Identify the Victim, Identify the Perpetrator

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According to my stepfather, he was the victim of my sexual abuse. In his way of thinking, he wasn’t responsible for what happened between us.

He said over and over to me “See how much you want me Kimmy”, “See what you make my dick do Sissy” and “I can’t help myself, Sissy, you are so beautiful.” To him, I wanted him. He would do things to make sure I was sexually excited and then tell me ” See how much you want me?”

Because he had said things like this to me for years, I thought it was my idea to have sex with him. This was one of the reasons I felt guilty when I told, I thought I was telling on myself.

It was the summer of 1975 when I told Mom Jack and I had been sleeping together. I sat in a folding lawn chair in the backyard. My body felt heavy like I wasn’t going to be strong enough to hold myself up. I felt it everywhere. I was breathing shallowly, feeling slightly dizzy from the lack of oxygen.

When I said, “Jack and I had been sleeping together”… (wrong I know now). I remember thinking I would be in so much trouble because I had wanted to do all those bad things. Somehow at the age of 4, I had the idea to have oral sex with a grown man, somehow, it was my idea, I felt like I was telling on myself for having done something wrong.

It was disastrous telling her, she responded by asking was there anyone else who knew. I said yes, my uncles, cause Jack had tried to get them to have sex with me. So she left to talk to them about what happened. That was it. No nothing else.

Later Jack came home and asked where she was. He told me to get the kids in bed, so I climbed in bed with my little sisters, while the boys got in bed in their room.

We all fell asleep. Later I woke up with Jack and Mom arguing in the kitchen, Mom saying “why would she say something like that?”

He responded with I don’t know, maybe she didn’t want to do the dishes anymore.

They were back and forth for the longest time while I drifted off again. There was a little bit of hurt when he said what I had told was being reduced to something so petty as not wanting to do dishes.

Later, he complained to me about how I had upset my Mom and gotten him in trouble.

So when I look back on this I realize that I thought I was the problem, I caused him to do what he had done for years. It took years for me to correct my own thinking. I didn’t cause him to do anything, He did it. He was the perpetrator, he was the criminal, I was a child, I know now how I had to distort my own thinking in an effort to cope with the things he did to me and how I tried to make sense of it in my young child mind.

And recovery takes so long because there is so much sorting out to be done. Because I was so young, I didn’t have a basis for what was wrong or right. And my whole childhood was built around those lies he told me.

Now I can identify that I am the victim, he was the perpetrator of a series of crimes. Not just to me, but my whole family.

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.

 

Risky business

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I grew up with the feeling that whatever I wanted to say would be dangerous. To myself, to my mother, to my brothers and sisters, to anyone who was around me and clearly to the perpetrator. It still seems true to me even now and I hold back because of this twisted way of thinking. I was taught though out my years of abuse that it was important that I do not talk to others about what happened, not cry during it or afterwards, not speak up when someone is treating me wrongly. There would be a sure and painful punishment for doing so. It would be dangerous. All of these rules he enforced to protect his criminal sickness translated to “no trust” for me. Because  I was so secretive, other people couldn’t get to know me or trust me. I surely did not trust other people. The sexual abuser in our family told me lies all the time.  Lies that were all designed to protect his perverted secret.  My survival depended on not trusting anyone (or at least I was lead to believe it was so).  If  the secret was exposed my Mom would not want me anymore. She would know what an awful, stupid little girl she had living with her, who was crazy and lied about nice men that Mommy loved.  Since I already  knew my biological Dad rejected me, it was easy to see she might not want me either.  So, I did what seemed right at the time. I didn’t tell.

Then not talking to anyone over time became a habit. I could talk to others about superficial, everyday stuff . I learned professionalism. I didn’t volunteer information in friendships. If I liked someone I avoided being around them. As soon as I was old enough to legally leave home, I did. I escaped to Florida, (far from the Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee I grew up in) getting as far away as I could and never went back.  If my family was going to protect the abuser, then they could have him.

I needed safety and it came in the form of strangers. I moved to Florida, joined the Army and transferred to my permanent duty station in Germany. It was wonderful for me in so many ways. Not just because it was Europe. There I met and married an incredible man, gave birth to a baby boy, got therapy and did really well for several years.  We tried to have another child but nothing happened. After visiting a few Doctors, I ended up with a diagnosis of  Endometriosis. This blow to my progress so far, made it possible for my core belief to reassert itself. I clearly was damaged in ways that others couldn’t see. I returned to distrusting myself, believing I was  physically and emotionally damaged beyond repair. Then I took my twisted incorrect belief even further, with the end being I could not be trusted to raise a child.   Thinking I was a damaged person kept me afraid and I wanted to protect my son. So I left, abruptly, with no warning to either of them. Since I didn’t disclose how I felt very much, my husband was shocked and surprised that I had abandoned the marriage. Not because of him. But as a direct result of the abuse (that I can see in hindsight). The silent but deadly effects of a childhood filled with abuse would not be undone in a few years of group and individual therapy.  I remained untrusting.

Even to this day, I regret my choices I made at the time. They have hurt people I loved. The best I had in loving skills was not enough.

My growth has come through stretching my ability in trusting others. It’s a struggle. Learning to trust myself, my own feelings, my own thoughts and my sense of danger has been amazingly difficult. Working on relationships shouldn’t be so hard,  but they are in the world of healing from childhood sexual abuse. they are where I take the biggest risk.  They are my risky business.

Journal prompts for sexual abuse survivors

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It’s not easy when we try to write about our experiences of being sexually abused as a child. Getting it down and out on paper is the important thing. What happened to us was a private hell, getting it on paper gets the poison out of our bodies and psyches.

1.  Can I write about a feeling that gets in the way of my happiness?

2.  What are some lies I was told about myself?

3.  Was I told I participated willingly?

4.  How did I seek attention when I was a child?

5.  How did I handle conflict?

6.  What do I need today?

7.  What do I feel today?

8.  How can I speak up?

9. What I am struggling with today is…?

Childhood Sexual Abuse survivors are difficult to get to know.

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Mainly cause we keep so much of what we have experienced inside of us. And once any one starts having to keep something secret, it starts plugging  up emotionally,until it blocks up just about everything. So we feel the blockage but don’t know if we want to start unblocking. We never know what is going to come out of us.

Being abused also is not over just as soon as the last violation is done.  It impacts the rest of our lives. If we are not outright damaged so completely that we are locked out of the public view, then we still have some major mal functions that impact how we relate to others.  We are created differently because we have been betrayed by the people who were supposed to love us and teach us how to be loved.

Emotionally our needs are different, more  primal. Or maybe they just feel more intense.  But the needs of safety and security are the  most active in me.  Consciously or not. For example, instead of liking to be  admired by my friends and family members for anything simple like appearance, looking good, or being nice, I shun it. As best I can figure, it is  because I was going to be hurt and harmed once the family abuser had me in his sights. I will probably never be comfortable being noticed. No matter how long I have tried to get comfortable. I took public speaking classes, I forced myself to learn to teach, I volunteered to give talks about various subjects just to overcome the aversion to personal attention. Finally, I have decided to just going to leave it alone. It might be what people call, making peace with myself.

I think because I will never feel safe in this world, I don’t trust easily. Okay, I hardly trust anyone. That is closer to the truth. The closer you are supposed to be (theoretically) in personal intimate relationships, the less I will be able to trust you. People often mistake my trained friendliness,  both professional or socially,  as being available for friendly intimate relationships. Its disappointing I know.  But this is one of the consequences of allowing sexual abuse to continue in our world.

There is more to say on this like how I see myself as different than others. Not just in matters of attention.  I hope to write more about this.