Scar, - noun
- a mark left on the skin; a lasting effect of grief, fear, or other emotion left on a person's character by - a traumatic experience.
Most people think that scars are what they can see. What they can touch. People don’t realize that there are many scars you can’t see. Scars of memories. Scars of abuse. Not every scar can be seen with the naked eye. Those are the most painful scars because people have a hard time believing they are even there.
I’ve never openly spoken about my silent scars. The scars no one can see. I can count on one hand the number of people who know about them. It’s not easy to talk about scars that are so deep their invisible to the outside world. They're invisible to the people who love you most, yet their present every day for the person who carries them, much like the deep scars I carry on my back. My silent scars are just as deep and just as present. The only difference is I alone can see them.
A sudden silent attack
Scars like the ones I'm about to share are tricky. They have a funny way of sneaking up on you. You don’t get a say whether the horrible memory those scars keep will pop into your mind. That’s why silent scars are the worst kind. They are the kind that takes jumping over hurdles to conquer. They are the kind of scars that you feel you need to somehow explain for them to make sense to those who can't see them. I am here to tell you unless you have experienced sexual abuse, you will not be able to fully understand how those who have, react and handle them. I don't even fully understand some of my behavior and reactions to my trauma.
Abuse affects everyone differently. For those who have never experienced it please be thankful. You can tell who the people are that have never experienced abuse. They are the ones that can’t understand why someone would hold in a scar-like sexual abuse for so long and then “decide” to bring it up years after the fact. I envy those people. I envy their ignorance. Their ignorance means they never have had to bear one of the worst invisible scars you could ever have. Their ignorance is truly bliss.
What we bury remains alive
People who have been abused don't get a choice. They don’t get a say when the memories of their abuse creep into their consciousness. You live with those memories or should I say, nightmares, for life. They are buried in the darkest depth of your soul, yet those memories can rise quickly and fiercely to the forefront of your mind. They could be triggered by a smell, a sound, what someone around you is wearing, or what someone says. A simple look can unearth a horrible memory that you tried so hard to keep from defining you.
Everyone’s story is different so I can only speak to my own. I won't get into the details of my abuse because I have no desire to fully relive it. What I will tell you is that I encountered sexual abuse twice. Once when I was in grade school and once shortly after I graduated high school. It took me a very long time to realize none of what I experienced was my fault. Sounds crazy right? Thinking that you are at fault in some way. It is crazy. But that is where your mind goes, or at least where mine went. I kept trying to come up with a reason for why those things happened to me. It was as if giving the abuse a logical reason for happening would have helped me cope better. But it didn't. And there was no logical reason for my abuse.
When control is taken from you
When you are abused, the control you were used to having over the decisions you make, was stolen from you. I chose for years to bury it. I chose to survive and control my secret scars, which allowed me to take back the control that was taken from me more than once. The issue with burying sexual trauma is that it will come up later. Why is abuse as far as 18 years in my past coming to fruition in my marriage? Do you think I want it to? Do you think I want to be having these conversations with my husband? For me, I choose to do my best and not let my encounters with sexual abuse define me. That doesn’t mean I don’t carry those scars & memories every day. That doesn’t mean they don’t cause issues in my marriage because my husband doesn’t finally understand.
People who have never experienced abuse can’t understand why all of a sudden someone might bring abuse up. They must be lying right? They just need attention. Why would someone come out with abuse years later? As a victim, let me be the first to tell you, WE DON'T KNOW! That lack of control I was telling you about earlier? Welcome back. We do not have control over when our scars decide to resurface. We don't have full control over what aspects of the abuse we remember versus what we don't. The very nature of sexual abuse is the loss of control, or rather the fact that it is stolen from you. What people don't realize is that lack of control doesn't just relate to the physical aspect of abuse. Your lack of control over your emotions and how you process trauma was stolen from you.
Do people lie? Do people falsely accuse? Absolutely. I know that without a doubt. And that is a horrible thing to do to someone. But why is it that because people can’t understand the "why", that automatically makes the victims story questionable or somehow less authentic? Before you automatically question the authenticity of someone’s abuse, educate yourself on how people deal with trauma. Victims live with the memory of their abuse for the rest of their lives. It’s a scar that never fully heals. A scar that no matter how much you try to cover up, will always exist. It’s a part of that person.
We don't want you to understand
As victims, we don’t want you to be able to understand our ordeal. To be able to fully understand, you would have had to be in our shoes. In the room where all control was taken from us. In the situation where we thought we knew the person we were looking at but they instead turned out to be someone, we couldn’t recognize. I would never wish it on anyone. Not even my worst enemy.
I want women like me to know that if they suffered abuse it was not their fault. I want them to know there are far too many people out there that know our struggle. To all the mothers who are raising boys, myself included; raise them to respect women and to cherish them as something special, not just something they can have their way with when it suits them. Raise them to care for women and love them for more than just their bodies. Teach them that women serve a much bigger purpose in the world than being a pretty face or having a sexy body. But most importantly raise them to understand that NO MEANS NO!
*If you or someone you know is looking for resources and help to deal with sexual assault please visit The National Sexual Violence Resource Center