Editor's note: Trigger warning - This article shares a personal experience of childhood sexual abuse. If you are an adult survivor, you are not alone. Visit the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) or chat online at online.rainn.org with a trained support specialist.
Having a vivid memory or photographic memory has served me well in many aspects of life. Unfortunately, having a vivid memory has also meant that I can remember traumatic scenes to a tee.
Not every experience I can remember has been traumatic, but the ones that have still replay in my head over 20 years later. My experiences serve me a valuable lesson: forgive but never forget.
Although I can remember every single detail of this story, I am going to keep some things generalized to stop from furthering the damage. For these reasons, I will refer to my offender as "Carlos".
When the abuse started
Carlos was a part of my family - a brother, almost - but our "sibling" bond didn’t last very long. I was around 4 years old when the abuse started.
Carlos was 9 years old at the time, and we were home alone. When my sister would leave for her paper route, I would sit in our shared bedroom, playing, like most 4-year-old children. One day, Carlos invited me into the bathroom and, although it may have seemed sketchy, I trusted him.
Carlos asked me to sit on the toilet with him. First, he took a seat behind me on the toilet seat and we both sat bare-bottomed, on the same toilet. He offered me help with using the restroom, and this is where the sexual assault began.
Promise to keep this confusing secret
At first, I was confused by his actions at first, but after much coaxing, Carlos had me as a victim. The abuse would continue for years, sometimes happening day after day. He would wait for everyone to leave the house, and he would sexually assault me in various ways.
Everything felt wrong, but Carlos made me promise to keep this confusing secret. And I kept that secret for over 20 years.
To be honest, the specifics of many of the events have since left my mind. Leaving me with vivid memories of how the house was set up, the first event, and a lifetime of horrible thoughts.
Carlos was only the opening act of a string of sexual abuse that followed me. My parents only learned of his abuse 4 years ago.
Trying to get people to leave me alone
As a child, I was told that I was a "badger." Oftentimes, family would say that if you rubbed me the wrong way that I would irrationally flip into a different person, becoming mean and angry.
I did not learn until recently that my "bitchy" ways were my defense mechanism for trying to get people to leave me alone in whatever form that was.
Holding on to the anger no longer serves me
To this day, I do not blame anyone anymore. Blaming or holding on to the anger will no longer serve me in the life that I want.
However, I hold onto the signals or the things that maybe my parents missed. I talk to my child about the wrongs and rights.
Parenting as a survivor of child sexual abuse
My memory has served me in many ways, but sometimes it seems that I got the short end of the stick. My biggest goal now is to make sure my own son never experiences the same trauma.
Not only do I keep our conversations open and honest, but I try to make sure I pick up on ques of differences in attitude, personality, etc.
Protecting my son from the same trauma
I hold this memory close as a protection mantra for other children and my own. I have forgiven but I will never forget.
Although I can speak to these memories in detail, I will never allow the same abuse to slip through the cracks.
I have forgiven, but everything I have learned will never allow me to forget. And although never forgetting sometimes means reliving traumatic events, I know that I will continue to protect my son on another level.
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