being abused. Predators and abusers count on guilt and shame to maintain silence and keep their ‘secrets,’ which is what allows them to continue victimizing others and us.
My son is about to turn 19 soon, he is extremely well adjusted, and self-confident. I wish I could take credit for it, but I can’t, I do however, feel extremely blessed. His little brother looks up to him and they share a bond that is remarkable to witness, and they confide in, support, and are extremely protective of one another. As their mother, I could not be more proud of them. That something so negative could result in something so positive is amazing to me.
My hope was to break the cycle of abuse that has plagued my family for many years, and to free myself along with my children of the misconception that we as victims don’t have a choice. We can choose to allow our abusers to continue to victimize us and destroy us or we can choose to empower ourselves, and others, to fight back and become survivors. I know that as a parent, I am supposed to be the educator, but it is my children that teach me and continue to teach me. I am so humbled and so thankful, and stand in awe at just how resilient the human spirit can be.