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A Message from a Sexual Abuse Survivor

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I may look normal on the outside – friendly, sociable, and jovial. But as soon as you look deeper beneath my walls, you’ll find brokenness and a dark secret from my past.

You can’t tell just by looking at me but I was sexually abused as a child.

I was 9 years old. He would ask me to play special games together in my room.  My parents were never around to notice, so as children do, I truly thought it was all just fun and games.

At 14, I first learned the meaning of ‘rape’ when I overheard two neighbours having a conversation at the corridor. A sudden gush of memories of us ‘playing’ in my room flooded my head. How did I not know it then?

It was taboo to speak about such matters to my parents. Even when I cried and expressed my confusion to my mother, it was still kept hush hush. I wish my mother had talked me through the ordeal, but she merely brushed me aside.

I remember seeing him again at one of our Lunar New Year family gatherings. I was extremely confused as to why my parents were still entertaining him. Unsure of how to express my feelings, I protested silently by blasting music on the radio. Unfortunately, my actions were met with a scolding from my parents. This made me believe that my parents never understood me. My family still saw me as one whole piece – but even though I had no physical scars, I was broken inside.

When I was in my 30s, I saw him again at my grandfather’s funeral. Somehow, my childhood incident came to light and an argument broke out between him, his wife, and me. In the heat of the moment, I felt like I needed to stand up for myself. But he denied his past actions and he even raised his hand to hit me. My outburst led to my family turning against me as airing our dirty laundry in public was perceived as highly shameful. Again, I felt like my struggles and feelings were being dismissed.

At my wits’ end, I decided to lodge a police report to attain some form of justice for my 9-year-old self. Unfortunately, due to the lack of evidence and support from my parents during interviews, my attempts to seek justice failed and he walked away scot-free. This affected my mental wellbeing tremendously. I then tried to seek professional help for my trauma, but I didn’t know where to start. I wasn’t aware of the different platforms available and struggled to find anything suitable. Again, I found myself lost without any guidance.

When it seemed like all hope was lost, I realised that God was still with me throughout all my struggles. In the past 5 years, I have been more engaged in my religion and it has brought peace into my life. I had finally found the strength to forgive.

It is unfortunate that it took me many years before I found the right avenue for support. Things might have played out very differently had I gotten the proper education and awareness about sexual abuse in my early years.

I believe that parents should be open and understanding to their children’s plight. Parents, do not dismiss your children’s’ problems but engage in healthy communication instead. Awareness and education should start when they are young, so I encourage others to talk openly and freely about such matters. I truly hope that other survivors have the emotional support and accessibility to counselling which I did not get to have.

I am 50 years old today. It takes years to learn how to let go and deal with past trauma. It is still a journey of healing for me. So, if you are a survivor like me, just know that recovery isn’t the same for everyone and we grow at different speeds. Please reach out if you need help, because I assure you that you are not alone in this journey. If you are a loved one of a victim of abuse, reach out to those around you; you’ll never know how important your small act of concern can be. Early intervention is highly important, so share resources to your friends and loved ones and offer help when necessary.

The first step is the hardest, but also the most important.

Abuse is not a taboo topic. Let us break the cycle and create more conversations about sexual abuse.

Written by: Hannah [pseudonym]