Recently a friend died who experienced childhood sexual abuse.

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She never told anyone in her family about what happened when her uncle sexually assaulted her at the age of 10. She went to her grave thinking she was protecting her family by not disclosing what happened.

It reminds me of all the women I have known who were sexually violated as children by family members. There are too many.   Most of them wouldn’t tell another soul what happened.

This particular friend said she was going to get over it, that it somehow didn’t really hurt her as much when she was young, As a middle-aged adult she understood exactly how it hurt her and it was too much to bear at times. The damage to her ability to trust others, to love deeply, to accomplish things in her life.  She wanted to feel healthy and whole and trusting.

But she (and to some degree all of the people who are sexually violated) don’t feel much of anything good.  She felt so conflicted.  She wished she had told what happened when it happened, but since it had been so long ago, she felt it wouldn’t do any good at all, just cause trouble.  She felt so isolated, because she didn’t and wouldn’t tell.

I think about the people who I have known in my life who physically survived. Emotionally didn’t make it through.  It breaks my heart to know so many who didn’t survive at all.  It occurs to me there is little hope in stopping childhood sexual abuse except to tell. Until the people who haven’t experienced it are on our side. Until they can see that the numbers of survivors is bigger than we think. That the damage is persistent and life long.

Not one person alone can make this happen, but if enough children who grow into adults tell what happened to them as children, then we can do something about it. It’s by telling what we experienced and who did it that we can stop it. It helps us get over feeling powerless. It is how we can do something about it.

Learning to be loved and comforted

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A former student contacted me recently, (thank you Facebook) and as we were getting caught up with the changes in our lives, I mentioned Bill (my husband of 20 years) had recently passed away. She was so kind and said just the right words to let me know she cared and hoped that I had been able to find some comfort and support through this time of my life.

I accepted her comforting words.

Later,when I was thinking about our conversation, how nice it was to hear from her and to know how good she was at what she had learned to do, I realized I had changed in some subtle ways I hadn’t noticed. So bear with me as I try to give words to what I noticed. Growing up as a sexual abuse survivor, I learned it wasn’t in my best interest for some people to love me. The important ones, the ones I was supposed to be able to trust to have my best interest, didn’t. My biological father abandoned me, my stepfather sexually abused me, and my Mom didn’t notice. As you can probably guess I definitely preferred being ignored over someone who paid (painful) attention to me. From those experiences I learned to not accept people who professed to love and care for me. Now there were people in my family who I loved and who loved me but I held back not really accepting their love, knowing it wasn’t safe to let my guard down. As I grew into an adult, I realized I didn’t want people to love me, it was too dangerous and I was going to be hurt by their love. I didn’t understand the connection between the danger I lived with as a child and how that fear carried over into my personal relationships as an adult. I have never been comfortable with other people having strong feelings about me.
But I wanted someone to love me. And to pay attention to me. That was/is the healthy part of me.
So with that said, you can imagine, it’s very difficult for me to be open to people loving me and it scares the crap out of me. I know some of the people who read this blog are survivors, you know what a huge risk it can be when you want to love and be loved. The struggle is immense. I can love people easier than I can let them love me back. Once I start feeling like they want more in a relationship, I run. That’s not just romantic relationships,but close friendships, work or even casual friends. It’s just too much for me. For me, the danger is in them having feelings about me.
Years of different types of therapy has helped, I have learned to not bolt, to slow down. To breath and check in mentally and spiritually to see if they intend to harm me, or have a history of harming others. When I am not sure what is going on I try to be open as I can and adopt a “wait and see” approach, but that is not always possible for me to do.

Being able to accept with ease her comforting words and concern, felt effortless. Not like it had in years past. I am grateful for the people who have continued to care for me, love me and often times taught me about loving through their own relationships. (more in the next post)

Reasons its important to tell

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So it won’t eat up your emotional life. Are you holding back to protect the abuser or some other family member?

So you don’t miss the opportunity to love another person and have them love you for who you are, if you want to.  Really, really know you, who you are,  wounds and all. 

