Every time I shared a piece of my story, and was witnessed by somebody who didn’t shame me, a little piece of the shame would fall away. I healed a little.
It was hard (so hard) to do the sharing for the first time though. I would not have willingly done it. I would have preferably taken my shame to the grave. And yet, each time I did I was astounded at how profoundly it affected me.
It was like being given a kind of freedom, by degrees. Because parts of me, hidden away and chained down by shame were being released into the light so that I could reclaim them.
Not right at first though. I almost felt like I was going to die at the time. Because I expected judgement. And I expected blame. Because that’s what I’d heard so many times about girls that had been raped.
Each time that didn’t happen, initially triggered a kind of cognitive dissonance. How could it be that this person held only compassion for me? Confusion at why I was blaming myself? But it also shifted the dynamic and offered me an incredible gift of possibility. Of being able to be that girl again. To have that innocence restored. To not be stained anymore. To be believed.
Telling the story broke the dam, but it also took time for the healing effects to fully ripple through. For me, it was many months, if not years. Whether that would have been different if I had been able to afford more professional services to continue the work, or whether it just took the time, I will never know. But it was definitely an incremental process.
Slowly, more and more of the shame crumbled away, and it became easier and easier to distance myself from the trauma of the events. Until I could share the story without being distressed by it. Eventually, I could direct my anger to a more appropriate target and work through it. Until my anger diminished. Until the story no longer owned me. And then I was free.
It was hard. But it was also an essential part of the journey. Don’t take the voices of victims away. Without our voices we cannot heal. Without hearing the voices of others we may never find our own.