I was abused as a child.

Please don’t call any government agencies. Just hear me out. I wasn’t physically or sexually abused. My abuse was verbal and emotional — very much both of those.

My perpetrators? My two older brothers. I don’t think they “meant” to abuse me. I honestly don’t know their intentions; many years later, they don’t even know. I guess it just seemed like what they were “supposed” to do at the time, and they went with it.

If my abuse was wrong, my parents would have stepped in, right?

Of course, that would have required my dad to actually get involved with my life and for my mom to acknowledge that all her children were not, in fact, perfect. Since neither of those things was going to happen, my abuse was left unchecked.

From the earliest time I can remember until I was almost done with college, my two brothers verbally and emotionally abused me.

My earliest memories of my brothers include such regular statements hurled toward me:

“Go drink poison and die!”

“You’re a waste of space!”

“You’re such a girl!”

“No one will ever love you!”

“You were a mistake, an accident — Mom and Dad didn’t even want to have you! Now they’re just stuck

with you!”

“You’re a fat piece of crap!”

“You’re gay!”

These days, this would be enough to get child services involved. But when I was growing up, child services only looked for physical signs of abuse. My brothers’ words, though harsh, never left a physical mark on me; instead, the mark of their words was left inward.

These words — they buried deep inside me for many years, festering and taking root. At the end of high school, it all came crashing down. Seventeen years of abuse will do that, I guess.

I went into major depression and tried to take my life countless times.

I felt worthless, broken.

I knew I was an accident, a burden, and an outcast.

I was fat.

I was the wrong gender.

And I was an abomination.

By some miracle, God saved me. He brought me into new life through His Son, Jesus. My conversion was truly a surprise as I was in my darkest and deepest moment of depression when I accepted Christ.

Scars on your soul are not always taken away without the consequences being left behind, unfortunately. I envy those people who had radical conversions and never seemed to struggle again with their past mistakes. Though I was saved, I was still neck-deep in crap.

It wasn’t until the end of college that I finally confronted my past abuse. A good friend and a counselor both had to walk me through the process of accepting my abuse, confronting my abuse, and forgiving my abusers.

Even then, the healing process was far from over. These pains had shaped everything about my life for over twenty years. My whole life was built on my brothers’ words to me. That wasn’t about to be undone in one conversation.

Years of counseling, hours of prayer, and countless conversations have led me closer and closer to healing. I still struggle with my past abuse. I still have to forgive my brothers and parents for what they did or didn’t do.

I have to remind myself that my abuse does not define me — Christ defines me.

Some days it’s easy. Some days it isn’t. But each day is a new chance to let Christ work in my life.

If you were abused, please tell someone around you that you can trust. It’s difficult — but Christ is with you. I’m sure of it.

Did you experience abuse growing up: verbal, emotional, or otherwise? Have you healed from your past abuse, or do you still suffer from the after-effects? Feel free to share as much or as little of your abuse story in this safe space.

* Photo courtesy Steve Hammond, Creative Commons.

About the Author

  • It’s almost strange reading these stories of your past abuse, because knowing you today I can clearly see you’re not the man you once were. Doesn’t mean you’re fully “healed” in some mystical Christianese sense, but growth has certainly occurred. And this is so encouraging. Keep sharing your story boldly and confidently because He who began a good work in you…will complete it.

    • Thank you, Tom- your encouragement is a huge blessing to me. I’m thankful God hasn’t stopped working in me yet. I’m looking forward to the finished product some day in the future.

    • I was thinking the same thing Tom!
      Dean, I was remembering meeting you in person. You showed a lot of interest in my life, and “culture”. It may have seemed insignificant to you, but I’m not used to people asking me questions about my life, and listening with their hearts. It meant a lot to me. I love how God’s work may seem slow at times to us, but is steady, and very effective.

      • Thank you so much, Marque. I’m glad I was able to minister you in such a way! I thoroughly enjoyed talking with you when we met! And I appreciate your encouragement here. You are a blessing, brother.

        • Interesting…I thought you would be a counselor type. Listening with your heart is the result of redemption. It shines bright and gives light to those wandering so they have something to look at; the one who gave the redemption in the first place. C. Marque is a great testimony of God’s healing-redemptive power!

  • Like anyone who attended public schools I experienced some bullying, but really only from one person for a few months. That was not real abuse but it gives me some compassion for you and others who have truly suffered under cruel abuse. I am so happy to hear that you are following in Jesus’ footsteps by seeking to forgive your brothers. That must take enormous strength and love but it is the only way to be free from the destruction of hatred. Like Tom said, God will complete the work He started!

    • Forgiveness is definitely not easy- some times it’s a daily act. But it has gotten easier looking at my brothers as children of God rather than abusers. Jesus has forgiven us all- who am I to not do the same? Thank you for the encouragement, Marshall- and I am thankful your bully stopped when he did. That situation could have gone very differently.

