There’s always that little moment I have before I say something vulnerable. My brain quickly questions, “Do I say this and risk it? Or do I change the subject to something more palatable?” Today, I risked it on something new. I let myself speak in public with an acquaintance on a topic I’ve written about, but never discussed in person outside of close circles.
I openly talked in detail – with specifics – about being molested as a child – as I was getting my hair done.
Larry Nassar is in the news. I’ve been seeing my hairdresser for five years, and I adore her. Midway through the hair cut she brought up what a tough time it is to be an MSU fan, and then we started talking about Nassar. We talked about how difficult it was to believe he got away with molesting girls and women for so long. Then, we talked about how important it is to believe children when they tell you’ve they’ve been attacked. My hairdresser mentioned that only a very small percentage of children ever lie about being molested, so believing children is important.
Then, I flashed to being five-years-old. I remember telling my mother, and I remember her believing me. I remember that she never doubted me. I’ve always felt grateful for my parents, but in that moment my gratefulness erupted into my experience.
“You know, I was molested as a child.” I told Abigail. Then, we both waited a moment for the admission to land.
“Really!? I’m so sorry to hear that.” Then, we waited another moment.
“Who was it” she asked.
“My babysitters” I told her.
“Boys or girls?”
More questions followed. In a room with other people, I openly and honestly shared my experience. Maybe the #MeToo movement brought it out of me, or maybe it was talking with an amazing friend last night about sexuality. After decades, I’ve become comfortable with every question. My shame has fallen away, and by the grace of God, it has been replaced with a stillness that only the peace of Christ can fill.
Being molested as a child is a horrific experience. Living with the shame is even worse. But in the words of my friends, “In order to become a fully actualized adult you have to see the positives.”
I have a greater amount of empathy and understanding for those that molest children. Do not mistake my words here. Hurting children is wrong, and I am fiercely protective of children. When I see or meet people that hurt children, I flash to my babysitters and think, “They learned this from their parents.” Yes, many people are sociopaths, or psychopaths, or narcissists and they make the existence of others hell. But many monsters are also made. When we quickly deny the humanity of others, I believe we fall further away from understanding why people harm each other in the first place. And if we fail to understand, how can we ever stop these things from happening?
I feel incredibly comfortable and open talking about sex. A few months ago our church did a great sermon on sex. When the pastor began talking, an entire room full of adults giggled. Talking about sex does not make me giggle, and I don’t mean to ridicule those that are not comfortable with the topic. Yet, so many men and women I meet do not know how to talk to their own sexual partner about the sex they’re having. I do not struggle with that. Words like penis and vagina do not make me uncomfortable. I’m comfortable with the topic, because I was introduced to it at an early age.
I learned very early in life that bad things just happen to good people. In every news story I see, I read comments on social media that blame survivors for things that people have done to them. Blaming the victim feels nice, because it helps you feel like you could have control over every situation. Sure, be smart and make good choices. But drunk drivers hit cars. Babysitters can hurt your children. I’m grateful I did not have to spend my entire life thinking I could prevent the evils of the world. Sometimes, against all odds, shit happens.
With time and with grace, we can grow from these things. And today, I feel grateful that I got to grow from my experience.
And of course – to my parents – thank you for believing me.