What I Wish Teenage Girls Who’ve Been Robbed Of Their Power Knew About Getting It Back

Photo: Guzel Gashigullina / Shutterstock
What I Wish Teenage Girls Knew Who’ve Been Robbed Of Their Power

Growing up wasn’t easy for me. There are a plethora of reasons as to why I would categorize my adolescent years as abnormal.

I am a survivor of sexual and emotional abuse. It's something that's still difficult for me to say, or for me to go into details about. But looking back on my teen years is easier than looking at my childhood. Due to a dissociative disorder, there are a lot of memory gaps when I try to look back at my younger years  —  but I remember vividly what it was like to be a teenager. It was hard. I felt lonely, ugly, and extremely out of place.

Teenagers can be ruthless.

I had a lot of zits when I was a teenager and couldn’t cover them up like other girls because I had eczema. You can probably imagine the overwhelming shame and embarrassment I felt, having to be around people with a face covered in big red zits and eczema rashes.

People looked at me like I was a freak who belonged in a cage at the circus. I remember one of my friends dragging another girl across my playground excitedly just to look at my face and talk about how grotesque I was. Boys would stare and say “urgh” and ask me if I’d taken drugs. But looking back — I had red eyes and dry skin around my mouth and hands — that was it, but teenagers have this horrid tendency of grouping together and making a big deal out of things because it’s “funny”.

It wasn’t funny. The bullying, coupled with what was going on in my personal life, made me suicidal.

It was a really difficult time in my life. I was fifteen years old, and the man who had tried to abuse me had been arrested, smashing my family to pieces. Because my mother was struggling, and I knew my dad was trying to be strong, I felt like I couldn’t tell anyone about my flashbacks of the day this man tried to hurt me.

Maybe I should let go and forgive the people who picked on me at school because they were stupid kids who didn’t know better — but I’m unsure if I can because, at fifteen, you are old enough to know it’s not OK to mercilessly pick on someone for the way they look.

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As a teenage girl who had been abused, bullied, and was dealing with anxiety, depression, and PTSD, I felt worthless and weak beyond measure. I felt robbed of my power.

Now, as an adult, I realize how amazing and brave I was.

This is how young girls get their power back

The truth is that in life, many people will try to rob your power. They will make you feel worthless and small, convince you that you don’t belong here, that you are pathetic and annoying — whether that’s for the way you look like, the books you read, the things you like to wear, you dislike for parties and drinking  — or simply because you are a girl.

You will be made to feel prudish and ugly for being uncomfortable with your sexuality, whilst simultaneously being made to feel like you have to consent to things for boys to like you  —  or you may feel that your consent doesn’t matter. But it does. Everything about you matters.

Just because it is more than one person who lies to you and hurts you doesn’t mean that they are right. Everyone who makes you feel worthless, like a freak, like you don’t matter — they are wrong. Everyone who tries to pressure you, tease you, use you, abuse you  —  they are wrong. Anyone who makes you feel like you have to drop your boundaries and morals to be worthy of love — they are wrong.

It took me so long to learn, and I am tired of no one caring for the safety and self-worth of young girls.

It is not a “right of passage” to have a difficult teenhood.

We don’t have to leave teenage girls to fend for themselves. We can do more.

How We Can Teach And Support Girls

In an article on peer pressure statistics, teacher and mentor Stacy Zeiger says:

According to Parent Further, only 10 percent of teenagers surveyed said that they had not been influenced by peer pressure. In that same group, 28 percent of teenagers agreed that giving in to peer pressure improved their social standing, and nearly half of those surveyed admitted to picking on someone only after a friend picked on that person.

Statistics for the effects of peer pressure and the scale of abuse against teenagers are troubling:

According to a 2020 NSPCC report, teenagers (compared to younger children) are 4 times as high for physical abuse offenses, 9 times as high for online grooming offenses, and 6 times as high for sexual abuse offenses.

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18 percent of girls and 3 percent of boys say that by age 17 they have been victims of a sexual assault or abuse at the hands of another adolescent.

66 percent of adolescent victims from this national survey on violence didn’t tell an adult about the assault.

We can do more to support our teenage girls. We cannot stop the darkness of the world around them, but we could do more to teach our girls how to hold on to their power.

We do this by making sure there are support systems in place and adults they feel comfortable talking to. We start building up a girl’s confidence by addressing their low self-esteem  —  which makes them more susceptible to being targeted by abusers.

Statistics on teens and self-esteem show that:

Over 70% of girls age 15 to 17 avoid normal daily activities, such as attending school, when they feel bad about their looks.

75% of girls with low self-esteem reported engaging in negative activities like cutting, bullying, smoking, drinking, or disordered eating.

Teen girls that have a negative view of themselves are 4 times more likely to take part in activities with boys that they’ve ended up regretting later.

7 in 10 girls believe that they are not good enough.

Failed teenage girls become mentally ill women.

When teenage girls are not supported and made to believe they are not good enough, they are more at risk of falling into a dangerous trap of incredibly low self-worth which can lead to poor mental health and, as the statistics show, more likely to be victims of peer pressure or abuse. I was one of those girls.

But things could have been so different if:

I had someone to talk to.

I had a healthy support system around me.

I had been better educated in my PHSE and sexual education classes.

If mental health was talked about more openly, honestly, and widely.

I had felt less alone and knew I didn’t have to believe everything I was told.

I was taught that my worth isn’t measured by my looks, weight, mental health, or shyness.

I had a better understanding of abuse and how manipulation works.

It is so easy to put the former points into action. But instead, we leave teenage girls to fend for themselves and force them to have to deal with their childhood traumas and poor self-esteem as women.

I am one of those women. I am trying to love myself and do my best to move on from all the things I have been through. I am undoing all the lies I have been told growing up. And as each day passes, I grow a little bit more and feel a little bit more healed, and I realize that something beautiful is happening. I am becoming a woman who loves herself and knows that I am worthy and that I matter. I realize now that I am not to blame for the actions of the people who hurt me. I am no longer ashamed to be me.

I am getting my power back.

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Sexual abuse of children and minors is incredibly common. According to the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN), 1 in 9 girls and 1 in 53 boys under the age of 18 have experienced sexual abuse from an adult. Girls are far more likely to be victims of sexual abuse; the organization reports that 82% of all victims under 18 are female, and those who do suffer from assault and abuse are more likely to also develop mental health issues like depression, PTSD, and drug abuse.

Kat Morris is a writer, bookworm, and editor. She's also the co-editor of The Brave Writer and Family Matters.