Three Little Words

Believe

In the blogging world, there are many fantastic writers who are recovering from abusive childhoods.  I enjoy reading what other survivors have to say about the affects of abuse.  It is a virtual support group.  Surprisingly, I can read articles about sexual violence and be mostly unaffected.  I don’t usually get angry because I lived that life, so I have already experienced the anger.  And almost nothing shocks me.  I have experienced too much to be shocked.  With that said, my friend at Behind the Mask of Abuse wrote three little words in her recent post that affected me more than I expected.

She listed some helpful statements when responding to a survivor, and one of those statements was “I believe you”.  To most people, this might not seem significant.  Most people may think that goes without saying.  Most people may assume that someone is going to believe them.  Not me.  I have always believed the opposite.

I have always been a talker.  I am an extrovert by nature.  In my family, that made me a problem child.  They couldn’t get me to shut up.  I was threatened with my life and physically assaulted many times because I was exposing the family secret.

My experience with unsupportive responses started with the women in my family.  The most common response from my mother and grandmother was, “Don’t make things up because that’s not nice.”  During one conversation with my grandmother, she explained that, “Men have urges and it is our job as women to meet those urges.”  There are so many things wrong with that statement, but there is one point that stands out for me.  I was not a woman.  I was a child.

I also tried to stand up to my grandfather and my father.  My grandfather was more passive.  He would say that he had no choice but to abuse me.  He would also threaten not to love me anymore.  My father would beat the living daylights out of me.  He broke my finger and hit me in the head countless times.  I remember going to the hospital with a concussion on more than one occasion.  I am not sure how he talked his way out of trouble at the hospital, but I am sure he made up a good story.  He was good at getting out of messes.  While child rape may be somewhat invisible, physical assault is not.  And he did both.

I also told several outsiders about my abuse.  I am not sure if they believed me initially, but they certainly were questioning the possibility.  I am not sure why they didn’t go to the police.  It is possible that my parents just told them I was the crazy one.  I am aware of several instances in which my father threatened them.  He loved power, and he was able to end careers and out secrets in some truly manipulative ways.

I came to realize early in my life that I was not believable.  I would not be taken seriously.  And when I started to reveal my past a few years ago, the initial responses were not positive.  I was still relating to people with my old energy patterns, and our discussions were not providing the healing I was hoping for.  They would respond with disbelief that my abusers would be capable of such a thing.  They would ask if I was sure.  They would encourage me to keep it quiet for the sake of my family.  I almost shut down again, but I intuitively knew that wasn’t the answer.  I knew there were people in the world that were ready to hear my story.  I just had to keep trying.

I continued to work with my belief systems about the support (or lack of support) that I was expecting from others.  As I started to have more faith in myself, the people in my life started to have more faith in me.  I started to interact with individuals who were ready to hear what I had to say.  I started to get messages from people who were grateful that I was willing to tell my story.  I have to admit, I was a little surprised at first.  Now I realize this is how humanity should respond.

I am still getting my voice back.  I work at it every day.  I still notice my self-censoring at times.  There is still fear about telling some aspects of my story.  But I am changing and shifting.  And so are the people in my life.  Soon, the words, “I believe you” won’t sound shocking.  They won’t bring chills.  Of course, they will always be special.  I will always be grateful to have support.  Because I know what it feels like to have none.

So, the next time a sexual violence survivor opens up to you about their experience, tell them you believe them.  It may not seem important to you, but to them, it means the world.

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17 thoughts on “Three Little Words

  1. I am so proud of you. It takes guts and courage to do what is right in the negative world. Don’t ever shut up. Use that mouth as you did when you were a child and speak. Help heal yourself and others

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  2. Your childhood and the words spoken by your mother, grandmother, etc. I have lived and heard but keep talking because while their words hurt you, your words in sharing your story are helping thousands of others. For all the bad, God is making good TEN FOLD through the strength he’s placed within you. Keep talking – I’ll keep listening!

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  3. what. please forgive the assumption but i always just thought that as a child you weren’t able to bring yourself to find the words to describe the abuse…this gives me chills and makes me so angry that you were brave enough and had such a will to try to get help for yourself and you were then totally emotionally manipulated and abused further. being able to articulate that terror to others as a child is more than evidence of your amazing will, soul, spirit, whatever word means the most to you…i am so glad you haven’t shut down completely. i am so grateful that you have found so much strength and love and truth and beauty in your life…it’s taken a lot less to drive people to end their own lives. this world, its sufferers, its victims, we need you to keep telling your story. we believe you, and our lives are changed by your truth even if we can’t being to comprehend how horribly you suffered. i am completely in tears after reading this. i can’t imagine the layers of betrayal from the initial abuse to the covering up to everything you had to deal with.

    my respect and admiration for you grows every time i read your writing.

    i am so terribly sorry for your countless losses and the unimaginable abuse. i wish i could hug you, or better yet go back in time and just hold that poor little girl. the fact you’ve stopped the cycle and are raising your own kids in a beyond healthy, loving, so incredibly healing environment…well i hope it makes up for what you endured just a little bit. you are an amazing woman to know, and i am honored to call you a friend.

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    • Thank you so much. My children and our healthy family environment makes up for my childhood ten fold. As a child, I always dreamed about a healthy family, and we are that.

      I do believe that most children speak up to someone. It is absolutely critical that the person they choose responds in a healthy manner. Otherwise, they will be stuck in a horrible cycle of abuse and uncertainty. That is why I write. I want everyone to know it is happening and it must be stopped.

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  4. I stumbled across your blog, and I am so glad I did. Everyone’s experiences are different of course but your strength and courage are a fine example to all those who have gone through a similar ‘lost childhood’ experience. Thank you for sharing.

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  5. Wow, I stumbled across your blog today and I am so glad! First I read the one about anger…that is where I am. I actually copied and pasted a fee paragraphs onto my note ap to read and remind myself. I’m “waiting” for the apology from my mom…and living in anger because its been over a year since we spoke. When I decided to break my silence she wrote me off. And it beings me to tears every day. (I blog too…but it’s been a while) it started out as something that was beauty from ashes and now I feel too angry. I’m working with my therapist…but can’t picture not being angry.

    http://place2bloom.blogspot.com/

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    • …and I clicked submit before saying this…lol
      Those three words “I believe you” were what prompted me to break my silence and face my childhood trauma. I emailed my step mom and just filled her in on life…and the next thing I knew I told her about my mothers husband and she replied with “to what extent was the abuse and do you want to press charges?” And my life was forever changed because I heard “I believe you”. From there I finally told my therapist (of 8 years) about the abuse and I did file chares. But it passed the statute of limitations. And I got angry and wouldn’t back down from my mothers excuses for her husbands actions and she disowned me. Here I am, one year later.

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      • Hi Brandi, Thanks for finding me. You are on the right path. It is just a slow and winding path. I know you can’t imagine getting past the pain you are feeling about your family, but I can say that mine has dissipated substantially over the years. It is still there, but the impact is much less.

        Your stepmother gave you such a gift. It is so powerful to be believed, and even more so when it is family.

        Stick with the recovery work. I will check out your blog.

        Elisabeth

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  6. Pingback: It Must Be My Fault | Beating Trauma

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