#BreakTheSilence: Overcoming My Brother's Sexual Abuse
A note from Pamela [Co-Editor]:
GirlSense & NonSense's current social media campaign is dedicated to breaking the silence of sexual assault and abuse. So I asked my own mother to share her story.
She bravely and courageously submitted the following letter:
My number one goal in life was to make sure that my kids grew up in a loving, happy home and that their childhood would be everything mine wasn't. I grew up being scared and afraid of an older brother who sexually abused me. He would tell me "not to say a a word to my parents because they would be so mad at me and send me away so that I would never see them again." I was five-years-old when it first started.
As time passed and the abuse continued, I slowly became numb. I have very little happy memories of my childhood. I wish I could just forget everything, but it's a part of me and I've slowly learned to accept that fact.
I can remember when I was eight or nine-years-old, my brother getting into serious trouble for stealing and drugs. He was sent away and I was so relieved and happy to see him go. Part of me felt guilty for thinking that way but I didn't have to be so afraid while he was gone. He was constantly in and out of trouble so by the time I was a teenager he was out of the house.
Things began to get better; I felt happier and little less scared. But because I couldn't tell my secret to my parents, I was constantly looking for love elsewhere. To be clear: I've never blamed my parents for any of this. I just felt like I couldn't connect with them for fear of them finding out what my brother did to me.
When I was fourteen-years-old, I met the man I would go on to marry one year later. By age fifteen, I was pregnant with my first child. So my "looking for love" didn't exactly turn out as I had planned. My parents and my husband's parents were very upset and hurt. We got married a couple of months after sharing our news. During this time, my husband was the only one who knew what happened to me as a child. I buried that whole part of my life deep within myself.
I had three children and with every child I had postpartum depression that gradually grew worse and worse with each child. I never got counseling or took medication, until after my third child was born. I was in a terribly dark place. All of my memories were resurfacing. I had no control of my thoughts or feelings anymore. I thought about killing myself more times than I could count. I came close one night and if my sister-in-law wasn't there, I might have actually succeeded. Even after seeing my doctor and being put on medication, I still couldn't admit the root of my depression. There were many times that I thought I would rather be dead than deal with my problems. I could never do it though because I loved my husband and kids far too much to leave them. I wanted so badly to just feel normal again and to be a good mother and wife.
Over the course of five years, I was in and out the hospital and tried many different anti-depressants. After about six months of counseling, my doctor thought it was time to talk to my parents and tell them the truth about my childhood. I struggled so hard with telling them. In the end, I wrote a letter. My dad came over that same day. It was really hard to see him react and he was very angry and upset. My mom couldn't talk to me for several days. I understood how hard it must have been to learn that their daughter was abused by their son. When my mom was finally able to talk to me, she was angry that I didn't tell her when it first happened. I told her about his threats and how the fear paralyzed me. I've always wanted my parents to understand that I have never blamed them for what happened to me. I'm so sorry for what they have had to endure.
I confronted my brother in a letter as well but got no response. My parents asked him about it point blank and he got really angry and denied it all.
I struggle with this every day. I'm still in counseling. My life hasn't been easy but I'm so proud of what I've accomplished over the years. I have a lot of guilt for not speaking up and telling someone about my brother's crimes because he did abuse other people. Maybe if I had said something, I could have saved other victims. This is something that I have to let go of but it's a slow process.
I really feel like I can finally say to my brother, "I forgive you. You stole my childhood and many years of my adulthood, but I forgive you. I will no longer be your victim. You and only you will have to bear the burden of knowing what you did to me and others." And maybe one day I will get an apology, although I'm not counting on it.
I'm so very grateful for husband, who has been supportive and loving for over 25 years. I know it wasn't easy. I also never would have made it through any of this without my faith in God. It has taken a lot of soul searching and praying to be where I am today.
And to the girl reading this who shares in my pain and has endured or continues to endure sexual abuse: don't be afraid to speak up. Your silence gives them power. It is never your fault and you have nothing to be ashamed of. You've been strong enough to survive the abuse and you're strong enough to stand tall and tell your story. The abuse stops with your words. With love and support, you can heal but you have to start by helping yourself. Your life and your happiness is worth it. So worth it.
For a list of national resources available to sexual assault survivors, click here.
Help us #BreakTheSilence by sharing your story. Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org.