Part of the trauma of being sexually assaulted can be the painful shock of not being believed, i.e., not having your experience validated. To discover that some people will side with your abuser in bringing your credibility under scrutiny—not necessarily siding against you, but certainly not in support of you—can cause deep, abiding wounding and anger that delays healing. I was told in a workshop that a renowned author demonstrated her feelings of invalidation by stating that it feels as if someone has run you over with an 18-wheeler, reversed it, run you over again, then pulled over satisfied that you have no chance of survival. It’s an open and shut case of assault, but the onlookers run to the driver’s side to see if he is okay while you lie in the street bleeding to death.
As the victim of abuse, you’re stunned that the horrible stories that you’d heard about others’ has now become your story. “Me! This can’t be happening to me,” you think. To be stripped of your anonymity without your consent is a rape within itself. It is a violation of your right to privacy. Once your story is out with the rest, your story becomes your identity—in the minds of the masses—but that’s not who you are!
I can attest that it can take years to re-identify yourself with yourself, lest known to the world! Once upon a time, able to merely chill with humanity, you then become suspicious of every human being that your encounter. You are no longer free within your unalienable rights. You are, instead, captured within the bondage of public scrutiny.
When assaulted as a child, the added deterrent to the healing process is the lack of skills conducive to fighting for one’s own life. Sure, the survival instinct is innate in all human beings, but the skills and knowledge needed to articulate a child’s needs—the wisdom to effectively defend one’s life and reputation—is nonexistent. Having to separate the physicality of an assault from the emotionalism in the aftermath, while fighting for justification—as a child—is none less than daunting, depressing, and defeating. Moreover, maintaining self-validation is a struggle that has been confused by the assault itself.
This, I believe, is why children who harbor the rage of sexual assault and its aftermath, far into adulthood, do so blaming their parents for not protecting them. After all, someone must be to blame for the seething anger within. Furthermore, when there are siblings involved, they may also blame their parents for being negligent, in behalf of the assaulted sibling. The web can become so tangled that it causes gross dysfunction within the entire family.
Doctors, mental health professionals, educators, Christian counselors, and all other interested parties must keep in mind that the general definition of a child is not applicable here. Age and physicality can identify some responses, but many of these falsely accused victims will carry anger and bitterness into adulthood with the lingering, wounded-child behaviors that accompany being falsely accused and invalidated. The child within must be healed. The anger that erupts from a wounded adult-child can spew forth as hot lava because of not being believed by those without empathy, and by those who are cruelly self-serving in their intentions.
I write not only for public awareness, but more importantly here, to the assaulted. You are not alone in your suffering. Your efforts to heal your inner wounds will facilitate the feelings of accomplishment that you desire. Your new identity, both in private and in public, will be what you desire it to be. Your destiny was not authored by your abusers. Your destiny was authored by God. If you are harboring anger towards God or a parent, remember this, God did not do this to you, nor did your parent (barring incest or physical abuse at a parent’s hands).
Please forgive and let go. You can be freed to be free! Those who don’t care won’t care. Forgive their ruthlessness. You are free to be humane in the face of inhumanity. No travesty of life will go unpunished. There is an inescapable judgment day to come. You are equipped with the truth. Refuse today to live your life offended. Be grateful that you are not that twisted.
Herein lies your identity, you are authentically validated and affirmed in your Creator! God knows what happened to you and he believes you, so live your life affirmed. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is your unalienable right, in Christ, the vindicator of your life.
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future'” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV).
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