CSA Survivor Story – 17.

It happened to me. I was sexually abused when I was 5 years old until I turned 8. It was the hired help at my parents’ house and we lived abroad. I had lost my mother at the time and my stepmother was oblivious to what was happening. It was a big house and she used to be watching television or cooking and I would be with him while he ironed clothes in my room. I was a very chirpy, talkative child – an only child and I liked him; considered him to be my friend.

I don’t even remember how it started or what happened exactly. I do remember him touching my private parts and me letting him, again and again and again.  And I was so trusting, I didn’t know what was happening to me but I let it happen. When I was 8 years old just before we returned to India for good, he clicked pictures of me, nude. And I let him.

I didn’t tell anyone. It didn’t even occur to me that what was happening was wrong. Obviously, I wasn’t close to my parents, my dad was emotionally distant and my step mom was coping with her own stuff. Even as a child, I sensed all of this and I kept everything to myself.

If I had to analyze it in a single sentence as an adult – my abuser paid attention to me and made me feel important because he saw that as a way to get to me– he gauged my situation and took advantage of it.

On the surface, nobody noticed. But it affected me in other ways, ways that I understand only too well now. I changed. I became this scared and anxiety-ridden child. I refused to go to school. My folks tried everything from coaxing and cajoling me to threatening and scolding me. They didn’t suspect abuse though and I never told. There was a lot of blame and anger going around and I withdrew all the more.

I started making excuses to not socialize or go out. I started stealing. And I would only steal erasers. I stole them from kids at school and even from a store, one time. Only erasers. And it’s not like I even needed them. I’d just collect them.

I had repressed everything for several years and remembered only recently.  Up until then, I had no memories of life until 7. I couldn’t remember. I am in my 30’s now. Something triggered it off and it was like Pandora’s box had been opened. I was horrified and really angry for a long time. And I still have days when I wake up feeling broken and irreparable. Like I will never be okay.

I have self-esteem issues and feel like I am just not good enough. I am an emotional eater:  food is my drug of choice and that is an ongoing struggle. I wrestle with trust issues – it’s not easy for me to let people in. I choose men who are emotionally unavailable.

Honestly, I cannot say how much of it is solely because of the abuse and how much is the result of other life events but I can safely say that everything is connected. The abuse, it forever changed the person I could’ve been. And I grieve for that child.

How is one supposed to live with the knowledge? Take one day at a time. Acceptance is key. Yes, it was terrible but what happened wasn’t my fault; I was just a child and I didn’t know any better. Talking helped me, to an extent. Very few people who are part of my life know and telling them hasn’t been easy. But, they have been amazing and continue to love me the way they did before they knew and that has helped me immeasurably.

One of the hardest things about finding out has been learning to forgive. And after feeling for a long time that it is impossible, I finally found the grace to forgive: my abuser for doing what he did and my folks: for not finding out and rescuing me and being there for me the way I wish they would have. And my biological mother: for dying and abandoning me. That helped me begin to truly let go.

I still wake up at night in the middle of a nightmare that I am being raped. And I cannot bring myself to call anyone. I do feel isolated at such times, unable to express my feelings over and over again out of fear that I will be judged. It is something I grapple with, alone. I believe that it will get better though and with each passing day, I heal a little more.