TRIGGER WARNING: this post deals with the sexual abuse of children and it’s effects on my wife, my self, and our relationship. I invite you to read something that is meaningful to me. I understand if it is too much and you can’t. My wife gave me permission to share this, and encouraged me to write it. This is a very personal post for both of us.
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I don’t know how else to say it, how else to introduce you to this reality we live with every day. There isn’t a way to ease this into conversation or to make it more palatable. It is a horrendous thing to reveal; it is a tragedy that my wife knows intimately. The truth of it isn’t something I would ever try to explain away, deny her, or make into some clever word picture.
My wife was sexually abused for the first eight years of her life.
It is beyond my comprehension how she lives with this every day. I know how broken I feel by knowing what happened to her. Yet she lives on, strong, fighting against the demons given to her. When I look at my wife, I don’t see a broken child or a shell of damaged person. No, when I see my wife I see her, whole, beautiful, loving, a fighter, a tender-hearted lion. When I see my wife, what I see amazes me.
Living with this reality is hard. It is far from just some event that happened in some long gone past. The ramifications of my wife’s sexual abuse are felt on a daily basis. Nights are the time when anxiety, fear, and a host of emotions she would rather not feel come out of the closet. It’s to be expected; she was abused at night. Interactions with her family are stressful in their own right. That stress gets heightened whenever family talks about the brother that abused her. The trust and intimacy issues that she lives with because of the abuse are a part of our relationship, for good or bad.
She has to fight through shame, guilt, and pain. She feels shame for thoughts and feelings she remembers having because of her abuse. Not only does she have to fight the effects of someone violating her, she has to fight her self-imposed shame. Even though she fights well most of the time, it seems so overwhelming. When will she be free from the wounds inflicted on her in infancy? It’s hard for her to love or even like herself. No one can blame her, but it is unfair because she is so lovable; there is so much to like about her. She misses out on how outstanding she is because insecurity is wired into her spirit. She hides, self medicates, self harms, deals with depression, self-worth, anxiety, and anger. She is a wounded girl.
Still, she is amazing.
Sarah wears her heart on her sleeve, and her history is there for the world to see. If you get to know my wife on any sort of personal level, she will tell you she was sexually abused. She refuses to hide it for other people’s comfort. I admire that. This wound she has, this scar in her history, this tragic event she refuses to be ashamed of. My wife will not be silenced simply because other people may be off put by her story. This honesty, this truth-telling, this owning her own story constantly tells me that she is more than the wounds she has.
Why I Care
In Sarah, I see the power of a victim and the triumph of a survivor. In my wife I see the beauty of fighting. In her I find the things I care about finding deeper, personal reasons.
If you ask me why I care about church as a safe place, my answer is because of my wife. She is the abused that feels uncomfortable hugging a stranger because the priest/pastor told you to. She is the wounded with social anxiety that feels so panicked in your congregation. She is the mother you may think of as over protective, but in reality she is simply trying to protect our son.
Church should be a safe place for my wife, but it’s not. Do you realize that? The community we all talk about, the congregations we all want to be authentic, the church we all want to be life changing, there are none I can think of that are a safe place for Sarah. Why can’t we make church safe for my wife, for those who have been abused? She’s not the only one.
I care about sex trafficking so deeply because of my wife. She may not have been trafficked or sold into slavery, but she was abused. I see the long-term effects of sexual abuse. When a child is abused sexually, there are wounds that are created that they will carry around with them for life. My wife is proof. She is also proof that those wounds don’t define someone.
Counter trafficking – rescuing children from abuse – as well as restoration and healing efforts matter to me because my wife’s story makes these things personal for her, and for me.
It’s Not Ok
I’m not trying to say some bullshit about my wife’s abuse now bringing about some good. Her abuse is a tragic thing that I hate. The story that my wife has built despite her abuse is what inspires me, what causes me to care even more. It is sad to me that so much of her story was written by her self, trying to figure this all out. She wasn’t given counseling when she needed it. She didn’t find healing early on. Some of her wounds have festered.
Yet she now works to find healing, wholeness, to learn from her history. Sarah has an amazing passion to help other children not be abused. In addition to her creativity, humor, intelligence, and beauty, she cares so deeply. It is a redemption of sorts. See,my wife was sexually abused and that isn’t ok. It never will be ok. There is not a damn thing anyone can do to make it ok. But, the person she has grown into, the person she is continually becoming, that is amazing.
I love my wife and everything that she is.