I wish…

“Nothing fixes a thing

so intently in the memory

as the

wish to forget it”

Cat Patrick

I am not someone given to sitting around lamenting what might have been, and for a long time if someone had asked me what I wish had happened after I told about my abuse I probably would have said that it didn’t matter.

I told.  My mother believed me, my father did not.  I never had to see my grandfather again, but I lost half my family.

Mary told.  No one said they didn’t believe her, but they also didn’t help her.  Nothing changed.  She endured years more abuse.

I railed against my abuse for years, fighting the FACT of it, but for whatever reason I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking or talking about what should have happened afterward. Those things simply were what they were.

I think that started to change when Mary asked Officer Paul what would have happened if our abuse had been reported to the police back when it occurred.  I think having him say, “I would have driven down the street and arrested him,” opened something up in me.

Then, the next day, sitting across the police conference room table from the mother of another one of our grandfather’s victims, I felt overwhelming sorrow and guilt.

I know, of course, that as a traumatized little girl it was not my job to report him to the authorities- but bearing witness to that mother’s pain and knowing that it did not have to be that way?  That her daughter’s abuse could have been prevented?

Because it could have.  It should have been prevented.

For the first time, I felt rage.

That she was harmed is honestly harder for me to accept than my own abuse.

The more Mary and I reflected on it, the more determined we became to use that perspective- a perspective only survivors have- to try and change things.

A few months ago we put out the call to our community asking what they wish had happened in the wake of their abuse.

We read each email and felt the pain, the anger, the frustration, the sadness.  The loss. We decided to use their words to help parents and other adults understand what a vital role they can play in a child’s ability to heal after sexual abuse.

Many parents think the worst case scenario is their child disclosing the fact that they’ve been the victim of sexual abuse.

We disagree.

The worst case scenario is your child is abused, and they never tell you.

They carry that unbearable burden alone, they feel forsaken.  They don’t get help, so their trauma plays out again and again.  Their story remains in the hands of their abuser, being told every day in ways that are toxic and harmful.

If your child tells you, you have a chance to believe, protect, support- your only three jobs.

This project is in honor of our beloved Say It, Survivor community, so many of whom were not believed. And for the children who were believed but dismissed.  For the children who were told to shut up, and get over it.  For children who were not chosen. For the children who were not protected.  The children whose families chose comfort over compassion and reputation over responsibility.  The children whose trauma went untreated.  The children whose behavior screamed out, “I AM NOT OKAY!” only to have it fall on deaf ears.

We hear you.  We believe you.  We choose you.

Listen to these voices- voices that cried out to be heard, that cried out for justice, protection- the voices that cried out to their parents to honor the sacred contract they entered into when they brought a child into this world.

Maya Angelou says,

“When we know better, we do better.”

Listen.  LEARN.

Then do better.

We could not fit all of the responses we received, heart-wrenching glimpses into what should have been, into the video.  Read below for more wisdom from our astounding community of survivors:

****************************************************************************************************

The I Wish Project

I wish I would have told my grandmother what my step-father had done to me. I was afraid, but who could blame me since my own mother didn’t believe me?”

I wish someone had told me that when my family fell apart it wasn’t my fault. They spend a lot of time telling you the abuse wasn’t your fault but say nothing about the aftermath.”

I wish I had been stronger and had the strength to say no!”

I wish I had a home where I felt safe enough to say what he did to me.”

“I was very young, so I didn’t have the right words to describe my experience (though I tried), but I wish someone had taken the time to wonder and investigate and figure out what was going on.”

“I was abused by a youth pastor. The entire church turned against me. I wish so, so many things were there for the me back then but what I wish most of all was that I had pressed charges and sought justice.”

“My biological parents trafficked me. We attended church often and I was told I had bad thoughts and nightmares because I was naughty. I wish someone would have caught on and told me I was innocent. Then I could have undone a lot of brainwashing a lot sooner.”

I wish I was treated as though something tragic happened and not as if I was “doing” something to or causing trouble or being in the pain in the ass by speaking up and out – as though it was strange that abuse and trauma hurt me – as opposed to completely normal.”

I wish someone wrapped me in a blanket, held my hand, let me cry and said, “There there.” That first. And then worked on advocating for and protecting me. I wish this as both the teenager I was when I disclosed and even the young adult who spoke up and out and with a pretty big consequence.”

I wish ABUSE was seen as the problem not my talking about it.”

I wish someone had told me I was a good girl but no amount of being good would make it stop.”

I wish I had told when I was 7, when it first started so that the sexual abuse would have stopped then.”

