By Kemi Chavez, CCASA Blogger
I’m a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. My abusers were well known to me, as they were either relatives or close friends of my family. My experience with sexual abuse is common, as the statistics goes: 90% of sexually abused children are assaulted by someone they know (Source: Prevent Child Abuse America). For many people, sharing the holidays without family is heartbreaking; I have the exact opposite reaction.
Luckily, I am married and with the help of my husband have three small children who are “my family”. So my birth family is much less present in my life, then say 20 years ago. It’s been a positive change, for me; as I no longer have to mentally prepare for a delicious meal overshadowed by guilt, anxiety, hate, and animosity.
As a child, I thought the level of dysfunction within my family was acceptable. It was not until my husband, then boyfriend, spent his first (and luckily not last) Thanksgiving at my grandparents’ home. Let’s just say it was bad enough that my husband started piecing together the issues of my family. I find that abuse has a way of making itself known, be it through the tension or the silent insistence that there be no tension.
As survivors, we can sometimes compromise our own healing by minimizing the amount of mental and psychological pain we experience when being around people who trigger memories of our abuse. Have you ever beaten yourself up for feeling less than fortunate to spend time with your family and loved ones during the holiday season? These feelings only aggravate an uncomfortable situation.
Consider this. During the holiday season, give yourself permission to do what’s best for you. What if you turned down an offer to see extended family, and plan a get together with close friends? What would happen if you planned holidays at a location that feels safe for you? Who would be offended you decided to bring a friend, someone who will “have your back” and help you avoid anyone who makes you feel uncomfortable?
If being around your family is emotionally exhausting for you, do what you can to either address the issue for resolution or minimize the amount of time you spend with your family.
Think about it this way: It’s your holiday season – you might as well own it.
Kemi Chavez is a CCASA Volunteer and founder of Protecting Childhood.