The nature of my assault made my path to “normal” relationships with men a bit easier than that of women who may have been subject to more brutal attacks and/or sexual maltreatment at the hands of loved ones, during childhood, etc. Not to reduce my experience (“Well, I only got a little bit raped”) but it wasn’t as much of a life-changer as some people would expect. When I reached out to readers and asked for their own stories, I received a most heartbreaking tale from a 22-year-old sister named Kali. I admire that she even had the ability to put these words on paper, because it was hard for me just to read them.
Now, while you out here judging your sisters for not walking around with a perpetual smiley face, just take a taste of what some of ’em are carrying with them: Kali witnessed repeated abuse of her younger sister at the hands of her uncle when they were both small children. Not long after, her mother entered a physically violent relationship with her stepfather who has also sexually abused his biological daughter. Kali’s story is the sort that would appear in a book by Alice Walker to cries of Black men saying “This ain’t real,” instead of acknowledging that it’s not the norm . . . but it’s far too common.
“I have, in the midst of all of this, found love. Difficult task would be an understatement. It came as I was by no means looking for love. I don’t know if it was the taboo of talking out that stained me or the abuse or if I may, I’d say both. In different ways. I lost my virginity at seventeen to someone that I barely knew. I just knew that I really liked him (and) he was attractive. I have been in an abusive relationship but it only took one hit or shove and it was over, no looking back at all . . . I was (also) in a relationship with a much older guy that I met (when I was sixteen) at a club. I can’t really define that relationship, whether it was a ‘friends with benefits’, boyfriend/girlfriend (situation) or what. It was just a relationship that I had come to understand, as I did the one with my mother . . .
. . . (I) met my now fiancé and just knew he was “the one.” You know how you meet someone and they ask, “What type of guy/girl do you typically go for?” Well he asked that and I declined to answer because after what seemed to be a lifetime of being let down, I didn’t need someone trying to live up to a definition undefined. Does that make sense? Someone trying to live up to the fairytale that doesn’t exist, I mean my mom was supposed to be my mom. As in ideally a nurturing protecting and loving person of their child, when in all reality she was the mom that she knew. Not the mom by the books. All I required was that he didn’t drink beer and try to kiss me etc. The stench of my mom’s husband’s breath haunts me to this day. We fell in love and . . . my new found boyfriend was now what school was to me then: an escape. Willingly, we had sex before he knew of the abuse. We were coming from Orlando and I had wandered into the thoughts somehow and I folded like a chair. He immediately pulled over on the interstate and heard me out and held me so close and felt my pain. He was absolutely disgusted and never wanted to meet him, declaring that if he did he’d confront him. I made him promise not to; he agreed but said he’d never shake his hand though. I had, at the point of meeting my fiancé, just come to know that I had to heal to move forward. I have forgiven my mom and her husband although they don’t know it, and I am trying to overcome . . .
When it comes to sex with my fiancé and me, it is sometimes a process. Sometimes I breakdown and cry in the middle of us having sex. Sometimes I want him to be aggressive, (which) I don’t understand. (But) he declines because he doesn’t want to hurt me. I think I want the pain or aggressiveness to void the thoughts I am really confused about that; again it’s been a long process over the past almost three years . . . I don’t think that the abuse affects my relationship now because I have almost total control of it. I don’t feel I will ever have absolute control because small things will trigger the thoughts. I don’t want to forget what happened, but I want to not be affected in anyway . . . Having talked with others that have been sexually abused that are much older, (I have heard that), you never completely heal . . .
A reader by the name of Natasha, age 33, first experienced abuse at the age of three at the hand of a family member: “I remember it like it was a dream . . . no one ever talks about it . . . and for a long time I thought maybe it was something I dreamed up as a child . . . but it wasn’t . . . I faced that family member much later in life (late 20’s) . . . and his inability to look me in the eye confirmed it was not a dream . . . ”
She was assaulted in college by a classmate who was a campus activist and was then raped a few years later by a man she was dating: “I felt completely powerless . . . confused. What’s crazy is that I told no one and remained with him for 4.5 years. Crazy I know . . . I put what happened that night in the very back of my mind never once thinking about it . . . never mentioned it . . . not even to myself . . . I even went through a bout of depression . . . not eating or really sleeping and contemplated suicide.
When the relationship was over . . . I finally admitted to myself it did happen . . . I had been raped . . . and I told my closest friends . . . who were all completely and utterly shocked.
It took several years for me to figure out why I remained, silent and ‘in love’ . . . you see he provided me with something I was missing and because I had ‘it,’ I was afraid to let ‘it’ go . . . I read the book the five love languages and it completely opened my eyes to the psychology of why its totally possible for one to remain with their ‘abuser’ or person who is really manipulating the way our soul needs to be loved . . .
How has all of this affected me? I’m cautious . . . standoffish . . . protective . . . but no longer silent. I think that I’m more likely to not trust men . . . and keenly aware that anything is always possible . . . I’m probably more afraid of commitment than I would have been . . . I think . . . though this is obviously hard to say . . . and I use to cry after sex . . . it was hard even when I liked the person and wanted to be with them . . .
Now . . . today . . . this minute . . . this second . . . I love myself . . . I really really do love myself . . . and I’ve realized I had to learn to love me fully . . . every fault . . . flaw . . . perfection . . . thought . . . ability . . . I’m a work in progress . . . but everyday I love me even more . . . and I think the man that finally does capture my trust . . . heart . . . mind . . . body and soul will get the very best of me . . . and yes prayer really does work.”
After last week’s post, I received a Facebook message from a young lady I had in my class during my brief stint as a middle school teacher. Now a high school junior, she had an experience recently that brought me to tears: “I just wanted to tell you how much I admire you and how grateful I am that you wrote your piece of love sex after sexual abuse. I myself have been sexually abused. It happened in June with a 19 year old boy that had been my boyfriend for 2 weeks. Unfortunately that’s the way I lost my virginity. I was saving it for my wedding day, you know white dresses and all. I go to counseling and everything now but its been rough. Thanks for just having the guts to write about the thing everyone’s embarrassed to talk about.”
I made a point to let her know that everything she wants from romance and boys, from puppy love to a white dress wedding, is still possible. We, the survivors, must make a conscious choice to keep living and loving, despite the pain, and despite how hard it may be. We didn’t ask for this path, but it’s what we have. Nevertheless, the world is full of love and romance and good sex and tender moments and everything you see in the movies and we are no less worthy of those beautiful places than anyone else.