“people aren’t ready to hear this” … but they need to
Guest post by Amber Whiteley
I’ve been a victim of sexual abuse three times.
Once, when I was sexually molested by a family member. I was seven.
Second, when I told my parents about it, and they asked me “why didn’t you stop it?” I was eight.
Third, when I wrote an article about it for my high school newspaper, and my teacher chose to not only not publish it, but publicly shame me and kick me out of her class. I was sixteen.
Then again, I suppose you can say that the victim shaming and abuse never really ends, because as long as we’re continuing to teach our victims are any less than wonderful and perfect, we are failing.
I won’t give many details about when I was molested. It was what it was. I was young and confused, and I didn’t run away because I didn’t even know what sex was at that point. Many others don’t run away because the natural reaction for many is to hide, or shut down. You just don’t know what your personal instinct to do in that situation will be until it happens to you, and I pray that it doesn’t happen to any of you.
However, we’re constantly taught that the victim does have a choice, and that if they don’t run away, it means something is wrong with them, or that they actually wanted it. Just google “steubenville rape,” and you’ll see what I mean. Or read this heartbreaking story about a woman who was raped by her boyfriend, and college administrators refused to do anything about it because they believed she had “coerced” him. More recently, Elizabeth Smart came out and said that she didn’t run away from her captors because she felt like an old piece of chewing gum. I know what she means.
So, of course my parents asked me “why didn’t you stop it?” I don’t even blame them, they had been taught what we’re all constantly taught: if a woman is raped, it’s her fault. And so I continued living my childhood thinking that I was an impure, broken person, and that because I hadn’t stopped it, it was my fault.
When I was sixteen, I decided to go to counseling. It was extremely beneficial. My psychologist explained to me about how I hadn’t allowed this to happen, that there was no question about it – I had been raped. I began healing, and for the first time in all of my childhood, I felt empowered. I wanted to speak out against this in any way. So I wrote an article for my school newspaper, of which I was the business manager. Every year, the graduating seniors write an article about something that has influence and changed them. The year before, a good friend wrote about her struggle with depression and suicide. I knew that my article had the power for good, to reach out to other sexual assault victims and let them know that they are not alone, they are perfect the way they are.
However, my teacher did what many continue to do: she told me that my community wasn’t ready to hear what I had to say. Then she kicked me out of her class, and even tried to suspend me for posting my article on my personal Facebook page. I wanted to fight back, to fight for myself, but I felt vulnerable and scared and alone. I felt like surely there was something wrong with me, if no one wanted to hear what I had to say. I slipped into depression and stopped going to school. I allowed myself to be vulnerable, and ended up being embarrassed and ostracized.
Well, if I could see that high school teacher again, this is what I would say: “You are wrong. As long as this is continuing to happen, this needs to be talked about. Just because you want to ignore something that happens every day to our friends, neighbors, and family, doesn’t mean that the problem will go away.”
I have healed now. I am healing now. Now, finally, here is the article that I wrote. I still read it with tears in my eyes, but I am glad that it is finally being shared with others.
If you are a victim of sexual abuse, you will want to blame yourself for what happened. Please, don’t allow yourself to. Know that you are an amazing, incredible person, and your value is immeasurable. It always has been, and it always will be. Nothing, and I mean nothing will ever change that.
By Amber Choruby, 4/1/2008
It ruined me.
They did the one thing that could ruin a person, a child in the most imaginable way. Affecting me physically, emotionally, and psychologically. I never fully recovered.
According to RAINN, the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, every one out of 6 American women will be sexually assaulted at some point in their life, and nearly half of those raped are under the age of 18.
I was seven when my own cousin molested me. My parents were both busy with work that summer and hired my cousin to babysit me for three nights & keep me company. At night, my cousin practiced making out on me, and other unmentionable things.
72% of those raped are raped by someone they know and trust.
My cousin made me swear not to tell anyone, but after a year, the guilt finally ate me up. I told my parents what had happened. They were in shock, and didn’t know how to deal with what had happened, so they asked me why I hadn’t stopped them. I couldn’t tell them.
Of the minors who are raped, 40% will be from the ages 4-7.
From then on out, I never talked about it again. I thought that because I hadn’t stopped my cousin from molesting me that I was some kind of freak who deserved it. I believed it was my fault.
But I got older. And I pushed it away again. And I always was angry at my parents. Never wanting to let them in. Never wanting to tell them too much about my life. I was the girl who drowned her emotions, and that was fine with me. If boys never found me attractive, it wouldn’t matter. I was already more experienced than all of them, anyway.
