Have you ever taken a look at your surroundings and really wondered what people were really all about. What their stories are. What they’re going to do for dinner or what they want to do with/for the rest of their lives. I wondered about this often when I took the bus to and from work. A whole hour and a half of the lovely public system allowed me to let my mind wander. It was easy to make up stories about the man yelling into his phone or the man making threats under his breath about killing everyone on the bus and the woman who pulled her child onto the bus while a man hurried on. Everyone knows not to judge a book by its cover but your mind really goes into overdrive thinking about their stories.
When you look at me you see a twenty-something Asian woman. Most days I’m in business casual attire in Downtown Seattle as most people who are getting off of work at 330pm are. If you saw me on the street you might not have guessed I was Filipino let alone Filipino-American. You would have also never guessed that I am a first-generation college graduate or that I’m originally from Silicon Valley where my family still resides. You know absolutely nothing about me but your mind may be conjuring up your own set of stories. It’s easy.
You would have never guessed that at the age of eight I was a victim of sexual abuse.
For thirteen years this was my best kept secret and I had every intention of keeping it to myself until one day it came out. I didn’t even know what sexual abuse really meant until I looked it up on Google one day. I was twenty and in college when I first told anyone about it. It happened to be a group of girls who would eventually become my sorority sisters. Over time I noticed that when I looked at myself in the mirror I didn’t know who I was looking at. I didn’t know who this unhappy person was. I didn’t know that what happened to me as a child had any effect on who I was becoming as an adult. No one really ever thinks about the effects of anything.
In no way am I trying to garner sympathy from anyone. Not at all. I don’t particularly enjoy the spotlight. This is part of my story and the beginning to why I started going to therapy. Everything happens for a reason, right?
To be truthful, I’m pretty sure I knew at that age what was going on was wrong but I didn’t know how to tell someone. I can’t remember if it was the potential shame or the possibility that I would get in trouble but I never said anything.
At some point soon after telling my soon-to-be sorority sisters I had told my parents. It did not go well whatsoever. I think my mom’s reaction is what scarred me the most and it still left an impression seven years later. I expected her to be nurturing but she was the complete opposite. My mom’s immediate answer was to say, “LIAR!” in Tagalog and slam her bedroom door shut. My dad’s reaction was that of shock. He yelled, “Fuck” to no one in particular and left my room to stand outside to think and later he had come back to hug me to say he was sorry that he never figured out what was going on. My dad asked me, “What do you want me to do?” In my personal opinion that is a heavy question but I guess this entire time I knew what the answer was since I was a kid. I wanted to leave.
All along, my push to go to school out of state, to move to a completely different area after college was all because of what I experienced as a child. I wanted to physically remove myself from the space that reminded me of the worst thing that happened to me thus far. And that’s exactly what I told my dad. I had told him I wanted to get out of there as soon as I could and that meant leaving them behind – in a sense.
I kept that promise to myself. I eventually did move both out of my parents house and out of the state. It took me nearly four years after graduating from college but it happened. I don’t know if it was for the best but for now the move has been sort of good for me.
Let’s get this straight – I don’t have a strained relationship with either of my parents. I still talk to them on a regular basis and they are coming to stay with me for a week long vacation. I know that they would have never thought they would be in this situation. That their daughter would claim that she was sexually abused. They were scared. I know that now. I also know that to help with my process in healing I needed to talk about it with them again. To get their side of why they reacted the way they did. Did my dad suspect something? Does my mom still think I’m a liar?
Going back to the notion that people really don’t have any idea how things are going to affect you later on in life. I totally believe it. I had no idea that learning about sexual body parts at that young of an age would have any effect on how I viewed sexual experiences as an adult. Knowing about sex early on matured me way too fast. I know that for a fact. With my friends I kept mum about anything related to sexual topics because I knew too much at any age it was brought up. I also had no idea that even today, I would still feel shame over what happened even though in reality I was eight and there wasn’t anything I could really do. At that age I wore boy/baggy clothes for fear that my skin would be exposed. It was rough. It also confused my mom when we went shopping sometime when I was thirteen and she wanted to take me into Forever21. I said, “Only ho’s shop there.” It affected me.
Being called a liar about something as serious as this left me wondering if I had made things up. I know I didn’t but it made me feel like I was crazy to think this ever happened. It happened. It happened. It happened.
I have a tattoo to remind me that I should remember to always love myself. It’s hard to remember that sometimes and I need a constant reminder. It’s hard reciting daily affirmations that I am a good person, I deserve all the love in the world, I will try my best every day, I am enough.
I try anyway.
Which brings me to therapy. I’ve mentioned before that I had been feeling like I should be seeing someone to sort out of my feelings. To let everything out: my frustrations, fears, anger, confusion. All of it. I had been beating on (not literally) one person unnecessarily and I’m still so sorry that it happened.
Which brings me to closing it here. Never forget that there is more to a person than what you see. Each of us is going through something. Some of us working to be better – mentally, physically and some sitting on the edge wondering which direction to jump.