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.