Dear Rhonda & Dr. Cheri: Why am I ashamed?

Dear Rhonda and Dr. Cheri,

I’m in college. I was bullied in high school because, I think, I was a pretty good person. But why did everyone abuse me?

I was sexually abused between the ages of four and eight by my uncle.

He admitted to putting his hand on my naked butt. He admitted that! But that’s not all he did to me. I tried to speak up for myself, I was only eight. But my whole family jumped on me! They said, “it wasn’t that bad” and “he admitted it, so get over it and forgive him.”

I feel ashamed that I was abused and my family acts like I did something wrong. Then I’m still ashamed because I can’t forgive him! Plus, he only admitted it because my older sister was caught with him. She says she forgave him and that I’m too sensitive.

Well, I started faking being over it and now I have anxiety so badly that I shake when I think I’m being judged.

In college, I got into debate, drama, and cheer. Everyone thought I was very confident, capable, and popular. But I’m not, so I stopped and now I don’t do anything and I don’t date. Well, no one even asks! My hometown thinks I’m still involved and so “strong.”

The truth is that I think I have PTSD because I think about the past all the time and sometimes my roommate tells me I’m screaming at night and not really asleep.

Why do I still feel like I’m the bad girl?

Signed,

Ashamed

Dear Ashamed,

It’s very common and normal for those in your situation to feel shamed, but it’s wrong. We know you are not the “bad girl.” You have been shamed in an unrighteous way by people who needed to be your biggest supporters.

They want you to pretend and live behind a façade of “everything’s okay” because they don’t want to deal with the trauma.

If they diminish you and judge you, they can feel good about life again. Your pain doesn’t count and that’s the selfish truth. They want you to live a lie too, so they won’t feel guilty.

Unfortunately, living a lie in a façade has consequences and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may be one.

Ask yourself:

• Are repeating scenes and awful thoughts about your perpetrators and what they did to you going through your mind everyday?

• Do you feel excruciating pain and that those closest to you don’t understand it and don’t want to understand it?

• Does that pain make you feel angry that those closest to you don’t care?

• Do you feel others won’t let you grieve the loss of the idea about how your “loved ones” are suppose to care?

• Are others verbally, physically, emotionally, and/ or sexually abusing you because you won’t live the lie?

• Do you feel that those close to you don’t believe you or believe in you?

Disapproval, fear, guilt, embarrassment, unworthiness, undeserving shame and blame, non-entitlement, punishment can be symptoms of PTSD.

Shame is a powerful, lingering, and painful emotion caused by a strong sense of guilt, embarrassment or disgrace. You did nothing to deserve shame!

Be grateful that you have empathy, love and talents (internal and external) that allow your integrity to rise above all of your adversaries.

The final stage of PTSD is forgiveness of others.

As a daughter of God, remember that no one can see your goodness the great way God does. Lean on him.

Signed,

Rhonda and Dr. Cheri

Rhonda Orr is the president and founder of the Prescott-based Rhonda’s STOP BULLYING Foundation for Girls.

Dr. Cheri L. McDonald, PhD, LMFT, is a crime-victim specialist. Send your anonymous questions to Rhonda@rhondastopbullying.org.