Is it normal to be molested? I was forced to do sexual things as a child. I have only mentioned it to two people, both times I felt foolish for saying anything. I was left feeling like this happens to everyone; I should get over it. I tell myself that, but it still bothers me. What should I do?
First of all, thank you for reaching out! No, it is not normal to be molested – that is never supposed to happen to a child. I am so sorry that this happened to you as well as the added injury of telling two people and feeling foolish for telling at all! Unfortunately, sexual abuse is far too common even though it is not normal. So there are many people who have never healed from their own abuse. Unhealed people cannot tolerate the pain of another because they still carry their own pain and they don’t have the capacity to add someone else’s pain to their own. So they tend to minimize another’s pain, not because they don’t care, but because it brings up their own and they can’t handle that. Other people don’t know what to say so rather than listen and empathize, they try to shut the conversation down so that they will not feel uncomfortable. This is one reason why trauma survivors – and abuse is trauma – need to be careful who they open up and share with.
I can understand why this is still bothering you. To tell you to just get over it, is like telling a survivor of the Holocaust to just get over it. Elie Wiesel was a survivor of a concentration camp in Germany. He says that we cannot really understand what a trauma survivor has gone through unless we were there. But what the trauma survivor needs is a witness, someone who listens and acknowledges that the trauma happened and that it was terrible. You are not supposed to just move on without processing the trauma. When a person experiences trauma, especially a child, their brain develops and changes in response to that trauma. For example, people who have experienced childhood trauma have a greater incidence of depression and anxiety. So when a trauma survivor begins to process their experience with someone who is safe, their brain begins to change in response, to make new connections that are related to the new experience of safety and support. In fact, the brain changes the most when a person is in a place where they feel safe. And the second most powerful vehicle to make new connections in the brain is story. So finding someone who is safe, such as a therapist or a mature believer who understands trauma, who can be a witness to your story and listen with understanding and compassion is very important. It takes time to process and heal so give yourself grace. Then when you are ready, this person can help you understand and write a new story that is a story of redemption and healing. The old story is not forgotten – you lived those events and it was your history so it will be remembered. But the new story is so much bigger than the old and includes meaning and purpose.
The treatment of trauma is very different today due to the incredible research that has been done on the brain. So there are therapies that help the process go much quicker than it used to. EMDR, new interventions with CBT and DBT are all effective in the treatment of trauma. I would highly recommend that you find someone who is trained to deal with trauma and begin the process of healing. If you cannot afford a therapist who can help you through this process, then look for a group at a church in your area that deals with recovery from sexual abuse. If the group is 8 weeks and then you forgive and move on, don’t go to that group. Everyone is different and your process is not in the same time frame as someone else’s. But if the group seems safe and they understand that some people might not be ready at the end of 8 weeks to close the door, then that might be a good group for you. A good book for helping someone decide if people are safe is: Safe People by Cloud and Townsend.
The fact that you did not just give up when you told two people and it didn’t work out well, says that you are resilient. That is good news for your healing. Hang in there and keep pursuing – there is much hope!