I wish that when I did try to tell my parents that they would NOT have blamed me and would NOT have said that I must have asked for it & it was my own fault.”

I wish I had been noticed, seen, heard. I wish I wasn’t invisible to everyone other than my rapists, all my life.”

I wish I didn’t hurt myself for what someone else did.”

I wish someone would have noticed my pain and the pain in inflicted to try cope.”

I wish someone would have helped me, protected me, asked me how I felt.”

I wish I didn’t blame myself.”

I wish someone would have asked me if I was safe, if I was being hurt, if I was okay. I probably would have told if someone had asked me.”

I wish others wouldn’t be so shocked or weird at the sound of uttering of the words “I was sexually abused and raped” why should my abuse make me feel defective because adults or family members can’t cope or handle my abuse?”

I wish someone had told me that I wasn’t alone. I’ve been alone and had this deafening silent secret all my life.”

I wish they didn’t pretend it never happened because they are so uncomfortable.”

I wish I had felt safe in my own home, my own room and my own bed.”

I wish someone had told me no one was allowed to do the things those bad men did to me so many times.”

I wish I had been brave. I wish I was braver now. I wish I wasn’t so afraid of being rejected and hated for what someone else did to me.”

I wish my mother would have noticed how many back rubs my stepfather gave me, and I wish that she would have sensed the feeling that she was interrupting something when she walked in.”

“Most of all, I wish that every child could have someone to talk to, that they would be believed, and that the abuser would go to prison.”

“For anyone working in a school setting, I wish that someone had recognized my anxiety and depression in high school and had cared enough to ask me questions.”

I desperately, desperately wish that my mother would have chosen me and my daughter over her husband.”

 

 

24 Comments on “I wish…

  1. I wish that someone has done something to figure out why I screamed every time my Mother left me alone with my Father. And I wish that every time I say something about my rape people didn’t look so uncomfortable or look at me with pity.

    Like

  2. I want every parent, teacher, therapist, coach….any adult who spends time with children could see this. Thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for reaching out and speaking for all the breaking and healing hearts out there.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This: “For children who were not chosen. For the children who were not protected. The children whose families chose comfort over compassion and reputation over responsibility. The children whose trauma went untreated. The children whose behavior screamed out, “I AM NOT OKAY!” only to have it fall on deaf ears.”

    YES. Comfort and reputation always won out, and ears were always deaf.

    I wish …. I wish pain didn’t escape through ways that are seen as defiant or ‘weird’ or bad behavior. I wish we didn’t have to share our stories anonymously. I wish it didn’t hurt so, so much and that our actions weren’t guided by only fear and shame. I wish that it wasn’t my 5 or 6 year old self’s responsibility to turn someone in to protect other children. I wish. I wish. I wish.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I wish my mother had believed me initially. I wish she could have realized I was the victim. The pain happened to me and I needed more than ever someone I could freely talk to. I wish she had pushed into the dark corners of my head and seeen how truely lost I was in the abyss of pain. I wish I had told when it originally happened. I would have spared myself the years of furthur pain and abuse. Finally, I wish he had been convicted. My mother who testified on my behalf, I was under 18, lost on terms of lack of evidence. The judicial system failed me. They let him be free. He knew my father was guilty. When I called a few years ago about the case file they said no one could find it…..

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    • That is maddening, Isabelle. I’m glad your mother eventually believed and supported you, but I know how devastating it is to not be believed by a parent. As far as wishing you’d told earlier- you were a child. You told when you were ready- things take the time they take. We do what we need to do to survive, sweet friend. I’m so glad you’re here. You were so brave to keep telling even when you weren’t believed initially. What a warrior.

      Like

    • Oh Isabelle. I am so sorry for what you had to go through and how it continues to hurt you. To say that the judicial system ‘failed’ you is a massive understatement. You were done wrong time and time again. You’re so strong. Thank you for sharing even though it’s really hard. I’m carrying your story with you.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I wish- The DA in my daughter’s case would at least try to prosecute her abuser. Even if it’s a loss he will be put on notice that people are watching.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I wish that as well. She should see people fighting for her- luckily, she’s seen you do that by going to the authorities in the first place. Thank God for parents like you. Praying for your daughter.

      Like

  7. Hi Laura

    This post is SO powerful!

    I work at a Child Advocacy Center in Minneapolis, called CornerHouse. I became aware of your blog via your “He Wrote it Down” post — also INTENSELY powerful — that I’m sure I encountered somewhere on social media. And I’ve been receiving your posts via email ever since I first read that one a few months ago.