I got so good at pushing the memory away that I hadn’t remembered the event for years. Until my Junior year, when boys started kissing me. And while most people get to see fireworks during their first kiss, I saw flashbacks of my cousin.
But don’t pity me. Because 90% of all women who are raped will be raped before their college graduation, it’s likely that we all walk to halls with other sexual assault victims. If you have been assaulted, please don’t push it away. Confront this problem. Don’t keep it away, subconsciously letting it affect you. Confront it. Deal with it. If you feel comfortable enough, talk about it.
Rape has become a forbidden topic. It’s a sensitive issue, and it’s one that students have come to believe exists only in textbooks. I’m here to tell you that rape is real, and it exists in our community. However, it’s not something that should be shunned. Sexual abuse shouldn’t be the topic that no one feels comfortable talking about.
Confronting this issue has empowered me. I won’t allow myself to be the victim anymore. While what happened to me ten years ago was something that I didn’t have any control over, now that I’m older, I do have some control. I’m a survivor, and I refuse to let this affect my life anymore. If you ever find yourself in the same situation, please, help yourself. While it may not seem like it now, your friends and family can help you, or if you’re not comfortable talking to them, come talk to me! Just don’t hide it anymore. Give yourself the power to overcome this terrible obstacle. In the end, you’ll be stronger than ever before.
While I’m still dealing with my past, I’m close to resolving it. What happened to me is something that I will never forget, but I look forward to the day when it will no longer affect my future. Then I’ll be able to stand strong, as a survivor.
44 Responses to ““people aren’t ready to hear this” … but they need to”
Amber – thank you for owning this terrible experience and writing about it! I think that as a society we really do not know how often sexual abuse happens and so we can pretend that it doesn’t happen or that it only happens to other people, bad girls, whatever. I recently learned that one in three Utah women has experienced sexual assault, far higher than the national average. I live in Utah and have learned that I need to be more sensitive to this issue, to understand that many women I know have experienced these awful things, not just a small minority.
This is amazingly brave and wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing this.
Thank you for sharing and being so brave.
Amber, I am a survivor too. Thanks for sharing your story. I think it is so valuable when those of us who can speak up and speak out. As long as sexual abuse is a secret it will continue. Only by shining a light on it can we begin to stop it. Your sharing makes you my heroine of the day!
People are ready to hear it. Thank you for sharing this. For using your name, your experience, your face. Until we begin talking openly, freely about sexual assault, current victims will continue to feel there is no safe place in the larger world for the painful truths of their lives to be seen, heard and embraced by strong, loving adults. Secrecy breads success for perpetrators of these crimes.
Imagine a world where childhood sexual assault was being addressed in the ways childhood bullying is addressed now. . . that world is being created right now. Right here. I love the woman you are. I love the child who you were. God bless you. God bless us, every one.
Thanks for your story and your bravery, Amber.
Thank you for your courage, bravery, and power.
As a victim of sexual abuse (as a 4 year old child), I understand whole-heartedly where you are coming from. With my experience I was not only molested but kidnapped and missing for hours. For years, I had suppressed most of the memories and honestly thought it was just a bad dream. One that I constantly dreamt about. It was just swept under the rug by my family and never spoken of again. It wasn’t until I was 11 and retold this “recurring bad dream” to my Aunt that I found out what really happened to me. There were many details I didn’t remember, like having to go to the hospital to be examined. It shocked me to know that it had really happened. And years later when I got married, it all came flooding back to me. You can imagine how horrifying my wedding night was. I had an intense panic attack and thought I was going to die; I just couldn’t breathe. This is something that NEEDS to be to talked about. To anyone who may be reading this post and my comment. If you have a child that has been sexually abused talk to them about it. Go with them to counseling. Don’t just ignore it and hope they won’t remember. They will. Maybe not for years but they will and it will be detrimental. It’s taken a four years of marriage to feel like I am approaching normal when it comes to my sexuality. It’s a sad reality to have to talk to our children about sexual abuse whether they have experienced it or not, but I think it’s crucial. I was barely 4 when it happened to me. I have started to talk to my 3 year old about it because you just never know. I hope she never has to experience it and by being able to recognize or understand something as inappropriate she can fight back by telling the no or even scratching and biting as I’ve instructed her to do. (Don’t worry, she is not an aggressive person and has never scratched or bit anyone) Thank you for sharing this. It is a brave thing to talk about, but sooo necessary!
