I had buried the memory of the incident. It only came rushing back into my mind when someone sent a Facebook suggestion that I be his friend. My immediate visceral response was an unequivocal NO.
I reached out to a trusted friend – someone who I had gone through life coach training with and who I knew it was safe to be vulnerable with. I told her my story of when I was about 7 and said, “He molested me, or, well, he touched me inappropriately.” She kindly and firmly told me, “That is molestation.”
I’m glad she brought my attention to the word choice. I guess I was trying to make light of it, to give the guy the benefit of the doubt, to lessen what happened to me. He is a relative – not close – but I was taught in many ways not to rock the boat, not to air the family’s secrets, and that “blood is thicker than water.”
A Compassionate Witness
By calling my experience what it was, that it was indeed molestation, I was able to recognize it was abuse. It also helped me understand why my initial reaction was fear and avoidance.
For me, it was healing to have a compassionate witness who recognized and validated my experience. Later, when I shared with another family member, the reaction was not so positive, and it made me even more grateful for my friend who was able to hold space for me to grieve and who believed me.