    For me, you’re a clarion voice reminding me why I do the work I do. With each of your posts, you give me ever-renewed commitment to my work. Thank you.

    I’m curious: do you ever speak on behalf of orgs like ours? I have found, in the year or so I’ve worked at CornerHouse, that our message and work can be very difficult to communicate to the general public. Not only do most people not “get” it, I think many people don’t WANT to get it. The idea of child abuse is just so abhorrent to so many people. I feel like first-person stories from people like you — so articulate and so willing to be vulnerable and openly share your experiences — go a long way to helping people understand why our work is so important.

    Thanks for sharing of yourself. I’m fairly certain you have no idea how much good you’re doing.

    Cecelia

    >

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cecelia-

      Thank you so much for your kind words- they mean a lot to me. And thank you SO much for the work you do. I know what you mean, it’s hard to get people to want to hear about topics like child abuse, but so crucial. It can only exist in the shadows.

      I co-founded an organization called Say It, Survivor with my cousin Mary and part of what we are doing is raising awareness. We’re partnering with other organizations for a few upcoming projects, and are always open to opportunities to raise awareness. I’m also available as an individual to speak. If you have something specific in mind please feel free to emaiol me at inotherswordsblog@gmail.com – I’d love to hear more about what you do.

      Laura

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  8. I wish that the future of my daughter’s abuser (her father) didn’t lie in the hands of 12 strangers who assumed that my daughter’s lack of emotions clearly meant she had made the story up. Because you know, if she doesn’t cry while testifying… it must not be true right? My daughter may not have cried in that courtroom… but she sure did cry herself to sleep the night she found out her father was found NOT GUILTY.

    Like

    • Oh, Jeanette- I am so, so sorry. I don’t know if you’ve followed the big case in Canada against Jian Ghomeshi, but it (along with the Cosby story, and so many others) really drove home to me that we need to educate the public about the different ways the aftermath of abuse and assault can look. I am heartbroken for your daughter. What an amazing, brave girl to have testified- you must be so proud of her. Holding you both in my heart, today.

      Like

      • Thank you.
        I agree with you in the importance of showing that hurt and pain can be expressed differently. I did not share with my daughter the reason the jury chose the verdict. I refused to make her think that she didn’t react ‘accordingly’. Or that she did something wrong in trying to be strong in front of strangers. I simply told her that she is not the 1st child who’s voice has been dismissed. And sadly, she isn’t the last. But she can turn her story around and own it and become a voice for all those other children. She is excited to be able to use this experience to help her grow and advocate for child abuse awareness.
        Again, thank you for your kind words.

        Like

  9. I wish I could tell my parents about the extent of my abuse… My mom walked in on it one time and never bothered to ask if it happened more and I couldn’t bring myself to tell her. The cousin that helped babysit me, abused me for years prior to that incident.
    Thanks – that was the first time I’ve ever said those words out loud – even though I want to shout it from every mountaintop

    Liked by 1 person

    • Megan, thank you for sharing a piece of your story with me. Did you know up to 40% of child sexual abuse is at the hands of another minor? It’s incredibly common. I’m so sorry that happened to you, and that no one thought to ask more questions that could have led to getting you the help you needed. If you are feeling compelled to tell your story, please consider submitting it to the Say It, Survivor Blog. It’s completely anonymous and some people have found it to be a good,s afe first step to ease into reclaiming their story. If you aren’t ready to do that yet, you can email it to me- I would be honored to bear witness for you.

      Like

    • Oh Megan. Can we stand on the same mountaintop and shout it out together? I feel I’m in a very similar place as you seem to be. A place where there is a desire to scream out the things that were done to me but also a place where there is a simultaneous survival need that is raw and visceral and screams to keep everything buried. It’s so hard to integrate and make any sense of…..

      And I had a mother who also knew what was going on – I don’t know how much she knew and for how long during it she knew. Several years after it had ended, when I was 17 and moving away from home, she decided to bring it up one afternoon. Sat me down on the couch and flippantly said, “Does that thing that happened with *abuser’s name* ever bother you?” Ummmmmm. “Yeah, no. I’m fine,” was my response. In utter shock. And that was the end of it for her.

      I wish our mothers would have had the capacity to do something, to protect, to fight, to see what was right there. For us Megan. For you and me. As Laura says, “The children whose trauma went untreated. The children whose behavior screamed out, “I AM NOT OKAY!” only to have it fall on deaf ears.”

      Because I think we are worth it. And we can walk this painful road out of the dark woods together. Barefoot. Holding on so so tightly.

      Liked by 1 person

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