Imagine you are walking down the street, you are shot by someone in a passing car. The paramedics arrive and they don’t treat you. Instead, they turn you over to the police. You are carrying an illegal bullet in your chest that was stolen from a local gun shop the night before. You are now in trouble because you possess stolen goods and now you are left slowly bleeding to death. You plead your innocence and beg for someone to help you but instead, one of the paramedics blames you for the entire situation because you shouldn’t have been walking that street so late at night. They won’t help you and now you feel like a villain, lying in a heap filled with pain that nobody is willing to help you with.
It’s a pretty twisted story, but it is not too far from how I felt after I came forward with my childhood abuse. I was bleeding to death on the inside, and as I begged for certain family members believe me, and to help me, I was instead met ignorance and blame.
I have always lived an honest life, sometimes to a fault. I have no reason to lie about the abuse that had happened to me, in fact, there are some days I wish I could just live the lie of pretending it never happened. It took me a long time to get over the pain of not being believed and it wasn’t until recently that I took it upon myself to understand why someone would deny me that decency.
When you place belief in something or someone, you are required to invest yourself in their trust. Depending on the depth of belief and the closeness of the relationship, there is a certain amount of vulnerability that must be shown as you open yourself up to their story. When are open to their pain, sometimes it will expose your own pain. It is natural for us to protect ourselves from hurt by not believing what you are seeing or hearing. By believing your son or nephew that he has been through something very traumatic, it would require you to drastically change your lifestyle, your relationships with the abuser and your entire outlook on life. I get it. I know all about that change, I had lived it. I lived 20 years not believing what had happened to me and when I finally did, it was frightening and it changed every part of my world way beyond what I ever had thought it would. It was THE toughest thing I have ever experienced.
Believing someone is hard. That is why I appreciate every word of trust that has ever been given to me. I know too well how difficult it is to trust someone and I know how hard it can be to be vulnerable at the expense of someone else’s story. Everyone has a story, some more traumatic than others, and everyone has that need to be believed, it is what gives us the strength to move on. Most people will harbor their pain for their entire lives in fear that they won’t be believed and most likely at some point they weren’t. The three most valuable words that can ever be given to me or anyone suffering from emotional pain in silence is: I believe you.