It’s been nearly 30 years since it happened to me and I still remember every single detail.
I can’t forget the excitement that I felt when my favorite uncle suggested a secret activity just for the two of us. I’ve never been able to erase the memory of the confusion I felt looking at the weird pictures in the dirty magazines as he described what they were doing, and told me that I could “do that, too.”
Even today, decades later, I remember how confused I was when it was all over. What just happened?
Many years later, I finally did have the vocabulary to describe what had happened to me. I was molested. My teenaged uncle molested me when I was six years old. Unfortunately, by the time I made sense of what he had done to me, there was no one to tell. My childhood was somewhat unstable, with parents who had far too many own issues to deal with mine, so I didn’t even bring it up to them until I was a young adult. When I did tell my parents, one response was, “What am I supposed to do about this?” The other response was, “It was a long time ago. You just have to get over it.” I was devastated.
I understand that there is a legal statute of limitations for reporting abuse, but too many families have instituted their own statute of limitations as well. We’re encourage to forgive and forget things that happened years ago because “everyone makes mistakes when they’re young,” and “we all grow and change.” But the problem with that is while my abuser has moved on, I’m stuck in a messed up purgatory of a life where I’m never, ever going to be normal.
Over the years, I’ve segregated myself from my family, choosing to stay away for the most part rather than pretend that nothing ever happened.
I feel like the adults in my life failed to protect me. I feel like I was the only child in our family who was vulnerable enough for it to happen to because I wasn’t valued as much as the other children in the family who always had someone watching out for them.
I feel like I should be over it by now because it was so many years ago, and compared to what other people have dealt with, it’s not even that big of a deal, but I just can’t let it go. Since I can’t out my molester, I’ll out myself and tell my story in an effort to gain control over the situation, and to start to heal, once and for all.
So when people blast the media for “outing” Josh Duggar and forcing his sisters to relive his abuse all over again, all I can think about is how the girls probably never stopped living the abuse in the first place. Oh, the physical abuse most likely stopped, but to have to be in close proximity for years with the person who violated you is like reliving a nightmare every day.
If the Duggar sisters are anything like me, they live with a feeling of powerlessness and discomfort every day. Even decades later, I can’t even write out my uncle’s name for fear that I’ll upset my relatives for making a private family matter public. In a family like the Duggars where their entire life is on display for the public, the Duggar sisters had absolutely no recourse. Until now.
Now, the sisters will be able to learn that even if they’ve forgiven their brother, it’s okay if they’re not over what happened to them. They’ll have access to information that helps them to heal, rather than counseling that’s focused solely on the well-being of their molester.
Most importantly, I pray that the sisters find their voices to be able to tell their own stories instead of letting their family, the church, or the media tell it for them.