I cannot continue to pretend it never happened.

I’m 41 years old, and for 32 years I convinced myself that the abuse never really happened. I convinced myself it did not affect me. I refused to let it run my life or ruin it. Instead, I armored up and buried any feelings of hurt deep, never allowing them to come out. I have always said, “I refuse to be unhappy and will keep it that way, whatever it takes.”

For the first 10 years after the abuse had finally stopped, no one knew about what I had been through. I was 7 when it started and my abuser, who was a family member, warned that if I told anyone, I wouldn’t be believed and that he would hurt me and my little brother. The abuse stopped two years later when my abuser left our family home. I kept the abuse to myself for the next 10 years because his words always resonated in my head: “No one will ever believe you.” I had to continue interacting with him as if nothing happened, so I figured there was no point in saying anything.

I married my high school sweetheart at a very young age and had intimacy issues that prompted me to tell my husband about the abuse. He was the first person I ever told, which later led to telling a family friend and, ultimately, my mother. Even after I disclosed to them, I continued to tell myself I was fine; I didn’t need to see a therapist or talk about it. I thought that if I could go all this time pretending it never happened, I could continue to do so and it would be okay.

The walls and defenses I had built started to disintegrate when my abuser passed away and memories of the abuse returned to the forefront of my mind. I could not easily bury it as I had been doing for so long. One day I agreed to welcome his family into my home since they did not know of the abuse. I figured since they were innocent in all of this, there was no reason to reject them. I never thought that having contact with them would affect me negatively, so I added some of them on social media and continued to occasionally have contact with them. But that just added to the disintegration of my hidden feelings. I had more and more thoughts and feelings about the abuse.

In 2019, I became a first-time grandmother. My daughter had a beautiful baby girl. She is the light of each day. Within six months of her birth, her parents separated, and she is now growing up with separated parents. I fear this makes her even more vulnerable to sexual abuse from any new stepfamily that may come into her life. That thought broke my heart, and it became the ultimate trigger to the full disintegration of the wall I had built to protect my heart and emotions from my own abuse. The thought of my innocent and defenseless baby granddaughter going through anything like what happened to me broke me in ways I had no control over.

I now realize I do need to grieve and heal. I cannot continue to pretend I do not. I still want to come out in front of this and be a better person despite it. I will grieve and heal. I will not be ashamed anymore. I will share my story and I will try to be a voice for all those women out there that feel they cannot grieve or heal.

It is not about justice because I believe God will take care of that. It’s about peace of mind. I have survived child sexual abuse and will help others do the same. It is not easy to admit we suffered, but we cannot continue to ignore our pain and grief. We are strong enough to heal.

–Veronica, Survivor

Your gift can support survivors and help them Reclaim Hope.

Have your own story to share? Submit it to Faces of Survivors.

Interested in attending The Haven Retreat?