This is my story, of being a victim of child abuse, and my journey to healing.
I can’t remember exactly when or where; all I know is that I was around 15 years old when I was suddenly struck for the first time with an image of a twenty-something guy putting his hands on me as a child.
And God knows I would love to tell you that was it; just a thought, just my savage imagination picturing ludicrous scenarios that I had seen in a movie or heard of on the radio.
But the truth is, it was a memory coming back to me from an 11-year-old girl that had completely erased an experience she was unable to process.
And to be totally honest, I could not really grasp it at 15 either. All I know is I felt guilty that I let it happen; and I felt even guiltier about the fact that it hadn’t traumatised me as much as it did those girls on TV talking about their experiences with child abuse.
What did that mean?
Did the fact that it didn’t leave me completely broken mean that it wasn’t real? That it was okay for him to touch me?
I saw him five years after the incident. He is a family friend, so it was likely that we would eventually meet again. I was 16, and he was still in his twenties.
To my dreadful surprise, I remember wanting him to see me strong, independent and pretty. I remember wanting to impress him, and make him think I was a confident and mature girl. And I hated myself for it; so much.
How could I desire to impress my abuser?
The memory filled me up with shame; and the thought of not being traumatised, the thought of this not affecting me as much as it did others, was starting to eat me up inside.
So I stopped talking about it. I never mentioned it to anyone again. And, as I had done in the past, I completely erased him from my memory.
Fast forward two years later, I moved countries and started university in London. I was a happy teen ready to take on the world; with the same passion I had always had, and a huge excitement at the prospect of finding myself.
In the first two months of university, I met countless women who spoke up about childhood trauma, with such openness and freedom. My friends, my classmates, and so many others had experienced sexual harassment in one form or another.
I remember thinking, could this be? Is this really so common?
This triggered my shadow-ridden memory; the same memory I had forced myself to bury, so it would never haunt me again. Although this time, I was ready to think about it and give it the time of day. I was ready to speak to my most trusted friends about it; and try to analyse my actions and how it had affected the woman I was.
I realised one stand-out quirk about myself that I had never stopped to think about before: I HATE when people touch me.
I can’t bear the thought of sitting next to someone and my arm touching theirs by accident, I don’t like it when friends hold my hand; and I certainly don’t like it when people kiss me hello or goodbye (I’m Spanish, it’s very common for us to do this).
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a very loving person. I love a good hug when I need it, or when someone I love needs it. But there are random times where I get extremely weirded out by physical contact, and you want to know the first thing that pops into my head when I feel that way?
Yup, you got it. Him.
This thought brought me anger. I had been complaining to myself throughout my entire teen years about not being scarred by him; and now that I finally found a related physical trauma that could help me prove that what happened wasn’t okay, I was pissed off.
Well, of course I was pissed off.
I hated him. I hated him for making me believe that I let him do that to me. And I hated him for letting me believe that I was okay, that I was never truly affected by it. Because the truth is, that is how it affected me. I made myself deny that it was wrong, and then I hated myself for it. When I saw him at 16, what I thought was “trying to impress him” was actually a huge fear of confronting him. It scared me to death, and I wanted him to think that I was okay, so that he wouldn’t try to break me again.
I simply wasn’t ready to dig so deep into my head and figure out what was wrong with me. Because, let’s be honest, 11, 15 and 16 are still too fucking young to understand and accept that you were abused as a kid.
I saw him for the last time two years ago at a wedding. He’s married, has a disgusting beard, and still acts like nothing happened. I avoided him for most of the evening, and had no need to pretend I liked him. I have no need to confront him either, because I’ve finally made peace with myself.
Now I’m 23, and I still hate people touching me. It has actually become a funny mannerism that my friends like to joke about, and I love to laugh about it too. I’ll probably see him again several times in my life; will probably mentally punch him each of those times too, but that’s okay.
I can now say with confidence that I’m a victim of child abuse, and that I have been on a path of healing. I understand me, I accept me, and I love me.