Sunday, January 18, 2009

Fear: A Reason for Silence

Fear is not only a common feeling of sexual abuse victims and survivors, it also one of many reasons why they remain silent about what happened to them.

The Fear of Being Blamed

While an abuse victim would not want to be blamed for the catastrophic events that take place between them and their abuser, many of them internally blame themselves. It is already detrimental to the victim that they could or did not stop the abuse from occurring. In addition, allow outsiders to make them feel responsible? No way.

When I was sexually abused by a pastor, I fear being blamed for several reasons. First, I was a teenager. To me, the word “teenager” already signifies many thoughts in the average person’s mind: bad attitude, unruly, always up to something, possibly promiscuous, etc. Second, I was already held responsible for many other incidents that occurred. For example, if the house was not cleaned when my mother came home from work, I was blamed because I was the oldest, I should have known better and I should have cleaned it. Finally, I wanted so badly to be accepted and fit in. It was bad enough I was teased by my peers about my sore eyesight appearance of buck teeth and baggy, hand-me-down clothing. While I knew that the pastor’s abuse was wrong, I felt that at least someone accepted me for who I was.

The Fear of Someone Knowing

The fear of someone finding out about disheartening events that a person could be a part of is always feared. This does not only apply to sexual abuse victims, who can have feelings of not wanting to get their family members in trouble or do not want to be a part of long, drawn out court case, but also survivors, who want to appear to the world as “normal”.

My initial reason for not telling about the abuse while it was occurring was that I did not want my mother to be hurt. The pastor was her cousin, and possibly her lover, whom she cared a great deal for. He would drive to almost three hours to see just a few days out of the week, every week of the two years of my abuse. After divorcing my father and surviving domestic violence, why would I want to be reason for her continued unhappiness? I made up my mind, keeping my mother in mind, that the occurrences would remain what the pastor called them: secrets. I finally told my father what happened two years after I left my mother’s home. When she found out, she did not keep me in mind, as she took the pastor’s side.

As a survivor and after telling my father and the authorities, I remained silent. I just did not want people to look at me say, “Look at her, she was abused and her mother did not believe her.” While I wanted so badly to appear normal, I was internally suffering from thoughts of depression and suicide and anxiety. I finally began attending and become a member of small, country church. The person that I ended up telling, after hurting for so long, was a minister, who claimed he could see my pain.

The Fear of Rejection

Every person experiences rejection. However, most sexual abuse victims do not handle rejection well. If they did, they would have someone they could tell about what was happening to them. Those who are abused by a family member could experience the rejection of other family members; those abused by a teacher could be rejected by people in the community; those abused by clergy could be rejected by members of a congregation. Why risk that?

As I stated earlier, I was rejected by most of my peers and felt rejected by my mother. I was not willing to risk further rejection by bringing down a pastor that many communities saw as a man of God. In such a fragile frame of mind, I was under the impression that if I told, my face would be plastered all over the media. Not only would others know, like friends at school, but I also envisioned him having a wide-range of supporters, while the only person I could think of to support me would be my father and grandmother.

The Fear of Denial

No victim wants to be caught in a situation where if they decide to tell, the abuser denies everything.

While I contemplated over and over various scenarios of what would happen if I told, two of the strongest scenarios came to my mind. First, the pedophile tells the truth and goes to jail. Second, the pedophile denies everything. Who was going to believe the teen that the mother had already previously referred to as a “lying bitch” over a man who can be seen in public praying for the table at a restaurant?

My dream came true. The pedophile denied that it happened. The authorities claimed it was too late to gather evidence. He continued with his life as a pastor. I tried to pick up the pieces and continue my own life, but I just keep thinking that now, everyone knows…

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