It was a few months ago when I decided to tell my teenager something I wasn’t sure I ever would: as a child, I was sexually abused by a family member. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized this has happened to so many other women and I have strong feelings about speaking out on the subject. It came out one day while I was driving around with my son. I wasn’t expecting this conversation to happen; it wasn’t planned and as soon as I told him I was afraid it would put undo hurt on him, yet I didn’t regret it.
I didn’t want him to feel sorry for me, or try to fix it; I’d done that for myself long ago. I wanted him to know I made it through a hard situation of sex abuse, a situation that could have taken me down a very different path than what I chose.
Abuse of any kind, especially sex abuse, and the breach of trust and scary feelings that comes with it, affect its victims their whole life. There were times I was able to bury it down deep, only to have it creep into my life again. Having kids was one if those experiences that made all the traumas from my childhood sprout up again. I wanted nothing more than to keep them in a bubble when they were born so they’d never, ever get hurt in that way.
And if they were, I could tell my mama bear instincts would burst out of me– mothers can take someone down with their bare hands for hurting their kids. I know I have a tendency to get overprotective and over think everything my kids do or say. My son has accused me of always thinking of the worst-case scenario regularly. Maybe I do this because of my abuse, and maybe it’s because I’m an anxious parent. Whatever the case, they are all intertwined and I don’t know how to untangle them. I am gripped with a fear that if I’m too relaxed, something will happen to them that I could have prevented.
While I don’t need to explain myself and why I am the type of mother I am to my children in a defensive manner, I want them to know me and understand what causes me to act certain ways.
That afternoon, while talking to my son a feeling came over me and I wanted to share this with him; I felt he was able to handle it. He’s been increasingly curious about my life and wonders why I’m distant from certain family members.
I also don’t need to hide unpleasant experiences, wear a mask, and tell him it wasn’t that big of a deal. I never want to send the message situations like this should be ignored or brushed under the rug to deal with later.
It’s okay for them to know I’ve suffered and had and had to climb my way back from something. I want him to see me as his mom, but more than that, I want him to see me as a human being who has had struggles, insecurities, and bumps in the road just like everyone else.
It’s hard to know what to reveal to our teenagers; our protective instincts can make us want to hide certain parts of ourselves. There have been a few times I wondered if it was the right decision to have that conversation with him, but then I realize this is just me being real, and sharing a part of my life with him. How can I expect them to do the same with me if I am withholding?
I hope with all my being my kids never have to go through anything this horrific. But I’m also hopeful that I can be a solid person and example to help them through whatever life throws at them—there are times when bad news can give you strength and empower you when you see that the person who endured has come out the other side even stronger than before.
And while this choice may not be the right one for every parent, but it has been the right one for me.