Rebekah Palmer is a close friend of mine and a very wise writer. I enjoy our conversations very much. Rebekah has two books out at the moment. The most recent of these deals with a difficult topic; sexual abuse. I was honored when I was asked to read an early copy of this book. Rebekah does a beautiful job. She handles the subject with grace and integrity. When I offered that she do a guest post it seemed natural that the post would also be about sexual abuse. Rebekah and I come from slightly different viewpoints on things. Rebekah is Christian and is very religious. While I, on the other hand, consider myself more spiritual rather than religious. However, this does not change the fact that we both agree this is a topic (along with many others) that should be discussed more often and openly. This is a difficult topic but I encourage you to read this post and then to check out her book. Even if you are not a deeply religious person I believe there is certainly something worth reading and to be appreciated in this book. I will have more information on that below.
Healing from sexual abuse is not a one size fits all victims. In fact, who the victim is as a person before the abuse took place has much to do with their journey in healing. The kind of survivor the victim will be is based on who they are as a person before and after. The kind of healing a victim is allowed to choose helps in taking their individual power back from their abuser.
When I wrote my book, A Letter to Myself: Speaking Out After Silence, I was coming from a Christian family. I was coming from a predominantly Christian community. I was also coming from a cautious personality as well as a person who considered and still considers authority to be obeyed, unless they ask one to do something against their conscience. I also consider advice from others to be healthy if they have an objective view and one’s best interest at heart. Due to my Christian background, many have assumed that all sexual abuse survivors from religious institutions have my personality and belief system. This is also not true as several abuse survivors within Christendom have utilized other methods and other belief systems to live their lives successfully.
Not every survivor of sex abuse is obligated to share their story nor are they obligated to write it down. Many choose to only report to the police and never mention their story again. Many survivors of sex abuse have found healthy healing in places such as private journaling, yoga, running, joining an activism group, group counseling, a hobby, medication usage*, sex-yes, sex as not all sex abuse survivors fall on the asexual end of the spectrum-.and becoming a parent. For me, becoming a parent would just trigger many things I felt as a child as I would watch a potential offspring of mine grow up. Other sex abuse survivors find rearing a child healing because they determine to watch a child grow up unscathed by what caused their childhood so much heartache.
Here are a few things I have found that have helped and continue to help me in my personal life journey towards healing:
I have an objective therapist as well as a psychiatrist I see regularly.
I use antidepressants to manage clinically diagnosed depression and anxiety.
I write and advocate for other sex abuse survivors.
I participate in community theater.
I utilize a support group of a few people who validate and respectfully challenge my feelings and thoughts.
It has been a source of controversy that victims have a moral obligation to tell authorities. In the case of adults coming to the realization that what happened 15, 20, 35 or however many years ago was unequivocally wrong, every state in America has different rules in what counts as the statute of limitations. Statute of limitations is the time period allowed in bringing certain kinds of legal action. Even many adult sexual abuse victims will debate within themselves on police involvement due to discrimination and bullying and even more abuse on the victim who told instead of the predator who hurt. Contrary to popular opinion and regrettably, it does matter who your abuser is. Society is wired to look at others and declare on appearances if they are right or wrong such as if a certain type of person could commit that act or couldn’t possibly stoop that low. The legal system is also built upon the idea that a person is innocent until proven guilty. Proven guilty in this sentence means the court must have tangible evidence, besides an oral report, such as a DNA test from the victim, a third party witness, physical marks to photograph, suggestive text messages and phone call reports and the like. These methods are the most accurate way a court declares legal innocence or guilt, which is why reporting after a lengthy time period can be difficult for the injured party. Especially the DNA test as it is more reliable if the police are contacted as soon as possible after rape or abuse in which exchange of bodily fluids has occurred. If a victim has a great support system in place, as mentioned in my book, there can be justice served on the predator and great freedom for the victim as well as successful continuation on one’s journey of healing.
I believe a good friend of mine, who has chosen to deal with things privately and like me has even left legal reporting out of it due to the passage of decades, said it best: “The thing about healing, is that it is one of the few choices related to the situation that the victim gets to make. The situation is so often the eventual realization that all the choices where made against your will or outside of your control. But now you have a say in what you do….and people still choose to criticize that.”
*Medication usage to treat anxiety and depression should always be done under the care of a physician, preferably a psychiatrist as this licensed doctor consults physical health and mental health together and often will make patient referrals to other therapists or clinical visits.
Thank you Rebekah, for joining us today and tackling a difficult topic. You’re helping to shed light on something that is much too often swept under the rug and I’m glad that I can have a small part in bringing it to light.
Here is Rebekah’s most recent book information as well as some links to get in touch with her. Rebekah has also contributed poetry to the anthology of true stories by those with Cystinosis and those that love them that I’m working on with a Cystinosis mom. That will be coming out later this year. It is titled Strength: Lives Touched by Cystinosis.
Title: A Letter to Myself: Speaking Out After Silence
Author: Rebekah Palmer
Publication Date: June 20, 2016
Have you been told to keep someone else’s secret? Or, have you been told to remain silent for the sake of others’ reputations? In far too many churches and other organizations lurk man-driven agendas which override the needs of the abused, adding to the hurt of those already hurting.
This book uses the author’s personal experience of being sexually molested and subsequently being silenced. She uses prose and poetry along with Scripture and some current statistics to paint a picture of many boys’ and girls’ reality, a picture of a youth who was silenced instead of protected. But more than a picture, this book also points a way forward, helping the reader find resolution and a fulfilled life.