“’..and what will you trade for these things that you desire?’ he intoned flatly. ‘Blood, tears, sweat?’ I felt smaller even than before. ‘But, you see, I’ve already given all of that; and yet I still stand here before you empty-handed, without the Affection. Is there, there… no other way?’ My voice trails away imperceptibly, anger rising in me even as I hear my imploring tone echoing in my ears. I hate my weakness.
~ excerpt from my offline work in progress
A precautionary note about this very long posting:
“Sexual abuse in the young creates the neediest people, who will tell you we need nothing; we live that way too. We are taught by actions that there is no real love; there is no trust, that there is no safe place. We do not believe in love, when really questioned. And yet for the rest of our lives, we who do not believe real love exists, will spend nearly every energy molecule we have, sacrifice almost all that we are, trying to find something we don’t believe in. It is a horrible conundrum. It is a Sisyphisian activity of our hearts, which are not made to be pushed repeatedly uphill.” – Me
I had to think pretty hard on why I wanted to write this post. It deals with a very painful part of my life, that I am still working through now, forty-five years later. Not every day, not even always consciously. I will try to couch things in understandable, but not graphic, terms. These are the reasons why I am writing this post:
- If it causes ONE undiscovered child/pre-teen/teen to be identified and helped, then it is worth it.
- Some of you may be close to, love, or have family members who have been through this, but it isn’t an ‘open’ thing to discuss yet – it is to help you understand nearly non-understandable things.
- To empower others who still carry this burden, due to no fault of their own.
- And lastly, to several close friends of mine who have given me the strength and grounding to look honestly inward for answers to things.
The book I am working on for trauma victims may never sell, because I hold no degree, I am no counselor, and I am only one person. But the activity of making a character, and allowing that character to work on things, put the thin membrane there that enabled me to break through some issues that no counseling has ever done for me. For that reason alone, I will probably give it away when done.
When people read or hear of domestic violence, rape or sexual abuse, they often form questions about the victims; legitimately, as it is outside the realm of a lot of people’s experience. That’s what I’d like to write about today, to shed a little light, allow another perspective for you to consider. Child sexual abuse is more prevalent than one would believe, despite the occasional headline grabbers. It is more prevalent in certain cultural groups and socio-economic groups, which causes it to be overlooked in many areas outside of those known parameters.
Everyone knows that healthy development in childhood is crucial for a healthy, well-rounded person to develop. Feed them right. Read to them. Make fresh air and sunshine available. Provide exercise for their bodies and brains. We fuss about kids that get sent to school with no breakfast, and create programs to help assuage that issue.
But this more silent epidemic cannot be made up for so easily. You can’t…just serve up a helping of self-esteem, remove shame and bake up some normalcy, like you can address the issues of physical hunger with a voucher. There isn’t always visible evidence that there is a problem; in fact, probably the opposite. The truth most likely will be covered at all costs – no one must know, in most cases.
As shame builds and isolation continues, most will move into self-medicating or self-destructive behaviors; sometimes a combination of these things. Drinking, drugging, fighting, racing cars, shop-lifting and other risk-taking behaviors. These youth will also often seek praise through teachers and other authority figures. They may be excellent students, or they may be kicked out of class regularly.(4) What is consistent across both male and female child survivors is re-victimization. This expresses in males and females differently, with males more often doing the victimizing (1,2), and the females more likely to be re-victimized again. Sex abuse victims of both genders have more than twice the suicide attempt rates as average individuals (3). Female sexual abuse victims have a 3 to 5 time higher re-victimization rate in comparison with non-abused females. Much of that stems from the behavior mentioned above – being in more dangerous places due to self-medicating or self-destructive behaviors. A few searches of PubMed will provide you data that will break your heart, and anger you. These are all dry statistics; what’s behind them?