The general public has no idea how many people are sexually abused as children.  Making it personal makes it real.

The general public has no idea what childhood sexual abuse does to us, the children.. Help them know  

By telling others, it will dispel the ignorance.  People treat us ignorantly when they are not educated about childhood sexual abuse.

So we don’t hide our history of abuse.  Were not safe just cause we don’t tell. It doesn’t protect us  

So we don’t  protect criminals. We may love them because they are our parents or siblings but they have to be stopped.

So we can get clean, clear honesty into our lives.Its the one thing that will help us stay sane.

 So we start to know that we matter (are important) and worthy again. (or maybe for the first time if you were very young when it happened). They taught us what we wanted and needed didn’t matter, but thats not true. 

By telling we develop self esteem.  We learn we are valuable, capable and able to be effective in protecting ourselves.

We learn to increase our Self approval.   Are you learning to approve of yourself instead of wanting the approval of your abuser (by not telling what happened)?

So we acknowledge just how much it hurts. Telling will put us on the right track to emotional maturity, instead of being buried at the age of our violation.

So we can become fully alive. Instead of staying our young wounded self. 

By telling people, we are no longer isolated as we were when we were being assaulted. Being emotionally free we can choose to be alone, which is different than being alone frozen in our past. 

Freedom will come when you take the risk of telling.Telling another person about our experiences, the truth of our experiences is a big turning point in our healing.Take your time, take it slow but do it. Speak up and out. Their sickness can only exist in the secretive darkness perpetrators rely on to keep violating children.

 

Can you think of more?

 

Because we shield the abusers, we make it possible for them to continue their behavior. Exposed facts will educate others to the seriousness of the problem

 

We have to show them the ugliness we have been exposed to.

How do you know what is lying is when your a Childhood Sexual Abuse Survivor

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Since I grew up in the company of dishonest, evasive and lying people, I have an ongoing fascination with honesty. When you’re a incest survivor it’s hard to know what is real and what is not. We often become suspicious, distrustful or gullible. Our shit detector becomes clouded. I am looking for better ways to stay honest in my dealings with others. So when I run across a blog entry that talks about the reasons why and how to stay honest I perk up. #5 in the following article is a doozy.

25 Things People in Healthy Relationships Don’t Do  by Mark and Angel Hack Life

http://www.marcandangel.com/2014/06/25/25-things-people-in-healthy-relationships-dont-do/

They don’t keep secrets. – Trust is the foundation of a relationship, and when trust is broken it takes time and willingness on the part of both people involved to repair it and heal.  All too often, I’ll hear a coaching client say something like, “I didn’t tell her but I didn’t lie about it, either.”  This statement is a contradiction, as omissions are lies.  If you’re covering up your tracks in any way, it’s only a matter of time before the truth is revealed and trust in the relationship is broken.  Speak the truth, no matter what the consequences.  Being honest is the only way to be at peace with yourself and others.

Even though Mark and Angel write their blog for the average reader, I find their advice and comments to be true for Childhood sexual abuse survivors too. Especially when it comes to areas such as truthfulness, honesty, being in healthy relationships and communication. All areas where we need clarity and open communication.

When I was a child, I believed my life depended on keeping Jacks secrets.  I thought he would kill me, or leave my mom, or my mom would leave me with him.  He depended on me to keep his secrets. Things he didn’t want to admit to anyone or for anyone to know. They were horrible and hurtful. And he lied to everyone either by denying, evading, hiding or lying to someones face. All are forms of dishonesty.

After living my life hiding the truth of my experiences from the people who I wanted to love, I have seen how it inhibits what goes on in my own relationships. Once I hold something back it’s not long before everything gets stopped up. Emotional constipation. Then it’s just a matter of time before the relationship goes bad. I can’t live in an intimate relationship when I evade being known to the other person. But I didn’t have any role models to show what a loving relationship was like. I never saw anyone who really talked to each other.  I learned how to do it. I learned just like plenty of other people do, I watched others ho were in loving relationships. I practiced and made mistakes with the people I love and loved. I kept trying.