| Words Unspoken |

Dear Abuse Survivor

“I don’t know what I am, but what happened to me no longer defines me”


Dear Abuse Survivor,

I’M talking to you, but I think it might help the rest of the world to eavesdrop.

I won’t be presumptuous and say I know what you’re going through. Because every story of trauma is unique and we often process and respond very differently to the same set of circumstances.

But I do know that pain is pain is pain. And I’m intimately familiar with the pain, suffering, and silence of abuse and violation.

I know what if feels like to sincerely wish you won’t wake up in the morning.

I know what it feels like to be shaken up, seized by your mind that is wound so tight you can’t loosen its grip no matter how much you tell yourself you’re alone — that no one is hurting you.

I know what it feels like to be silenced and othered, even when I never told a soul my story. I saw the world and community I lived in and knew I wouldn’t be accepted, so I preemptively rejected myself.

But you know what else I know?

I know the feeling of sitting in serene silence with my husband.

I know the feeling of holding my babies so close all I can breathe is the intoxication that is baby and Johnson & Johnson.

I know the feeling of laughing and crying with friends and family who support me.

I know the feeling of success in my career.

And most of all, I know the feeling of peace within myself.

I don’t call myself a victim anymore. Nor do I call myself a survivor. I don’t know what I am, but what happened to me no longer defines me.

It’s nice that the world is finally realizing the hell that abuse is. Maybe now they’ll take it seriously, implement real resources, understand how to really protect their children….

But a fear I have, and one that I’m sure you share, too, is that while you may still feel broken, you don’t want to be seen and treated as irreparably, indefinitely broken. With the community on heightened alert for abuse, will people ever see us as more than what happened to us?

I’ve heard abuse survivors likened to a shattered vase; even once repaired, the cracks remain visible, the vessel fragile. But I’m here to contest that.

Yes, there are no words to articulate our trauma. And even when we try, the world doesn’t understand and asks dumb questions like, “Why didn’t you tell anyone?” Or, worse, “Why did you go back?”

Comments like this can make it hard to see hope for your future. Will you be forever fragmented?

I just want to say to you, and to everyone listening in:

I know it’s unbearable.

I know the depth feels bottomless.

I know that the future promised to everyone else seems out of reach.

But you can get to the other side.

It’s not easy. It takes a village of therapists and friends and family and spouses. It takes digging deeper than you want to, it means pushing past all your fears and rediscovering who you were, who you are….

And when you get there — I promise you will be something to behold.

Nothing will ever make it right. You being okay does not make what happened “worth it” or minimize what you went through in any way.

But it’ll be integrated within you, just another one of the million facets that make you glitter.

I’m rooting for you to make it over and join my side.

A Fellow Traveler


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 883)

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