Processing the trauma from familial child sexual abuse is a very daunting process. Childhood sexual abuse crosses all boundaries, robs their victims of their basic human rights, and disrupts the victim’s normal growth and development. Young victims take on the responsibility of their abuse and experience guilt, shame, and self-blame as a result of it. These feelings are carried with them long after the abuse has ended. In my case I was abused for ten years by my best friend’s father. He was seen as the ideal citizen by everyone, but what people didn’t see was he was the ideal child molester. He was the classic example of who and what a familial pedophile was. He was not the “Stranger Danger” image that children are taught to be on the lookout for. My abuser was the most dangerous kind of pedophile; he was someone I loved. I go into the details about this type of child sexual abuse, the behavior of a familial pedophile, and the manipulation involved in these cases in my memoir But I Am Here.
Today I want to talk about healing from familial child sexual abuse and processing the experiences. My abuse started when I was thirteen years old. I didn’t start my healing from those years until almost thirty years later. Even though so much time had passed I still didn’t have a lot of internal resources to help me to process my experiences. Through the years I had learned a lot of incorrect coping mechanisms and important survival skills that allowed me to survive, but nothing to start my healing process. My healing didn’t begin until I was at a place where I could trust in myself, and more importantly, trust in someone else. Trusting someone with your story of abuse is a huge hurdle to overcome when you have been sexually abused as a child. I was fortunate enough to find that person. He became my co-pilot in my journey of healing.
My co-pilot was a friend, a co-worker, and a doctor, but he was not a therapist. He eventually convinced me to speak with one and he found one for me. He was a friend that listened and offered support. He was a man I believed in, a man that radiated peace, compassion, and empathy. He stuck with me and didn’t judge me. The more you talk about your abuse the easier it is to process. He asked questions and I answered what I could. He never pressured me into answering anything. He did pressure me into taking care of myself. He believed in me more than I believed in myself. He kept me focused on myself and my family. At this point I was about to enter my twenty-fifth wedding anniversary year. I had three beautifully grown children and an extended family. He confirmed my belief that they needed to be my priority.
My co-pilot passed away recently. It was years in the making, but he had gotten me to where I needed to be before his illness struck. He is and always will be my savior. He got me to a place where I could gain control of my life. He chose the right profession and life for himself. He was a doctor that truly loved his family, his work, and his patients. He was visibly outraged when we spoke about the events that happened to me as a child. He never shut me down; he encouraged me to talk even if it was hard to listen. His dedication to my healing inspired me to do whatever I, we, needed to do to figure out what was best for my healing. Every little step I made he would point out that my “world didn’t come crashing down.” It was what I needed to see and hear. We finally got to a place where I was able to reveal my secret to others. My co-pilot was so proud of me. I was so proud of myself. I chose to use my past to help educate others in order to protect children. Children can’t be expected to protect themselves from these evil pedophiles.
Every victim of child sexual abuse needs a co-pilot. There is strength in numbers. Being a victim of sexual abuse is a very lonely place. Nobody wants to be in this category; unfortunately this is a very large group. Knowing you have at least one person on your side is very comforting and empowering. Please be a victim’s co-pilot in their healing journey. What I would do to have my co-pilot back again for one more hug, and to hear him say, “Let’s dig him up and kill him.”
Wife, mother, mother-in-law, grandmother, survivor
Pamela uses writing as a therapy, but also uses it as a tool to educate society and inspire other victims of sexual abuse. Helping victims feel less stigmatized has become Pamela’s mission. Pamela’s writings appear in the anthology The Anatomy of Silence, The Scribe Magazine and her own memoir But I Am Here.