I got the sweetest texts from my nieces this week. It’s been a tough week. The Kavanaugh hearings have been hard. As a survivor of sexual abuse (yes I said survivor, not victim) I definitely struggle with the questions, interrogation and doubt that overshadow a woman when she tries to come forward and explain what happened to her.
I didn’t tell until 13 years after I was first abused. I put more than 2500 miles between me and my abuser before I told. I didn’t have the opportunity to press charges. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. It doesn’t lessen the impact of what happened to me. And it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t get a voice.
It is impossibly hard for anyone who hasn’t been through it to really understand the trauma it causes to stand up and speak up for yourself. Anyone who has actually been through abuse would never make a false accusation. When coming forward to tell what happened, the woman is often made to feel as if she is the one who has done something wrong in the reporting, rather than the abuser in the heinous act itself.
My abuser has never admitted to what happened.
My abuser has never apologized to me, or the others he abused.
My abuser has never served a day in jail.
But does that mean it didn’t happen?
Does that mean I don’t deserve justice?
Does that make it right?
It’s easy for the people who know me to look at me and say it doesn’t make any of that right. They can feel heartbroken and sad for me, but what about all of the other women who have been through this, and continue to go through this.
What about them? What about their stories? When do survivors get the benefit of the doubt first? When do we get support and love first? When do we get our voices heard, acknowledged and championed instead of doubted, questioned and dismissed? When do the tides begin to turn and people stand up with us instead of standing up against us?
Luckily for me I have some amazing people in my life who have stood up with me. And who continue to stand up with me. I have also had the opportunity to stand up with people who have come forward and told what has happened to them. I have been able to understand, empathize, and support other survivors.
Throughout these hearings I have received simple texts from people stating that they are thinking of me. Texts from people acknowledging how hard this must be for me, and all survivors, to have this brought up again. Texts from people asking my opinion on the subject because I have personal experience and they want to talk about it. Texts that have made me laugh, cry, smile, think, reason, share, and remind me how much I am loved.
Hopefully every survivor of abuse out there has the same kind of amazing support system that I have built – but I know that isn’t the case, yet.
For all of you out there who don’t have that, I stand up with you. I stand up for you. I believe you. I know the fear, the anguish, and the horrors of telling. But I also know the freedom, the power and the release that comes from no longer holding it in.
I hope that someday everyone who experiences abuse will have the courage to stand up and know they are supported. Even better, I pray that someday no one will need to stand up because we value human life enough to value each other not to perpetrate such heinous acts against each other.
But until that day comes, I want every survivor to know: You are not alone. I stand with you, along with way too many other survivors. We stand together.