  • I got some verbal and emotional abuse growing up. But the way I see it now is that broken people are going to act in broken ways. The family members who hurt me growing up were just living out of their own brokenness. I don’t take any of it personally now, but I do see how it damaged me well into adulthood, and I want to make efforts not to do the same thing. But no matter what, I am still going to be broken, too, in certain ways and that will affect my kids. I can already see it. Ultimately, all I can do is trust God to repair the damage that I inadvertently inflict.

    • That’s so true, Kevin- hurt people tend to hurt other people. It’s simply a part of their nature. That’s a difficult but invaluable perspective to maintain. I’m glad that you have been able to gain that perspective and embrace God for His healing in your life.

    • I was talking about how we inevitably hurt our children no matter how hard we try not to. The problem is we can’t read minds, and children can’t always say, or feel safe saying what they want or feel. It is the same in relationships. Ultimately, we have to trust our children to God and have peace that if He can heal our broken hearts, He can do the same for our Children. The best we can do is to show them the way to Christ and pray they follow.

  • Thanks for sharing this Dean! I found it hard to read this. I can’t say that I experienced abuse (sexual, physical or emotional). I did grow up with an angry brother who could be violent at times and I had my share of minor injuries from his outbursts, but it was not deliberately done with intent to harm or hurt me–just an out-of-control messed up kid acting out. My father was not one to verbally affirm his children or compliment them. He did on at least two occasions say things that wounded my spirit deeply–memories that I carry forward with sadness to this day, though I think I have forgiven them. Again, no intent to seriously harm me nor to break my spirit was intended, though these things were hurtful. I agree with Kevin–it is broken people who are hurting themselves who hurt and try to break other people. Realizing this now, helps us to forgive them for the pain they caused us. God’s forgiveness to us–is so seriously unreal in its reach that it is a real help for us to forgive those who sinned against us. I am sorry for your brothers’ sins against you–and pray that God’s grace will keep you and make your stronger because you have through faith sought God’s help for this painful past.

  • The abuse I suffered as a child predates my introduction to grade school. I could never remember back so far to my toddler and preschool days, but from what my parents have told me I was a target. I would venture out into the neighborhood and be accosted by the local neighborhood kids with their bully mentalities. This resulted in a hasty retreat back to my mother and homestead where I felt safer. After enough of these altercations passed, my parents were confronted by these neighborhood bullies’ own parents and told that my mom and dad need to teach me how to fight. The neighbors would state I need to learn to fight so I can fight back with their kids. This implied to me now that the neighborhood bullies were suffering their own abuse at home at the hands of their parents. This taught them that to be dominant over someone, you have to bully the more vulnerable, namely me. These kids couldn’t fight their parents so they preyed on me. “I’m not a fighter, I’m a lover.” “Can’t we all just get along?” Ok, enough famous quotes. I guess I was considered “soft” by the neighbors’ standards. I was much more extroverted back then and came across to people with an over the top pleasantness. I was just happy and thought everyone shared in the same idealistic viewpoint. The world had no animosity, jealousy or other sinful motive towards their fellow man or woman. Why should it? I didn’t. Yes, I know. I was an optimistic and ignorant child. Needlessness to say, reality eventually painted a much uglier picture of humankind when I finally began to appreciate what real like was all about.
    My first memorable incident of abuse was at the hands of “G” in my kindergarten class. At the time I really didn’t quite understand what was fueling his hostility towards me. Was my upbeat disposition enraging him? Bullies tend to go after cheery people and try to bring them down so everyone can feel as miserable as they do. I remember he always looked mad and would engage in physical altercations with me until he was pulled away by our teacher and scolded for his behavior. Over time, my mom set the record straight that G’s parents were undergoing a divorce at the time and this could very well have caused him to act out with displaced anger towards me. Again, bully the vulnerable. Luckily he wasn’t a long term antagonist in my life as eventually he either moved or transferred to another school.
    Although he helped set the stage with a whole cast of bullies I had to endure from elementary through high school. I even had bullies who were friends of my younger brother who used him to get to me. I was emotional rollercoaster suffering in silence and in the open (couldn’t hide the pain all the time) from the abuse. I became less and less extroverted and more and more introverted as I got older. Today I am an ISFJ and Enneagram 6w5 keeping only a small circle of friends along with an inclination to defend people under attack because I know what it is like to be a victim. I am selective about letting people into the real me as I have grown disillusioned and suspicious that someone won’t come along and end up hurting me all over again.
    Sorry for it being so long. I’m also obsessive compulsive too. Gosh, am I screwed up or what? LOL!

