It’s hard to know where to start. The last couple of weeks are a total blur, and I am left reeling from the events. The enormity of which, I cannot yet fully comprehend.
I have cried more tears than I wish to recall, years of silent pain and suffering finally released in the harshest way possible. There were times I wondered how much more I could take, however I did take it all, every harsh, horrible blow and I am still here. I am still here to share my story, to stand tall and strong and not live in fear or shame anymore. I stand firmly by the truth.
My name is Tenille Dowe and I am a survivor of childhood molestation and rape.
One year ago I thought those words could never come from my mouth, especially in a public forum. For over twenty years I couldn’t even admit that to myself, I was filled with fear, blame, guilt and self-hatred. I was so ashamed of my abuse I was forced to put on a mask and pretend I was alright. Nobody in my life knew the real me and I was terrified if they learned about my past, they wouldn’t like me; I didn’t like me!
For my entire life I have put the needs and wants of everybody else ahead of myself. I protected my family from the truth, then and until recently, now. Not in my wildest dreams (or nightmares) did I ever imagine my own healing and recovery would come at the cost of my entire family being in my life. But it has!
The last two weeks has been heartbreaking and is not a reality I ever thought I would face. In the last year I was able to tell certain family members about my sexual abuse; for some people this wasn’t enough and I was pushed into telling particular family members, while withholding the truth from others. This was extremely difficult and taxing on me because all I wanted was for my family to understand and love the real me, the true me, the person who I was meant to be. Because I was still protecting the truth by hiding my abuse, even though some knew, I felt I wasn’t able to be me 100%.
I now know this day was coming for a while, but did my absolute best to avoid, detach and isolate myself from the situation. Now I realise this was only a short term solution and was never going to be the answer. During my time detaching from my family I read books, sketched, wrote reflectively in my journal and just to time to think what I wanted and how I wanted to be treated within those relationships. Slowly I began to realise and understand I deserved to be treated better. I deserved to be heard and have opinions of my own that were valid.
The saddest thing was; I thought it was normal to always feel like I had to walk on eggshells around them; and after spending time with them, go home and cry because I felt so worthless by something that was said or done. I now know not all families are like that and it is not normal and I deserve better. My moment of clarity came when I realised the cyclical pattern of emotional abuse within my family. The problem was I was no longer willing to put others first, justify my thoughts and actions and pick up the pieces every time things fell apart (which was quite regularly), I was no longer the one holding out the olive branch. I started standing up for myself and my family; for this I was accused of being selfish and inconsiderate. However each time I made a decision that was in my best interest; I felt stronger, but the more I did that the harsher the consequences were.
In the last nine days my heart has been broken over and over. At times I thought it was beating so fast it was going to stop. My head has been spinning, my eyes aching and it has been difficult to tell which way is up.
My entire family (of origin) have cut contact with me. They did not all do it at once; it happened a few at a time, every time I thought it was over another person (or people) would cut me off. This is extremely difficult for me to deal with, especially from those I thought would understand and support me in my decision to heal. Instead I was attacked and felt extremely vulnerable.
I am left feeling a sense of betrayal, hurt, sadness and anger all over again. I trusted and that trust has been used against me in the worst possible way, my own isolation.
My entire family’s way to deal with the truth is to stick together; ultimately deny the abuse ever happened, call me a liarand cut contact. The old saying, “Out of sight, out of mind”, rings true.
The problem is I am healing and that is changing how I think and feel about myself and the sexual abuse. I am now strong enough to stand up for myself; I am not that scared little girl anymore, hiding from the world, keeping a shameful secret.
I know the truth and will stand by it.
I cannot change what happened in the past, but I am changing how the abuse will affect my future.
As heartbreaking and numbing as these recent events have been, I know it needed to happen in order for me to grow and move forward in healing. With pain comes change.
Until next week,