How Can I Help?
I thought I would never tell anyone. That was my plan. It was my secret, my shame. I never allowed myself to get too close to anyone else or put myself in any position where I was not in total control. I was afraid of what I might say if I wasn’t careful. By the age of 45, I had pretty much convinced myself that it had never really happened in the first place. The problem with trauma like this is that ignoring it or not talking about it, does not make it go away.
In 2013 I found myself in the middle of a messy divorce. My ex-husband was mean and manipulative and I needed help in dealing with him. I needed advice and guidance. I decided to start therapy. Everything was fine for the first two to three sessions. We talked only about my current situation. Then I slipped. In passing, I made a reference to what had happened in my youth. I didn’t realize I had said it, and most people would have missed it. But I had chosen a really good therapist. She heard it and wouldn’t let it go. She thwarted all of my attempts to change the subject. She wouldn’t let me take it back. She said it was obvious to her that there was something I needed to talk about. She said she would listen to anything I had to say. She said I could trust her. No one else had ever said those words to me.
I was scared. I was really scared. I thought that if I started talking and sharing with her everything that I had done, everything that had been done to me, she would see how dirty I was. She would see my shame. I sent her an email that said only “if I say it, it will be real.” She replied, “It already is.”
Admitting what had happened to me was the hardest thing I have ever done. It has taken years, yes years, to get the story out. Every single time a new detail comes up I freeze. I panic and start to worry that my therapist will leave me. I find myself waiting for the day she will hurt me. I hold back, I resist, and she patiently waits for me to feel safe.
In the beginning, I struggled to make sense of it all. I quickly learned that it’s impossible. You can’t make sense out of something that makes no sense. I felt lost. I was flailing. I felt like the world was turning all around me and I couldn’t find a place where I belonged.
Then one day I went to hear a speaker. There were hundreds of people there but I am sure he was speaking just to me. He said that if you have been through something hard, you have an obligation to help the next person through it. That resonated with me. After consulting with my therapist, I decided that I needed to start telling my story. I began by writing. I would submit poetry and anonymous blog posts about my abuse. After a while, I started speaking. That has been so powerful. I was afraid that people might judge me or avoid me. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Every time I speak, my phone blows up. For days and weeks afterward, I get texts, phone calls and messages from other victims who were wanting to become survivors.
It is hard. Every time I stand in front of a room full of people I question myself. I question my motives. In the end, I know that I do it because it is the only way I can make sense of what happened. Abusers get away with what they do because they know that people are too afraid to talk about sexual abuse. They count on the fact that no one will listen, no one will believe.
It’s time to prove them wrong. If you have a story, I will listen. I will believe. I will help.
This blog was written by Shifra. Shifra, thank you for sharing your story with us and being so willing to be a voice for others and help them live happy and full lives.