When I was 11-years old, I was awoken by a series of memories that came rushing in like a tsunami.
One minute I was sleeping peacefully, and the next minute, I was being tossed around, gasping for air, as memory after memory of sexual abuse crashed into my awareness.
When the rush had passed, I lay in a crumpled heap, stomach tight, heart pounding, smothered in suffocating shame and guilt, and the feeling of terror that I would now be going to Hell.
The memories were not only a fuzzy mass of audio and visuals of things that had been done to me, but were memories of things I had acted out on other children when I was a few years younger. For me, that felt worse than anything.
There was one evening when the shame and guilt felt so thick, I found myself scrawling a suicide note in my journal, as tears streamed down my face. I remember I was wearing a pair of denim Rugrats overalls– the juxtaposition of that has always stood out to me: the act of choosing an outfit with my favorite children’s cartoon in the morning paired with the act of writing a suicide note by evening.
The lives of children who’ve experienced abuse are full of juxtapositions.
In our society, we often hear of sexual behavior between children referred to as “playing doctor,” and while there’s tons of literature that recognizes it for what it is – child-on-child abuse – there’s still many who’d prefer to view it as curiosity and innocent exploration. It’s “easier” that way– no need to dig deeper and ask the question “But where did my child learn to do that?” or “… how did I learn to do that?”
However, even if something is normalized, it doesn’t make it NORMAL. Curiosity IS normal when it comes to a child wondering and asking about how their body works. It’s NOT normal when they’re engaging in sexual acts. It had to of been learned in some way, shape, or form.
For me, I’d experienced sexual abuse from more than one adult and even from other children (who, of course, had to of learned it elsewhere), so given how rampant it was throughout my childhood, it's no surprise that I would then do the same, thinking that's just how kids played behind closed doors.
It wasn’t until I dove deep into healing my mind, body, and spirit that I was able to finally clear the shame and guilt I had been carrying for over 20 years, and fully accept that, not only was none of it my fault, but that I was already doing the best thing I could possibly do: HEAL.
Through healing my body of the stress I'd been carrying for decades, the chronic pain that had manifested as a result, the drug addiction that had numbed me out, and through freeing myself of any toxic patterns that would cause me to fail to protect my own future children, I could finally BREAK THE CYCLE of abuse, pain, and suffering.
As a society, we need to be okay with calling child-on-child sexual “play” what it REALLY is: sexual abuse. If we participated in this as children, it does NOT mean we should harbor feelings of guilt or shame. In fact, we need to do the work to release those feelings and to HEAL so we can live full, beautiful lives that allow us to better nurture and protect future generations.