Everyone’s processes their experience with abuse differently. There really are no two stories exactly alike. For me, forgiving my abuser wasn’t a major challenge because for years I hadn’t looked at my abuse as something someone did to me, but something I allowed to happen to myself. Subsequently, the hardest person for me to forgive was MYSELF.
Many of you are probably familiar with the term “grooming” as it relates to sexual abuse but for those of you who are not familiar Dr. Michael Welner defines it as: “… the process by which an offender draws a victim into a sexual relationship and maintains that relationship in secrecy.” My abuser groomed me by developing a trusting relationship and making the abuse seem like a game. Something about the game seemed very unnatural and at six I was faced with a dichotomy. On one hand I hated the abuse and wanted it to stop but on the other hand I loved the attention and didn’t want to lose the relationship. Being that it was obviously my first sexual experience it seemed as if my body was ‘betraying’ me and craving for the sex acts as months passed. I couldn’t understand how I could hate something so much yet want it to so bad. Once I was older and the abuse stopped at eight, I was confused about my role in the abuse.
I immediately begin to feel like something had to be wrong with me to allow someone to commit such deplorable acts on me for so long and yet still have affection for the abuser. At this point I wasn’t silent about the abuse because I was protecting him, I was silent because I was ashamed of myself and feared the judgment of others. As memories replayed in the theater of my mind, I sat condemning myself. There had to be something wrong with me to even make me a target. Deep seeds of self-hatred begin to grow and I watered them often with my own ‘self-talk’. Nothing I would dare say aloud but the things I agreed with in my mind.
It was like being in courtroom in my own mind. I was the judge, jury and prosecutor. I asked myself questions like “what is wrong with you that he would even target you?” and “Wasn’t it your fault? Maybe something you did made him think you wanted it”. I went further and questioned myself deeper asking “well if you didn’t want it why didn’t you just tell? You must have wanted it”. The final address was made, the verdict was in and I had found myself GUILTY for my own abuse. The sentence was life to be spent in the confines of self-pity, self-hatred, insecurity, self-rejection, feeling of worthlessness and inadequacy.
Later as a teenager I was raped and degraded indescribably. Once again I felt it was my fault. I didn’t for one moment blame my abuser. Once again I put myself on trial in my mind and I was found guilty of putting myself in a vulnerable position. Hadn’t I learned anything about trusting people? I must have wanted this to happen! This time I was sentenced to a life of living with the guilt of yet another violation of my body and my soul.
An anger person was birthed from these experiences. I was angry at myself and felt the need to be overprotective of my personal space. I didn’t want to ever be vulnerable again or seem weak. My personality became lost underneath a persona I had to develop to survive and protect myself. Something I had felt I had always failed to do before.
In my book you will find the details of how I came to forgive myself but just know that it was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Soon after I forgave my abuser, a task that was only easy because eat that point God had forgiven me from so much that I found it easy to extend him that same grace and forgive him. Not even just for him, but because I didn’t want any more bitterness and anger to rule my life (mind, body or spirit). I guess to say I forgave would be an understatement, because I did more than forgive him. I FREED him and when I freed him, I freed me. I also needed to free all the people I felt should have protected me and didn’t: my mother, my father who had abandoned me years ago and my family who I felt weren’t functional enough to lean on. I had to free them of my expectations, my resentment, my anger, my frustrations and my blame. The process of freeing them wasn’t overnight. It has been progressive. As time goes on, I free them more and more and simultaneously I free myself from the burden of being upset, angry and pointing the finger.
Getting past the hurdle or forgiveness and positioned me perfectly to rebuild myself and restore all the things that had been lost because of my abuse. I didn’t want to live a life bound by the chains of my past. A huge part of my life had been stolen by my abuser, but I didn’t want to spend what was left remaining in that unhealthy place. As I said many times before, being a survivor wasn’t enough. That just meant my abusers' attempts didn't destroy me mentally, physically or emotionally. I needed something more. I needed something that meant I has stood on top of all the things that once stood on top of me!. I wanted to become an OVER-COMER!