(This post from Cecil Murphey first appeared at 1in6.org.)
Occasionally a survivor of sexual assault says, "It happened only one time," as if that made the offense and agony less important.
To that, I answer, "It's not whether molestation happened one time or fifty times, you were still molested." Here's a good first question to ask: How did the abuse affect you?
I've talked with a few men who say they were abused and not damaged by the assault. That may be denial or their words may be true. Some individuals just don't hurt as easily or as deeply as others.
Regardless, many men who say it didn't happen a second time were so traumatized, they struggled with the same issues as those who reported abuse that went on for years.
We need to remind ourselves that our innocence was destroyed the first time someone assaulted us. And assault is the right word. We were defenseless children and someone usually bigger and older did something to us without our consent or our being old enough to know they were harming us.
There doesn't have to be a second or tenth time. The damage occurred and our innocence was shattered.
"How did the molestation change your life?" is a good second question. Most of us struggle with the issue of not being able to trust others. If a person we should have been able to trust betrayed us, how can we trust anyone else?
To heal from that abuse means we finally must take a risk. We have to trust someone enough to tell our story. The healing happens when we relate what happened to us and sense the listener understands. That exchange validates us and the healing process begins.
One time. Five hundred times. Ignore that, and focus on the hurt so the healing can take place.