Oh, jessahavican. Hugs I had a similar experience on my wedding night, too. It’s now what you expect or hope your wedding night will be like. I’m sorry. I wish no one had to experience that.
I had a similar experience when I got married. I think it’s important to share our stories, as survivors, because it helps remove the “freak” title from other survivors. Not being alone is a comforting thing! 🙂 Godspeed in your healing!
What a great thing you’ve done in writing and sharing this, taking an atrocity that happened to you and turning it to an effort to help others. Also, what a great picture. You were an adorable little kid! I don’t mean that to lighten the seriousness of your post. I guess it just underscores the awfulness of any sexual assault, but especially to kids. Where was it that I just read…someone said we should condition our children to abhor rape as much as cannibalism.
I have heard that statistic many times (about the ratio of women who will be sexually assaulted) and sadly believe it. I do wonder sometimes how many of the people in my hallways have been victimized like that. I’d also like to see this topic be one that we speak about and acknowledge openly in our community. My mission president told me once, “We can deal with just about anything, so long as it’s the truth.” We can’t properly address this problem as a community as long as we do not acknowledge the truth about it–it’s pervasiveness, it’s disregard for children, and the bad ways we treat victims.
I wish that I could shake your hand and tell you how much it means to have someone stand up for all the “unheard voices.” It is scary to face things we suppress. You were a brave child, brave at 16, and you are brave now. I have no doubt that you will continue to use your voice.
Amber, this is so powerful. I am so glad it is finally being published. And I hope it makes it’s way back to the audience you originally intended it for.
You are awesome and I love you. I want to give high school Amber a hug because she was so so brave, articulate, thoughtful, powerful, and *right.*
Amber, you are so strong for writing and wanting to publish this when you were sixteen. I wish someone had had the courage to do something like that when I was in high school.
I know how it feels. I was sexually molested by my stepfather, as far back as I can remember him. I tried to tell my mother when I was ten. She told me I was lying and did I want to give my grandmother a heart attack, telling people things like that. I didn’t mention it again til my step father died. I remember walking through the halls of my school, desperate to feel like I belong, and yet feeling the whole time, like I had this deep dark secret that if even my mother couldn’t handle, how would my peers, who weren’t required to care about me, react. I couldn’t let them know.
It wasn’t until my own daughter was eight that I first began to forgive myself for what happened. Until then I really felt responsible, but now I understand that no child that age is capable of handling that situation.
The second thing that truly helped me was coming to understand that the Lord’s atonement was not only for sinners but also for healing victims. That was a great comfort to me and I feel that I have healed from what happened.
Thank you for being willing to post this. More people need to be open like this.
As a therapist and a teacher of human sexuality and psychology of gender at a local university, this was a great thing to read. Whenever I can correct people regarding the stigma of rape or sexual abuse victims I can and do consciously tell them that there should never be any blame placed on the victim. Thank you for the experience.
All more the reason to give women the priesthood. These voices will never be respected by Patriarchal Enablers!
April 4,1992 – Apostle Richard G. Scott tells General Conference that LDS women should avoid “morbid probing into details of past acts, long buried and mercifully forgotten,” and that “the Lord may prompt a victim to recognize a degree of responsibility for abuse.”
Among his concluding remarks: “Remember, false accusation is also a sin,” and ‘bury the past.” Unspoken background to his remarks is that in recent years current stake presidents and temple workers have been accused of child abuse by their now adult children. Salt Lake Tribune reports that suicide prevention lines are swamped with telephone calls by women in days after Scott’s remarks.
I remember that conference talk well. It was horrific. And just plain wrong.
Elder Scott spoke on a very personal and difficult subject. When dealing with such topics it is important to understand that the counsel given won’t necessarily apply to all who hear it. We need to listen with the Spirit to help us discern what counsel is meant to help us, and what is meant to help others.
But when Conference talks are given, they are supposed to be universal truths.
You are brave, wonderful, and never alone! I’m a survivor, and so is my daughter. The world needs to hear these stories!
Well done, Amber. You are so brave.
I was 18.
I’ve never been raped, but I was in a sexually abusive relationship as a teenager, but reading this article still helps even though it’s not quite the same. Two of my very good friends growing up were raped by their family members. One of which is still forced to be around her attacker occasionally because her family made her out to be the bad guy. They’ve even let him hold her baby daughter when she wasn’t around even when she specifically told them not to. The fact she had to tell them that is awful. The fact that they didn’t even listen when she did absolutely sickens me. It makes me angrier than it makes her, which makes me even sadder for her. It seems she’s been taught for so long that she should just get over it. I’ve heard her being told that so many times by so many people. But as kids, we couldn’t do anything, so we just tried to ignore it.
