Why I Am Choosing to Forgive Myself as a Childhood Sexual Abuse Survivor
Editor’s Note: If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.
To my 6-year-old self,
First of all, I need you to know how proud I am of you that you survived. I have been angry with you for 19 years, but that stops today. You were only 6 years old, you did not know what rape was, never mind how to stop it. When I really think about everything you had to do to survive, I am nothing but proud that you fought so I could have the life I do today. Although the flashbacks and the memories have made me suicidal as an adult, I am alive and that is because of you.
I have finally come to realize how hard I fought at 6 years old just to survive. Did I run out of the room screaming and tell someone I was being raped? No, I did not. Did I continue to be raped for the next six years until I was 12 years old? Yes, I did. These are two things I used to blame myself for, holding onto this incredible guilt, leading me to hate my childhood self. I blamed my elementary school self for not saying anything.
I am writing this today because I have come to forgive myself and I am starting to be compassionate towards my childhood self. I am sharing my story because I have come to realize I did not survive childhood sexual abuse to not say anything. I did not survive to not share my story. I want to break the silence about childhood sexual abuse and hopefully offer support to those healing. Most of all, I did not survive to hate myself — that is why I have decided to love myself. That does not mean I love myself right now (I wish it was that easy), but it does mean that I have began to forgive myself and I am finally working toward loving myself instead of hating everything about me.
If you were abused as a child, I think it is so important for you to forgive yourself. You need to look at yourself from a child’s perspective. No matter how old you were, you were not old enough to process what was going on, never mind “stop” it. The truth is, there is nothing you could have done differently to stop it or prevent it. You did nothing wrong before, during or after you were raped. However you acted before the rape, however you reacted during the rape and however you coped with this trauma is OK. None of your actions led to your rape. The only thing that led to your rape is at the fault of the perpetrator.
You did everything you could to survive and you should be proud of yourself. You are here today to live a meaningful life, you are not here today to criticize yourself for something that was out of your control. For anyone who survived childhood sexual abuse, no matter where you are in the healing process, I want you to know I am proud of you. You survived just like I did. I know how much it takes to keep fighting when living seems impossible some days, but you are here and I could not be more grateful you have decided to stay. Although I do not know you, that does not mean you are alone. You’re not fighting this alone — I am here with you and so are millions of other survivors.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.
If you or a loved one is affected by sexual abuse or assault and need help, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.
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Thinkstock photo via IgorKraper