Amazing to think the world is free to know I am a CSEC survivor the very moment I press the “publish” button for this post. This day is a long-time coming. I have been sorting out my history for the better part of 15 years. I always knew my biological family was locked in intergenerational cycles of violence, addiction, mental illness and poverty: I was determined to get away from them at a very young age. But fully acknowledging the sexual exploitation took a lot more time. See, my exploiter was a member of my immediate family who said he “loved” me. I have come to understand child sexual abuse is often shrouded in lies of “love,” and my case was no exception. Decades have been needed to understand I wasn’t a “special little girl.” No, I was violated.
I still keep my anonymity as much as possible because my exploiter is still alive. I haven’t had contact with him for almost 20 years. He told me to “never call again” while hanging up on me when confronted him about the abuse. And I haven’t. I no longer fear for my safety because I am surrounded by not only an amazing family (including a few members of both my family of origin and the family I have made for myself in these 20 years) but because of you. The more I speak out about my history of not only CSEC, but also of child sexual and physical abuse, the more I am convinced I am only one member of a fierce tribe of people who have survived the unthinkable.
Whenever I speak at conferences, trainings, campus events and lectures, I am constantly humbled by the sheer number of people who disclose their histories of abuse with me. And increasingly, more men than women share with me. I am so touched and honored when men entrust their stories with me because this world has taught me they are only allowed to show anger and vulnerability is a sure way to be obliterated. I do not take this responsibility of listening and bearing witness to their truths lightly. Of course, I am also honored when women disclose to me; however, my experience is men take much more of a risk in speaking up and out.
And so, with that inspiration, I am also ready to take the risk of “coming out” as a CSEC and child abuse survivor. Only by blowing open the socially- and self-imposed isolation that comes with shame, humiliation and uncertainty of being believed and/or condemned will we finally be free.
Thank you for reading this post. I look forward to continuing my journey alongside of you all.