After my letter to my younger self, I had an outpouring amount of messages from victims of child abuse. It was sad and yet beautiful. Sad because it shouldn’t happen, ever. Beautiful because people were opening up and I believe that’s where we start to heal. One woman after over a decade made a statement and that is something that isn’t easy to do. This story that I’m about to share is probably the most important thing I’ll ever publish, which I know is a bold statement to make (as who knows what the future holds), but for obvious reasons, child abuse is close to my heart.
However, what this girl went through I can’t imagine how someone got through that. Yet she did. I’ve got to know this person a little bit and she is one of the kindest, most inspiring, beautiful and incredible women I know. I want to thank her for her bravery and for sharing her story with you to raise awareness. For obvious reasons, she wishes to remain anonymous, but I just want her to know that she is wonderful in every way imaginable. I want to say to her that, I care about what happened. It shouldn’t of and it matters. You matter. You are love and light. You’re a warrior and I’m so thankful for your bravery in sharing your truth. You are stronger than you’ll ever know.
This Is Her Story:
We had an odd relationship, me and my brother, right from the very beginning. My mum recalls the first time he ever laid eyes on me; he snarled at the fact I was a girl, dressed pretty in pink, cooing from my crib. From that moment on, I suffered constant bullying and abuse from my brother who was a good few years older than me.
Everybody else saw it was normal family behaviour, as did I back then. Although the fact he got on so well with my other siblings is something that baffles me to this day. I always asked myself ‘what was wrong with me?’
As a baby, he wanted not a lot to do with me. It was only as I grew older that it started with trivial things like teasing, occasional name-calling and excluding me from the games he and my other siblings were playing. My parents didn’t see it as anything other than sibling rivalry. When my younger siblings were born, he was entirely different and that’s something I picked up on. I was always eager to please him, I just wanted to be liked the same way my siblings were.
One of the things I struggle with the most is the fact I can’t recall when it first started.
I don’t really remember a lot, just lots of moments.
What I remember the most was the way he used to wait until my parents were downstairs, preoccupied or had gone out, where he used a crude hand gesture to signal me to follow him. The thought makes my skin crawl.
I remember the dread I felt when I faced being alone with him. I would avoid his gaze but he would catch my attention some other way. I recall the times I said I didn’t want to. He was even more horrible to me than ever before. He would hit me as I walked past, throw things at me, embarrass me and encourage my other siblings to follow his lead.
As a result, I was co-operative. Often.
I grew up thinking this was completely normal. I don’t recall a specific moment where it struck me what he was doing to me was wrong, but I knew it wasn’t something to be shared with anybody.
His abusive behaviour continued throughout my early years, slowing in frequency leading to my teenage years. There was quite a long gap where, I had begun to realise that as I got older and refused to co-operate, there was nothing he could do to me anymore and he did eventually take some notice. He found himself a girlfriend and there was a length of time where he didn’t harass me at all. This was the happiest period of my childhood in which I can recall with a degree of clarity. For the first time, I felt like I had a relatively ‘normal’ existence.
I did everything young teenagers did and I got my first boyfriend at the age of 14.
By then it had sunk into quite a large degree, what happened to me was wrong. I didn’t have any understanding of how or why it would impact my future relationships as well as my general wellbeing.
At the age of 15, for the first time in a long time, I was approached by my brother who made his last advance. He commented on how my body had changed.
I told him ‘No. I don’t want to ever again.’ The words came out easier than I had imagined. He walked away. I was pleased I finally had the strength to stand up to him, still I kicked myself for not having the understanding or bravery to do it sooner. He left me alone after that, like nothing had ever happened.
After 2 years together, the relationship with my first ‘love’ ended, unexpectedly to me. I took it hard. All those feelings of not being good enough, not being liked, fearing I was worthless came flooding back.
I found myself in a few rebound situations. I began to lose all respect for my body. Some may have thought it was body confidence, simply I just didn’t care. I didn’t care who I slept with or who I hurt in the process. I drank alcohol too often in a bid to hush the constant noise in my head. I resented my body enormously. I controlled my food intake and told myself it was all because I was fat, despite only weighing 7 ½ stone. I made myself sick and punished my body physically when feeling particularly low.
I fled one abusive relationship to another. My life was just a mess, but I didn’t let it show. I continued an inward spiral of self-destruction.
At the age of 19, I fell pregnant and thus turned my life around. I suddenly had someone else to think about besides myself. For the first time, I had everything to look forward to. However, the volatile relationship between me and the father didn’t improve. I bravely left the flat of which we shared not long after the birth of my second child at the tender age of 21 and sought refuge elsewhere.
Throughout my struggles during the time after my first child was born, there was one person who stood by me. He supported me through my very best and my very worst. I pushed him away in the worst ways imaginable and still, there he was. He made me believe I had worth, that I deserved so much better and that I had the strength inside me to break free and start a new life with him.
I made the decision to confide in him, I had never before told a soul. It was late one night and we laid there together in the dark. I told him there was something he needed to know, it took so long for the words to leave my lips. Very briefly, I told him I was abused as a child. Only after we officially became a couple did I tell him who by.
The thought of him knowing terrified me. How he would react, knowing he was still around, knowing that he’s stood next to him, spoken to him, laughed with him? Would it change everything between us? Would he speak up for me despite me saying I didn’t want anyone to know? Would he believe me? Would he think it was my fault? Would he think I was as disgusting as I felt when saying it out loud?
Instead, he understood, always patient, always listening and never pushed to know more than what I was willing to say.
I often feel as though I am weak or cowardly for not wanting to take action against my abuser, but I feel I am taking this all in a direction and at a pace that I feel comfortable with.
I often wonder if he knows how much damage he has caused me. Does it ever haunt him? Did he ever notice how uncomfortable I looked in his company? Did anyone else notice anything untoward but feel too uneasy to say anything?
Does he live in fear that one day, I may just feel brave enough to tell the world what I’ve been through?
To this day, I suffer from anxiety and depression and I fear I will always struggle with low self-esteem. Counselling was too painfully awkward and I never went back after the first session. I am working hard to build myself up with the support of my partner and the love I have for our family keeps me going when times are hard. I strive to progress in my work that I enjoy whilst juggling a busy family life.
To look at me, no one would suspect an ounce of the trauma I have experienced. Not even my closest family and friends have any idea. It’s like living a double life with an inner thought process too taboo to speak about.
“Sexual abuse between siblings remains one of the last taboos to be addressed by society – and as such, it is rarely discussed in the media, or even among survivors themselves. It comes as a shock to many people that children can present a risk to other children, but it is becoming increasingly apparent that children (even children within families) can post a very real risk. Obviously, with this silence surrounding it, it is perfectly understandable why, if you are a survivor of sibling sexual abuse, you may believe you are the only one this has happened to. It’s not!
It is estimated that approximately 15% of all people report some kind of sexual activity with a sibling in childhood. More specifically, studies have shown that between 2% (Leder, 1991) and 4% (Finkelhor, 1999) of people have been sexually victimized by a sibling as the sexual contact involved some degree of forced or coercive activity.”
This is the first time I have ever spoken out about the abuse I suffered as a child at the hands of a family member and felt inspired to reach out after reading a similar blog written by Kirsty herself. Although I wish to remain anonymous, this is a huge step in the recovery process I continue to make and I want to thank Kirsty for providing me with a voice to be heard and a platform on which to be seen. If just one silent survivor of childhood abuse who can resonate with my story, feels a little less alone in the world, then I will be proud of my courage to speak out.
It Did Do Harm – An open Letter to Grandparents & Those With Adult Children
(Blog post on generational trauma)