My friend is a survivor of child sexual abuse. Walking alongside them as they navigate the challenging journey of surviving their abuse has been both heart-wrenching and profoundly inspiring. I learned that healing is possible. I hope my sharing will help you be there for someone who’s gone through the same thing.
I’ve known this friend for many years now. They spent a few of their most formative years being sexually abused by a family member. It was a secret they kept because at the time, they were too young to comprehend what was happening. They kept it to themselves even when they got older, finally telling their mom over a decade after everything. They were between 6 to 8 years old when the abuse took place.
Coping with the trauma
My friend opened up to me about the abuse when we were in our later years of primary school. Looking back, it was evident that they were grappling with a whirlwind of emotions.
In fact, every year since, they’ve discovered another layer of emotion. Feelings of shame, guilt, anger, and fear that were painful to witness. My friend eventually realised that these emotions were entirely natural responses to the immense trauma they had endured as a child. With a trustworthy and reliable support system, they learned to be patient with themselves. To observe those ugly feelings and to let them pass without attachment.
I was honoured my friend trusted and loved me enough to let me stand by them. Through the years, I watched them struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and dissociation. They were afraid of going downstairs at night or to be alone in a lift with an adult man. It was a stark reminder of the psychological impact of child sexual abuse.
Despite that, they fought through the darkness. Their unwavering determination to seek therapy and support has been remarkable. Over time, they have regained control over their trauma and found ways to feel empowered.
Finding hope after abuse
My friend’s journey toward finding hope after surviving child sexual abuse has been a testament to their resilience. As their friend, I’ve had the privilege of witnessing their unwavering commitment to healing.
Their progress serves as my own personal reminder of the inner strength that is within us all. As they’ve gotten older, they’ve become more comfortable sharing their story. In turn, they’ve connected with other survivors who they are friends with now. This has helped them feel less alone in their experience.
Before writing this, I asked my friend what else they did to heal so I can share it with you. They said that therapy has been a saving grace.
Finding the right therapist has helped them be completely honest, which is extremely important. They suggested reading Reddit threads created by other survivors. It helped them feel related to in this world. The anonymity helps when they want to ask questions they feel like they can’t ask anyone else. They also said that actively surrounding themselves with people who make them feel safe is crucial to their wellbeing.
On a personal level, it really sucks and feels pelik to call survivors ‘inspiring’ for trying to heal from something like that. But that’s what it kind of is though, kan? Inspiring. I don’t even know if my friend knows this, but they’ve given me so much strength just by existing. Whenever I feel too down to want to live, I think about them and their resilience. I get reminded that people are not what happens to them, but what they choose to do with themselves.
Advocating for legal options
My friend chose not to take legal action against their abuser. It was their decision to make. They didn’t want to because it was ‘too late’ by the time they realised what happened. And because it was a member of their family. Unfortunately, that’s the reality of how common the number of child sexual abuse cases go underreported.
There’s an assumption that children are less likely to be sexually abused by the adults around them. But this assumption is wrong. In this news report, it says that 95% of abusers are people children know, love and trust. What I’ve learnt from this is that we owe it to children to educate them on boundaries. About where it’s not okay to be touched. And to give them the space to be open and honest.
Throughout my friend’s healing journey, I tried my best to give them that very space. I offered understanding and empathy to help them overcome feelings of isolation. If anyone ever opens up to you about something like this, try and offer them solace and validation. They shared their story because they found safety in you, and that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
My friend needed more than anything to be reminded that it was never their fault. They know now that in adulthood, they are strong, big, and can defend themselves if they need to. Realising that was emotional and cathartic for them.
Being there for a friend
Supporting my friend on their path to healing after child sexual abuse has been eye-opening. Them choosing to share such a heavy secret with me at a young age taught me how to be empathetic to others.
I learned how to be there for someone else through strong emotions, even if I didn’t know the right words yet. I’m honoured they chose to share their vulnerabilities with me. And I hope upon reading this, that you’ve also learned a thing or two; or feel less alone.
Note: I didn’t want to leave without resources. There are ways to go about reporting child sexual abuse. An adult has to accompany the child who has been abused or suspected of being abused to the police station. The police report can be made in any police station, regardless of where the incident occurred. If you think a child you know is being sexually abused, inform their guardian immediately.