Thank you for being brave and strong and persistent. It needed to be said so badly. And even if some people are still too scared to speak up, I hope you know your words still helped them in some way. I hope someday the world changes. And when it does, it’ll be because of wonderful, strong women like you.
I am terribly sorry for the pain you have endured. You are certainly not responsible or culpable for the terrible acts committed by someone against you. I am proud that you are out trying to make a difference in others lives. It is a noble and commendable thing you are doing.
For those who made reference to Elder Scott’s talk here is the link to the entire message. You can read for yourself and decide his message and its authenticity.
In reading for myself this complete sentence stood out. (It helped that is was in italics.)
“I solemnly testify that when another’s acts of violence, perversion, or incest hurt you terribly, against your will, you are not responsible and you must not feel guilty.”
His concluding remarks are of hope and trust in the love and healing power of our Savior Jesus Christ.
Amber keep up the great work. You are truly an inspiration to the countless people who have suffered abuse in all of its ugly forms. Thank you.
Thank you so much for being a voice, Awareness is the key. As soon as I read your article I rushed to my daughters ages 10 and 8 to remind them that this is a REAL problem. I went over precautions with them. I don’t want to scare them But, I want them to trust me and know that if anything did come up. I would be right by their side working through it with them.
You are an amazing individual. I feel your strength.I pray that you will continue to heal. I know your experience has touched many lives. Thank you for having the courage to be a voice and move forward with your life. Please remember you are a daughter of God!
Oh, Sara. I’m so glad. Ideally, we could live in a world where we wouldn’t even have to discuss this with our daughters, but unfortunately, we do.
My daughter is only one, but I imagine that when she turns seven, I will be on pins and needles. We have to remember that no matter how much preparation is given, it’s still not the victim’s fault.
We need to teach not to rape more than we prevent how to prepare for rape.
[…] this week’s theme of reblogging OPS (Other People’s Stuff). Today, I am featuring the story of Amber (Found at Young Mormon Feminists), who was sexually abused as a child, then continually […]
You are brave. Your story shines a light in a dark place. Reposted
amazing. you are so brave. thank you so much for sharing this.
[…] “people aren’t ready to hear this” … but they need to (youngmormonfeminists.org) […]
[…] “People aren’t ready to hear this” … but they need to: 5,142 views […]
[…] and read other profiles. (GO SUBMIT YOUR PROFILE NOW OR ELSE LEPRECHAUNS WILL EAT YOUR TOES) 3. I also wrote this post a little while ago for YMF where I shared my story about how I was sexually abused as a […]
I was a high school teacher for 8 years and I can’t imagine how your teacher could respond in such a mean way. I am glad you have your voice and can speak your truth now.
I’m so glad you are sharing these experiences. People do need to know. I see girls at the school where I work expressing all sorts of anger. I wonder how many of them have been abused and made to feel like trash. It affects so many of their choices for their future. If they could read your story and know that it’s not their fault and that the rest of their lives is still in their hands, their lives can be so much better. Thank you for sharing.
[…] -confronting the naked facts of male immodesty, one kneecap at a time -my resignation letter -“gender flame war”s, byu memes, and the f word (feminism!)-the gay law of chastity -“people aren’t ready to hear this” … but they need to […]
Everything is very open with a really clear clarification of the challenges.
It was really informative. Your website is extremely helpful.
Many thanks for sharing!
[…] been concerned with are issues that I am concerned with. I am Kate Kelly; I am John Dehlin. I have guest posted with youngmormonfeminists.org several times; I am Hannah Wheelwright. Will there come a day when I will face excommunication for […]
Hi, thank you for sharing. I started a blog about being molested when I realized that my little girl was molested. Ugh. It is EVERYWHERE and we just don’t talk about it at all! Ridiculous! Here’s my blog: cordeliashappilyeverafter.blogspot.com
Hello colleagues, how is everything, and what you desire to
say regarding this post, in my view its actually remarkable for me.
[…] say it again, a thousand times: my story matters, and so does yours. Tinesha, Hannah, Grace, Dani, Amber, Dinah and many others have written beautifully here about their own experiences, and I applaud […]