Day 32 of Believing the Girl – How Bad Was It Really?

Yesterday, I wrote about my dad, “He doesn’t understand people very well, and I think he doesn’t understand that what he does is harmful to [me].”

Patricia Grace, one of my blogging friends, set me thinking with her reply:“…doesn’t understand that what he does is harmful to you.” Yes he does, any adult knows not to rape or molest a child. “..selfish and irresponsible and thoughtless,“ how about diabolical, manipulative, evil and criminal?”

I read that, and it’s stuck with me today. I started to wonder, what was I doing? Was I trying to make what happened not so bad, so I can allow myself to be around my father? Was I trying to make it forgivable? Am I trying to understand how he could do that? Maybe I am just trying to create a narrative that I think fits with the different things I remember about him–the fun things and the confusing things. This has been turning around in my head all day long. I googled “minimizing child sexual abuse” and read a number of articles and research studies. I tried to write a couple of posts and then deleted them.

And then it occurred to me: minimizing or not, accurate understanding of my father or not, it doesn’t matter. The thing I am doing that is a mistake is that I am focusing on his experience, not the experience of the girl. I’m so used to doing that. Is he upset? Is my mom mad at me? My first husband, what did he want, why was he always so critical?

It doesn’t matter. That’s their experience, and it’s their job to worry about their experience. It’s my job to worry about my experience. My current experience and my experience as a 20-year-old, and a 16-year-old, and a 15-year-old, and a 12-year-old, and a 9-year old, and a 5-year old or whatever exact ages I was when my body was used involuntarily for other people’s entertainment. That’s what I want to focus on.

You wouldn’t think that was so incredibly hard, but it is. So often when I try to process what happened to me, I shift away from my perspective and start trying to understand what motivated the abuser. Why did he think it was okay? Probably he didn’t see the harm in it. So maybe it wasn’t really that bad. And just like that, I’ve minimized my own experience again.


  1. I do think it is incredibly hard to acknowledge your own experience, not defer to everyone elses’ experiences. And I think you are so brave and wise to be willing to consider that maybe you and the girl are not wrong, were never wrong, and really do know and feel how bad and unmistakenly wrong it really was.

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  2. I think we do it as a coping mechanism. After all, what child doesn’t believe that they “brought it on themselves”? We internalize it, and that is why we keep pushing it further and further into our damaged soul.

    You are so correct, we are not to focus on our abuser, but to focus upon ourselves, allow ourselves to acknowledge the anger and sadness of having our childhood stolen from us.

    Stand tall, worthy of the suns warmth upon your face, aware that you are not accountable for the savage beast that enslaved you, but for all the beauty that is yours to behold. You will capture it, redeem it. We are never to old to love and respect ourselves. We will fight to win our freedom. We are the soldiers that keep vigil over life’s promise.

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  3. For me what has happened is that I arrive at therapy and my heart begins to race. I can’t speak and I start to get light headed and I can’t think and before I know it I’m curled up in a ball and fearful and scared and feeling incredibly ashamed and foolish.
    And I can’t help but think that what others did to me must have affected me in ways far beyond what I can cognitively understand. I am like you and I google everything instead of just trusting how my body feels and reacts. And I read and try to make sense of things. But it only makes it more confusing and I don’t remember but I do but I don’t. And that’s where the believing comes in. If I believe I know. And if I know… This is where it’s all messed up. I truly already know that some things happened. And it’s already there. I’m just not knowing what to do with it. I know you’ve read a couple of my posts and feared that I’m being re-traumatized. But really when I look back they are more healing moments and being fearful in therapy and breaking down is beginning to build me back up. Feeling the fear and cognitively knowing that I am safe. It’s like facing my inner demons. And facing my mom would be traumatic at this point. I can’t speak for you or know what facing your dad will be like. But yes, it is how you experienced what happened that matters. And no one is all good or bad. I assume that your dad has some likeable qualities. I know my mom does and that makes it even more confusing. She was most likely hurt and molested by her father. And I’m not upset by that. It doesn’t excuse what she did. I don’t know what to make of it except I must be a terrible person for not having empathy and love and forgiveness. It’s so confusing and thus I stay away. And I am just where I need to be because I can’t do anymore than that.

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