The power of embarrassment.

Think about your most embarrassing moment. It’s often when you were a kid , and your biggest concern was avoiding embarrassment at all cost. Or it could be at 30 years old like me, when I went a little heavy handed on the laxatives after surgery and pooped my bed! Everybody has a story, or a few, and the interesting thing about your most embarrassing moments are, they are only told to those you trust the most. It’s almost a seal of approval on new friendships or relationships. These stories are not a first date conversation or a getting to know you topic. They are reserved for those who have earned your trust.

One of the biggest silencers for me on my sexual assault  was embarrassment. It’s strange how much power things that embarrass can have over you. You often hear victims stay silent because of shame or fear but I never  heard much about staying silent because of embarrassment, and for me that was probably my biggest reason.

The other interesting thing about embarrassment is, that once you have healed from that situation it has zero power over you. Those moments that once left you paralyzed, now become your story, and  biggest weapon to help others, and create stronger bonds.  I am so very thankful for those safe people through out my life that I was able to share my moments  with, free from  judgment.

 For those who are struggling with embarrassment from abuse, none of the embarrassment falls on you, that belongs ONLY to the abuser.  I pray for  safe people in your  life, and freedom in your healing. 

When abuse is in the family.

I can remember the exact day I realized that I was an incest victim, I was in 8th grade at the movies with a group of friends, it was part of the plot in the movie. My heart sank, I felt exposed and if you could die of embarrassment and shame, I would have dropped dead in my seat. I felt shattered in that moment and none of my friends had a single clue any of that was going on inside of me. Because my abuser was my biological father the layers and family dynamics have and still are so complicated. As I’m writing this as a 39 year old, my father is still trying to convince people that I am a liar, and made all this up, and that he is the actual victim. If you are a victim of incest, you are not alone, it’s not your fault and you didn’t deserve it. I understand the many more layers this adds to your healing and the never ending family drama this can cause when you refuse to be silent about it. You are not responsible for any of the mess this may bring to your family, ALL of the resposibilty belongs to the abuser.

Here is what I would have told my 8th grade self now.

You get through it. You are not alone, you are not the only one who has been through incest. None of the shame or embarrassment falls on you, all of that belongs to your dad. You don’t owe anyone, especially family, any proof or explanation for any of the the abuse you had to go through, the right and helpful ones will believe you automatically. healing comes, you are not dirty, used, unlovable or guilty for any of this. You will actually become incredibly strong and God uses you to help others who are hurting in some amazing ways. You will never get the apology you wanted so bad, but God frees you from needing that, and that is one of the best gifts you will ever receive. You become a wife and a mother and you feel so incredibly loved by Jesus. You don’t have to stay quiet just to keep the peace in the family,  and even though it’s a hard thing for people to hear, you aren’t responsible for the drama is causes, you will be believed and supported by most. This is only a part of your story, and this doesn’t define who you are, or hold you back from fufilling the purpose God has for your life.

3 helpful ways to respond to a survivors story.

This post is meant for adults who have been abused in the past. If someone is a minor or is currently being abused, they need help immediately. http://rain.org  has great resources on how to help. Their hotline is available 24/7 at 800.656.4673.

When a survivor is telling you their story, they are letting you in on a very private part of their life. It’s an incredibly vulnerable and hard thing to share. It’s also a hard thing to hear and often hard to know how to respond appropriately. I’ve recieved some hurtful responses by well-meaning people who just had a lack of understanding on this subject. Here are some of my insights on helpful responses.

1. Just listen.

Let them lead the conversation and reveal the details they are comfortable with sharing. It’s human nature to want to know all the details, but don’t ask for them. When a survivor is telling you any part of their story they are reliving a very traumatic event. The most helpful response is listening without prying.

2. Tell them you believe them.

If someone says they have been a victim, just believe them. The majority of victims truly have nothing to gain by opening up and, for most, it’s an embarrassing and shameful thing to admit. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, false reporting on sexual assault is between 2% and 10%. Every 98 seconds an American is sexually assaulted and every 11 minutes, that victim is a child. Please just believe them.

3. Ask them how you can support them.

Everyone feels supported differently and by simply asking that question, they can share how they want to be supported. A few of the ways I’ve felt most supported have been a simple “Thank you for sharing” or “How can I pray for you?” Encouraging words go along way and have made me feel heard, believed, and cared for.