    • I see your posts on here a lot Eddie and I’m glad to see them. I too was bullied, maybe not as much as you, but I was afraid of other kids as far back as 1st grade. I did a good job of not being noticed most of the time. I was not a fighter either but both my father, mother and stepfather felt I should be more aggressive and I felt shamed for being passive. Now though, my gentle nature is admired by others, men and women. I am told that I have a gift of causing people to feel calm and accepted. It was a gift that didn’t fit into the world at the time. I suspect that you too have that gift. I am an INFJ, your distant cousin. The NF is a counselor personality. I challenge you to pray and ask God to show you what gift he has given you in your nature and disposition, if you don’t already know. There is a song by Jason Gray that comforted me at a time, actually two songs. The first is “Nothing is Wasted” and the other is: Pause. I wanted to find the song and found this article which I read. I think you should read it too. http://www.crossrhythms.co.uk/articles/music/Jason_Gray_The_thoughtful_songsmith_once_referred_to_as_The_Stuttering_Artist/46930/p1/
      Jason gives his testimony and it is amazingly like yours!
      So there are two more songs: “Remind Me Who I Am” and “I Will Find a Way”. The song I wanted to emphasize is the last. I heard it at work one day and it made me think about my abuse. I was going through my first taste of trauma that not long after would lead to my remembering. The song is from the perspective of Jesus and how He is determined to make a way into our hearts. I hope you find a lot of peace and joy from them, but most of that they bring you healing. I’m listening to it now and crying.

  • Well, I was brought to tears as I read your post. Partly because I felt compassion for your story, but also because I felt empathy. I suffered all of your abuses, and sexual abuse too. I relate to most if not all of your posts, since I have been reading them backwards. I suffered so much because of the lies I believed until I remembered the abuse I had repressed. I have mental illness as a result; PTSD and dissociative disorder, and I suspect it is the cause of my late onset bipolar disorder. Yes, all of these things came to a head when I was 40, but although it got worse before it got better, it did get better. For as long as I could remember before that, I was in misery. It seemed as if nothing had improved and it would never get better. On top of all of that, I was SSA.
    Now that things are a lot better though, and I’m not under the thumb of crippling depression and anxiety (I was agoraphobic at times, had severe social anxiety on and off etc) I can now better remember it wasn’t all bad. I had Jesus, wonderful fellowship with friends and usually everything I needed to live well enough. I forgot about those things when I was depressed, which was just about all the time in varying degrees. I am on medication that works finally and I got counseling through medicaid, because 3 years ago I lost my good job due to hospitalization in a short-term institution due to suicidal ideations. I also lost my home and lived in a garage for 1.5 years without a kitchen or a shower.
    As strange as it may sound, losing my job, home and everything I own, and even being homeless after leaving the garage, was the best thing that had happened to me up to that point. I hit rock bottom and I learned so much that has made me more like Jesus. I was materialistic and afraid of people. I worked to accumulate more stuff and it kept me from closer relationships some of the time. I bribed people with cooking and fancy parties because I thought they wouldn’t come to see me but only for what I gave them. When I lost everything, I had little to give, and I was sometimes a burden. It allowed me to be a mainstay in other people’s lives though and we developed a close, lasting friendship, especially with my friend Tim, who gave me a place to live and money from time to time. He listened to the horrifying stories and stayed with me during my hysterical screaming and thrashing and crying when I was reliving my abuse. I developed new friendships at his church where I now attend and I know that I am well loved. Even more amazing is that I can feel loved. I couldn’t do that before. I had to be broken enough that I was desperate for it. I joined organization Tim exposed me to called Marked Men For Christ, which helps me work on my emotional wounds when I go to meetings. These men loved me and cared for me when I felt worthless, showing me what they admired and loved about me. It helped me to love myself and no longer feel worthless, or not good enough as a man and human being.
    Now, I have been put together enough that I have started school to become a counselor, and I am able to minister to my friends as much as they have ministered to me. I live a simple life on very little money and my time is free to spend in relationship with others, no longer isolating myself. The last chapter I hope to live is that I would be married like you and have children, although I feel disparaged that it is too late since I am 44. Still, my longing grows deeper every day.
    When I read about your story, I am so proud and encouraged by you. I’m glad that you have this outlet and that we can share in this healing process with you. It is amazing to see what God does in your life and we have the privilege of going through it with you. I encourage you to also share about the amazing things God is doing along with some of the painful things that happened or things you are still going through. You have a long story that is yet to be written, and it must be told.

  • My stepmother was a harsh woman. She was the ultra religious type, and I think her and my father knew I was gay. I was enfeminate. I was sensative. I hated sports. I loved to read. I was such a disappointment to my father. When my best friend killed himself I became moody and depressed. But then I made the mistake of asking if I would see my friend again in heaven. I trusted them, as they were my only souce of religion I had at the time. My stepmother told no, that all people who commit suicide go straight to hell. I was dealing with this at fourteen plus the very real possibility I was a homosexual. I went into a state of severe depression which lasted for years. It ended on the night that I was going to take my life like my friend had. Instead, I found God.

    • I’m sorry you experienced that, Bradley. It sounds like something out of Dickens. And to bring the Bible into it and twist its message of hope and restoration is just devilish.

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