My ex-boyfriend, the one who took it upon himself to disclose my abuse to my parents, brought my story to light in 2007. That was 13 years ago. Many people have known about my abuse since that time. It was always the elephant in the room. It was the unspoken truth of my past that lingered for over a decade.
I truly don't blame anyone for my abuse. I was groomed, abused, and dedicated to keeping the secret. It was too painful to talk about, and the two people I disclosed to in my early twenties weaponized it against me, which just made me bury the secret deeper. That is part of almost every survivor's story, trying to forge ahead with the truth of our past always lingering.
I have had to make peace with 2007 onward. I have written about how stigma keeps survivors from disclosing. Stigma also keeps people from supporting survivors once they know the truth. Of course it is a gritty and uncomfortable topic that is extremely hard to discuss. However, survivors need the most support once it is out in the open.
We have lived years feeling alone and invisible. We have been blaming ourselves internally for years as well. When the truth comes out and people still don't feel comfortable supporting us, it validates the stigma, shame, and pain that caused us to keep it secret for so long. As the truth of my abuse stayed quiet, I had validating thoughts of "See there is something wrong with me" or the more prevalent thought of "See, it wasn't that big a deal because no know wants to talk with you about it". What's unsaid causes more stigma.
I know many avoided the topic for years thinking they were protecting me. I know they thought they would cause me more pain if they brought up my abuse. They were waiting for me to feel comfortable and ready to start the conversation. The onus was on me, the survivor, to start the conversation.
People in my life knew since 2007. I know they spoke to each other about their shock and anger, but no one talked to me. No one sat me down, looked me in the eye, and said "You are a sexual abuse survivor. You need to get some help. You deserve to be happy. It wasn't your fault. It doesn't have to be a secret anymore." Survivors might resist. We might say we just want to move on and live life, but just know deep down we are looking for people to look us in the eye and tell us that we need help and that they are there to support us every step of the way.
There were other people I wish I would have heard from once they knew. After they found out about my abuse, my parents went back to talk with the head football coach. They told other coaches and mentors from my adolescence about my abuse. They were shocked and dismayed, much like my parents, but they never reached out. I was one of the young men they mentored for years, but when I needed to hear from them most I didn't.
I also have trouble reconciling that people, like my former coaches, knew but never alerted the school districts where my abuser worked. He was still in the same state. He was athletic director of a team in the same classification as the Bulldogs. The Bulldogs played their football team in the playoffs multiple times. Did their paths not cross?
Until I reported him this year, my abuser was able to advance his career all the way to assistant superintendent of his district. My mom did her best tracking his career. When she would hear through the grapevine he was going for a new job, she would write a letter to the leaders of that district. She tried her best, but others who knew, and had more influence, did not. That has been hard to reconcile, but I am working on it.
I am not writing this blog to blame anyone. There is only one person to blame in my story. I am writing to heal and educate.
Society has made it extremely difficult to talk about male sexual abuse. There truly isn't a space for it and this has to change. It starts with the thousands of people reading this blog. You can help be the change. If you know a survivor, be the person who breaks down the barriers created by societal stigmas and start a conversation. You might have to be uncomfortable. You might have to be persistent, but just know you are making a difference in that survivor's life.
What's unsaid causes more stigma. Let's change this. There are now thousands of people taking the time to read this blog. That is thousands of conversations that can be started with abuse survivors.