I can give you some insight, but this is only one person’s experiences. It is also only through retrospective examination through writing – at the time these things are occurring, most of the time young people aren’t armed with any knowledge of how to deal with emotions they don’t even begin to understand the origin of in the first place. What pre-teen understands shame, self-loathing and maladaptive behavior? Even less armed, what seven, eight or nine-year old does? When the expected sources and examples of trust and love are instead the source of trust violation, boundary elimination and a distortion of love, the foundation is set askew, rather like the footers for a foundation slab. The house is going to be askew. The thing is, you have to become mature enough to understand foundations, boundaries, trust; before you can examine and repair that sunken corner or bad joist; or sometimes, an entire building that is at a tilt. Unfortunately, this maturity usually comes much later than the destructive behavior patterns and ripe time frames of potential for re-victimization, and often allows for more damage to occur.
CSA victims often display sexual understanding beyond age-appropriate knowledge. They may have a difficult time with boundaries, and say or do inappropriate things. Please do not equate this with normative sexual exploration (often same-sex) that can occur. Over time, children can become hyper-sexualized; they have no idea they are, but this behavior is like chum to sharks for other predatory types. It often continues into adulthood as well.
There are some little discussed factors surrounding these issues that add to the shame and confusion both in CSA victims and in rape victims. The body does not know or care what the moral and ethical situations are. The body responds to stimuli in the manner that it is supposed to, physiologically, which often adds to the shame and confusion both types of victims feel. Yes, both women and men can have positive sexual responses during rape. Children can have it during childhood sexual abuse. Both of these situations create great duress for the mind in trying to resolve these happenings. If it felt good, it isn’t bad, right? If it is a bad thing, how can it feel good? That must make ME bad/wrong. It is my own personal belief, unproven scientifically at this point, that this is one of the greatest confounding issues that creates shame in victims, particularly childhood victims.
So you have a child who knows ‘love’ as expressed through sexual behaviors. You have shame, confusion, and, depending on familial and community behaviors, either a reinforcement of the ‘wrongness’ of the child, or a complete denial – and sometimes both. There is fear of upsetting the only home life known, other dependents perhaps in the mix. You have a loss of parental role models. In essence, you have a recipe for disaster, destruction, chaos and confusion. And off we go into the world. We mostly don’t have friendships, community connections, or even faith connections. We are self-isolating.
This combination of risk-taking behavior, self-medicating, low-self esteem and a wrong perception of love is a stage set for re-victimization. It is present in both male and female survivors, usually not understood readily by them. It is read by other predators very easily. These are not all sexual predators by the way – sometimes they are people that feel out of control themselves and are looking for those they can control emotionally, to bolster themselves. These are normally the domestic violence perpetrators. While PTSD is known mostly by environmental situations causing retrograde experience behavior, a little known part of PTSD is that when a situation presents itself that a PTSD sufferer has been in before, it also pre-guides their behavior in the lead-up events as well. It can become a circle that traps the PTSD sufferer, and the lead-up behaviors have to be modified as well, to improve future event reactions. This is also rarely studied currently to my knowledge.
The risky behavior may put the young adult male or female into arenas that expose them to predators – particularly within the drinking/drugging culture. My rape occurred in this environment at age nineteen. By the way, the majority of rapes occur among people who actually know each other or have had previous contact in some manner, although there are random victim rapes as well. Although I had contact with my rapist, I felt nor saw any warning behavior. This person returned to my home after dropping a friend off, asking for something to eat. I let them in to my home. This fact alone precluded me from even understanding that I still should report it. I felt ‘responsible’. *I* should have known better. In other words, I took the shame from the perpetrator onto me. It was a pattern already long-established in my life. My greatest regret is not for me, but for the fact that I may have failed to prevent another such occurrence to someone else because I did not report it.
In another post in the future, I will explain how this type of life experience sets the stage for greater possibilities for a partnership with a domestically violent partner.
The greater scientific and psychological studies reveal to me that the largest numbers of victims are groomed throughout their lifetime. They do not have the basic grounding of trust, reliable boundaries, or a true perspective of love. We need an environment where each occurrence is examined with impartiality. But we have also entered into the pendulum knowledge swing stage where false accusations can be made, due to the visibility and awareness of these crimes. False accusations are equally dangerous in a different manner and should also be punished. Any person’s future, adult or child, has value.
Thanks for your time and energy in this long read. I hope it helps someone, somewhere!