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Love Girls Magazine - Because Every Girl Has A Story


Sex Abuse Survivor

Vanessa McNeal

Body image is a difficult subject to not only talk about, but to overcome. How do we find worth and value in our bodies? I heard someone say, knowing your worth is only half the battle, but enforcing it can be even more challenging. What is unfortunate is that some of us experience obstacles that make body image even more challenge.

At the age of 3-4 I experienced childhood sexual abuse perpetrated by my sister and older female cousins. It was a very difficult time in my life because I felt so much shame. The abuse happened for several years and I never had the courage to tell anyone. I felt alone most of my life until I freshman year of college. My professor in my human sexuality class talked with the class about what sexual violence was and she shared with the class that she was a [survivor] too. Up until that point, I thought I was the only person this happened to. She gave me a name for my experience and she planted a seed in me that I didn't have to wear the shame I had. My life changed forever and my healing journey started.

What most people don't know is that sexual violence has a huge impact on body image. My body had been objectified and it only had value when other people took from it. Our bodies our sacred and we want to feel same in them. When someone violates you it can strip you of your confidence and security. From a very early age, I was receiving indirect messages about my body. "It's only useful when people take from it', "Sexual acts should be carried out in secrecy and silence", "Other people can take things from you without you being okay with it", "You aren't in control of your body and what happens to it". Heavy stuff, right? That was the dialogue that I had until I finally spoke up. I had to re write the scripts in my head until they said: "My body has value and I am in charge of it", "It is NOT my fault that other people chose to violate me", "I should not feel shame about my body". For the longest time, I felt disconnected with my body… I felt uncomfortable, disgusted. I had to do a lot of internal work before I was able to find comfort.

What is most important to know is that my healing is forever. That means that this is something that I will work on for the rest of my life. In time it will get easier, and it has. It's difficult to re write internal scripts, but it is possible. I am practicing loving myself and walking in confidence. I am empowered and free after sharing my story. I don't have to be ashamed, I am apologetically me. You should be too.

Learn more about me at vanessamcneal.com