Gratitude to the Team
Sexual abuse disclosures do not match the instances of abuse. Many children wait years, sometimes until adulthood, before finding the strength to speak the unspeakable. Maybe they were threatened. Maybe they never understood what happened to them WAS abuse and that it was NEVER their fault. Maybe…just maybe…they were unsure of how their loved ones would respond.
Fear and an overwhelming sense of embarrassment pushed Victor into silence. As a child of an alcoholic father, Victor was taught to be seen and not heard. When Victor was sexually abused and threatened by a family friend, he learned quickly to keep his trauma to himself. Though he loved his family and his family loved him in return, Victor felt he had no choice but to keep the sexual abuse a secret. Through sports, art, and an ability to compartmentalize the abuse, Victor hid what hurt him for over a decade.
At 19 years old, Victor found himself away from his family for the first time. He was playing baseball at Millikin University and trying to find the right path for his future. With a new roommate, a new team, and a new sense of freedom, an outsider looking in would probably think Victor was your average college student.
Shortly after starting the school year, Victor’s roommate left the university and moved out of the dorm they shared. While some young adults may have been ecstatic to have a room all to themselves, this isolation was terrifying for Victor. He found himself alone with his thoughts and the ever-intrusive memories of abuse for what felt like the first time.
“I couldn’t push the thoughts down any more. My grades were starting to slip. I was isolated without a roommate or my family with me. I was exhausted from carrying this shame. Eventually the need for my family overpowered my need to keep this a secret. I picked up the phone and called home. My sister answered. I was frozen. I couldn’t verbalize why I was so upset. I may have been 19 years old, but at that moment I felt like an 8-year-old once again, with no ability to describe what hurt me so much. But ultimately I didn’t need to say that I was abused. She could feel the pain I was in and guessed what happened. She told me to come home.”
In the three hours it took to drive to his family, Victor cried and had waves of shame and embarrassment engulf him. After years of silence, after a decade of believing his parents would be angry, Victor was speaking up. Fearful of the unknown and unsure of the future, Victor stepped into his family home and closed the door.
“I saw my parents sitting down, and all at once I felt like I lost my courage to tell. I walked right past them and up to my room. I pulled the covers over my head and cried. Again, I felt like a little boy who had done something wrong. One by one, my family came into my room. They still loved me. They still wanted me in their life. They weren’t angry with me, or disappointed…they were just there. Though they didn’t immediately understand why I stayed silent for so long, they immediately showed me their love didn’t waver. It wasn’t until I was met with compassion and kindness that I found the courage to see a counselor. When I really needed my family they didn’t hesitate to help. They were always my team of of trusted heroes, I just didn’t understand that when I was younger.”
By definition, gratitude is the quality of being thankful and the readiness to return kindness. How do we truly return a kindness, though? Is it possible to express gratitude to our trusted hero team without feeling like we are coming up short? How do we encapsulate the importance of their love and acceptance? How it helped shape us, make us, and save us?
You live your life with true authenticity. You become the change you needed in the world. You love deeply and without reservations. Express your feelings in a healthy way. Break the cycle of abuse and build up your team the way your team built you up. Repay those trusted heroes by giving others what was extended to us. A listening ear, an open heart, and the knowledge that you are a trusted hero fueled by gratitude.
FULL TRANSCRIPT (The following is the full transcript of this episode of The Be Seen and Heard Journey. Please note that this episode, like all BSH Journey episodes, features Victor speaking extemporaneously–he is unscripted and unedited.)
Hey, it’s Victor and I want to welcome you to another Be Seen and Heard Journey. We are days away from Thanksgiving and this whole post this week, this video, whether you’re watching it, reading it, listening to it, is all about gratitude. Specifically, the people that I’m grateful for that showed up in my life the day that I found the courage to speak up about being abused when I was eight years old. And I’ll never forget these people…most of them are my family. But there are a lot of families that don’t support their family members that have been abused. And so I’m grateful because they were there. They showed up, but not until I finally had the courage. So let me back up. I went away to Millikin University after high school. I made the baseball team and I was studying art and design. I was really focused on doing well.
But what happened was my roommate literally left after the first day of school. He quit. He said, “I can’t do this.”I was sad that I was going to be alone, but it was actually the greatest gift I could ever receive because it allowed me to really focus on me and what was hurting me, but I didn’t know it yet. As the weeks went on, I noticed that my focus on my studies was pretty much not there. I was missing home and I started having these uncomfortable feelings. Then I finally had the courage to call home and that’s when it all began. That’s where the gratitude starts.
My sister Reneé answered the phone and she stayed on the phone with me because I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t share anything. I was so embarrassed and so ashamed, but she was there. She stayed with me on the phone and she guessed it out of me and she said, “Come home.” So I left school and rove home. I remember going into my house and seeing my parents. And again, if you don’t know my story, I was threatened not to talk. In fact, I was threatened not to tell my parents for 11 years. And I believe that an each year the belief got stronger and stronger in me. So even though when I was 19, I still believed that my parents would be mad at me. And so I ignored them and I went straight up to my bedroom. I closed the door, put the covers over my head, and I began crying.
But then the gratitude began again because my three sisters walked into the room, my brother, my parents, and they said, “We love you.” We are going to help you. And then I ended up going to a counselor for two years. I’m so grateful for that counselor. She showed up in my life and she said, “Victor, you never have to tell me what actually happened to you on that day. The very fact that it happened is what we need to work on. And that’s what I did. I focused on how I felt and I focused on where I wanted to go. And so this person, and I don’t remember her name,it was such a long time ago, but I’m so grateful that she showed up in my life. And then I’m grateful for all my family that just supported me through this process and all of my friends.
And so that’s this week’s episode. I’m not only grateful for people in my past, people that helped me, but people that are here now, the family that I still have with me, I’m grateful for my sisters and I’m grateful for my brother and my sister-in-law. And I’m grateful for the brother-in-law that I just lost a couple of weeks ago. He died from pancreatic cancer and it’s been a very difficult time for our family. And my beautiful sister Laura went through a major surgery and she’s overcoming that right now. So this is a grateful time. And so I hope you’re grateful and I hope you share this video and post with your family and friends. Happy Thanksgiving from Childhood Victories. And remember, we all have the right to Be Seen and Heard. Thank you.