Editor’s Note: The following statement is from a woman who was sexually abused by a male Kentucky teacher when she was under the age of 16. She came forward decades later. The former teacher was prosecuted, pleaded guilty to four counts of sodomy, received five years probation, was ordered to undergo sex offender treatment and is on the sex offender for registry for life. The Lexington Herald-Leader does not identify victims of sexual abuse.
I experienced a lot of anxiety, acting out, reckless behavior, a low boiling anger that I took out on everyone, not only around me but toward myself as well.
The abuse started when I was a teenager just after I had met my first serious boyfriend and continued for several years. Instead of experiencing the ups and downs of a first love, I felt split into two people living two very different lives.
The innocence I had simply ceased to exist as I was consumed with a situation I was not equipped to handle. Everything I thought I knew about relationships felt like a betrayal as my life spun out of control.
I dissociated from the abuse as much as I could and ended up with huge gaps in my memory over the course of the next several years. I felt isolated and numb when I compared myself to friends living their typical teenage high school years. This dissociation as a means of coping, and a habit of living two different lives simultaneously, eventually felt normal to me by the time I was on my own.
That, coupled with a feeling that I was different, kept me from seeking therapy even as I went to college to study and graduate with a psychology degree.
For decades after, the negative coping mechanisms I used to get through those years shaped and permeated every relationship I had, even how I parent. At my most depressed, I felt that what he did had changed me into someone I was never meant to be. That most of my life was a hopeless, exhausting struggle to find a way back.
Eventually, I could not keep the flashbacks and intrusions at bay and my life became unmanageable.
My children were around the age that I was when the abuse started, and this was a trigger I had not expected. I knew how innocent and vulnerable they were and suddenly became compassionate with myself at the same age in a way that I could not have done on my own.
I felt as if I was driven into traumatic memory therapy rather than choosing it.
Over the next five years, I went through a transformation that was simply a gift from God. As I reclaimed who I was and was able to live free from all that I had been suffering because of the abuse, I decided to report it.
For me, it was the final way to completely transfer responsibility, and eventually accountability, to the man that abused me rather than continuing to live with it. I am grateful that I was able to process in my own time and still be within the statute of limitations to be able to report it.
Some states have only a 10-year window to report a felony. Ten years after the abuse and at twenty-five years old, I was still 20 years away from realizing all the harm that had been done and how it had taken over my life.
If you are a victim of sexual abuse and want to know more about how to get help or how to report abuse go to the Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network’s website at www.rainn.org. or call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE.