For Those Who Were Sexually Abused – And Not Helped
Please Note: This following is sensitive material with strong language…
Is it possible that one’s own family can be so cruel?
If you are a victim of sexual abuse, you may be expected to heal in complete isolation.
This is not going to help your attempts to recover from trauma, nor heal.
The following statements are often used to ‘motivate’ you:
Get over it.
The past is the past.
It happened a long time ago.
Why These Statements Are Toxic
In certain cases, it is Bat Shit Crazy to expect a sexual abuse victim to get over it, move forward, and stop thinking about it.
It’s like asking a person on a roller coaster to stop screaming as the ride goes into its terror of descent.
It’s like asking a person with stomach flu to stop vomiting.
It’s like asking a war veteran to stop flash-backing.
It is a heartless expectation, actually.
Here Are The Facts
Those who haven’t been sexually abused don’t understand sexual abuse. We can’t expect others to understand. But we would never expect them to be cold as ice.
As mentioned in my post about incest, here, there are countless reasons why a sexual abuse victim’s life is often irreparably damaged.
“Our brains are sculpted by our early experiences,” says Martin H. Teicher, M.D. Ph.D. “Maltreatment is a chisel that shapes a brain to contend with strife, but at the cost of deep, enduring wounds.”
Add to this a potential lifelong battle (as I surely can vouch for) with depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, PTSD, impulsiveness, hyperactivity, and possible substance abuse.
There are also neurobiological consequences for victims of child abuse.
“Get over it.”
The Second Wound
In worst case scenarios, the trauma of sexual abuse lives on, into infinity. It’s a fire still ablaze, no matter how long ago the abuse happened.
Randi Gunther, Ph.D., calls this phenomenon of secondary abuse “The Second Wound.”
It happens when family members won’t support your healing, intentionally distort facts, blame and shame you, rage at you, run away from you, as fast as they can.
Why would anyone be so hard-hearted?
Because you were abused. You are damaged goods. You bring bad vibes into their lives. They want no part of you. Call it human nature?
My experience with terror and violence, in the supposed safety of my childhood home, typically taboo, was a subject to be dropped, a hot potato, nasty dirty laundry. Never to be discussed.
Keeping the damage alive.
Who Cares About Innocence?
I was 8 years old. Playing with toys in my room. Purposefully avoiding the much older male perpetrator in the other room entrusted to babysit me (there was not doubt; he loathed me.)
Playing. Daydreaming, as eight year olds do, of sunshine, adventure, giggles, jokes.
Then suddenly: innocence interrupted, coercion, the unthinkable, darkness.
Forever maimed by a family member who will never make amends, who fled, whose integrity is not questioned to this day.
The burden of rage simmers in my soul.
Tell someone. Tell anyone.
Not in my case.
It was a bad idea to reveal this event to my family, which I did, characteristically, decades later.
This is the secondary horror that lives on indefinitely.
You Are To Blame
It was my fault that the family subsequently fell apart. My fault that I was terrified. My fault I was always on chronic high alert.
“You Should Be Over This!” “You’re a broken record!” “Why are you so anxious?”
A few years ago, chilling words delivered from my perpetrator: “Don’t Ever Bring This Up Again. Do you understand?” (Disappointing, isn’t it: some people never change.)
It took me 30 years to say anything.
To this day, some family members say that I failed; failed to feel empathy for the perpetrator’s suffering.
Are you fucking kidding me.
If I am an innocent victim of violence or abuse at anyone’s hands, and others spit on me further with condemnation, don’t ask me to give a shit.
But Wait! This is not a Pity Party!
I contend, as I always have, that you have to learn as much as you can about the reality of hardship and pain in this life, and then try to heal yourself.
But for so many reasons, most too complex to describe, sexual abuse is so much tougher.
It’s downright impossible when the safe haven you once knew – family – coalesces away from you, in droves, for a reason that is too inhumane to contemplate.
But let’s get real.
Those who continue to harm you, exacerbate your trauma, invalidate your experiences, race away from you without explanation, condemn your lost innocence, scoff at lost purity, demand that you empathize with the person who abused you?
One word: Goodbye.
These people kill your spirit. They kill your chances at recovery.
They willfully add to your depths of despair, your anxiety, your depression, your feelings of loss, loneliness, grief, abandonment.
The deleterious effects this dysfunction has on future generations is also devastating. This shit is passed down. No one gets a pass.
It may be therapy. It may be friends. It may be religion, exercise, hobbies, nature.
I have found solace in the simple joys of life. Shelter with those who genuinely love me and protect me. Immense gratitude for fun and laughter. I’m trying hard to do right by the family I have left.
The daily pain endured as a sexual abuse victim is sinister, it lurks in the background. In headaches that can’t be explained. In depression that comes on, at will.
You may feel like you’ll never be free.
From cruel people, you can and must be.