I’m glad I was abused as a child.
I realize a statement like that may seem shocking to some. Honestly, it’s even shocking to me!
If someone had told me that someday I would be thankful for the loss of my childhood—my innocence—as a result of years of sexual abuse, it would have been unimaginable and maybe even insulting, as if they were minimizing my pain. While I have always tried to avoid a “victim” mentality, I also kind of held onto that title like a child holds tightly to the string of a balloon.
Letting go of that string, watching it silently and quickly float away into thin air, would have felt devastating.
“Victim” isn’t a label that I wanted, but it was all that I had ever known. Since I was barely seven years old, it had been a part of my identity. To me, trying to change that felt as impossible as trying to permanently change the eye color I was born with. I could barely remember a time in my life that it wasn’t there.
“Victim,” in big, bold letters. It was an accessory that matched everything I owned.
I was a victim of sexual abuse that continued for years.
I was a victim of neglect. I was a victim of betrayal. As an adult, I was a victim of emotionally abusive relationships. I was a victim of rape, and I was a victim of severe domestic physical violence. I was a victim of adultery.
I was a victim of _____.
I was a victim of _____.
I was a victim of _____.
Feel free to fill in the blanks with just about anything, really!
And then something changed in my life.
After barely escaping a former relationship alive, I was traumatized and terrified of, well, everything. I made a conscious decision to take a specified amount of time to do nothing but focus on myself and my healing. Two years, to be exact.
In the beginning, I expected that I would cozy up with my good friend, “victim,” and spend some time being upset at everyone who had hurt me in this life and I did—rightfully so. Those things did happen, after all. It’s okay to acknowledge and embrace the painful realities in our lives! Pretending that they didn’t happen doesn’t lead to healing, it only leads to a life of denial, which is just as destructive as a life lived as a victim.
It’s amazing what can happen when someone takes time to be free of unnecessary distractions and just focuses on getting to know themselves.
When I removed the mask and really examined my reflection, I was astonished at what I found staring back at me. I didn’t see a scared, broken, abused and battered little girl. What I saw was a strong and capable woman. A woman who had been through the deepest, darkest valleys and fought on the bloody battlefields of life and came out a warrior. A survivor! A woman who had beaten many odds and resisted becoming a statistic. A woman who still believed in silver linings, true love, loyalty and happy endings. Someone who, despite holding on to that string for so long, still found the beauty in everything ugly and the lesson in everything painful.
Someone who was worthy of love, respect and happiness even though my abusers had tried to convince me otherwise.
I realized that the word “victim” is like a coin: it has two sides. When I flipped it over, I discovered that “survivor” was on the other side of that coin. But in this coin toss, it’s not left to chance—in this coin toss, I got to choose which side it landed on. I couldn’t and can’t change anything that has happened to me, but I can certainly choose what I do with it and where I end up.
I started to look at everything I’d been through and visualize them as coins. Good side/bad side. In doing so, I ended up being thankful and damn proud of the “money” in my pocket! And now, when I dump out my coin purse to examine the contents from time to time, this is what I find:
I lacked feeling loved, which taught me to love fiercely.
I lacked trust in people, which made me seek and find people who are trustworthy. It has also made me trustworthy.
I felt insecure and afraid at home, which has made me always strive to create an environment for my daughter and others to feel safe and comfortable.
There was a lack of peace in my childhood home, which has made me seek, find and create harmony for myself and others.
I felt misunderstood and alone, which has shown me the importance of trying to be understanding of others, their opinions and their beliefs.
I felt a severe lack of loyalty, which has created an immeasurable degree of loyalty in me, to those I care for.
I felt deep betrayal, which taught me to always be as honest as humanly possible, even when it hurts.
I was surrounded by selfishness, which has shown me the importance of being selfless.
I’ve learned how to be objective, even in emotionally raw situations. I have learned to be fair. To listen. To seek the rainbow even in the worst of storms. I learned how to stay strong in a crisis. I learned how to be “good,” simply by seeing what “bad” was. I learned how to work hard. I learned how to be self sufficient. I learned how to fight. I learned how to survive.
Even though I promised myself that I would abstain from any and all relationships as I worked my way through that two years, I fell in love. I fell in love with my daughter. I fell in love with life. I fell in love with me.
I am glad that I was abused. Everything terrible and painful that I’ve ever experienced has made me who I am and I’ve become pretty damn good at being me. Because I was abused, I received the gift of seeing the world through two pairs of eyes and, to me, life is all about perspective!
There’s a song that says, “love the one you’re with”—I prefer to sing it as, “Love the life you live.”
Author: Trena R. Seymour
Image: Lauren Treece/Flickr
Editor: Catherine Monkman