Anyone who knows me knows I have no qualms talking about my experiences, good or bad. Dr Seuss sums up the way I feel best with his quote “those that mind don’t matter and those that matter don’t mind”. I carried a deep dark secret. I had lived through years of abuse. I had no idea how people would react to something like this. I didn’t want to see the disgust on their face or be smothered with pity. I wanted to be heard, without judgement. I remember the day I told a friend. Her response wasn’t shock and utter disgust. She listened and when I had finished she told me, with tears in her eyes, that she too had gone through something similar. Finally the spell was broken. I had told someone and I had survived.
The more people I told, the more shocked I was by their responses. If I told ten people, at least six would admit to having been abused, raped or molested. I realized my ability to speak about it empowered others to do the same. Not once was I judged or criticized (except by a trained therapist). And so I continue to tell my story. Without embarrassment or shame. It’s what happened. It’s what makes me me and every time I tell the story I liberate myself a little more.
Today, with my new found yummy mummies, we spoke about divorce. We touched on dysfunctional families. We chatted about eating disorders and we discussed abuse.
As I always do, I answered their questions as only I know how. Honestly. I told them about my distorted ideas of love and sex, thanks to the abuse. I spoke about the mixed messages your body sends while the abuse is taking place and how it adds to the guilt and shame you already feel. Surely if you felt ‘this’ way then you must have enjoyed it, or encouraged it. In other words, it WAS INDEED your fault.
For once I’m beating about the bush. It’s a tough topic to discuss, so feel free to log off. As difficult as it is though I feel it should be raised, especially having just celebrated Women’s Month in August. Women and children are at risk of rape and abuse. In a country where it is estimated that a woman has a greater chance of being raped than learning how to read
http://www.rape.co.za/index2.phpdo_pdf=1&id=875&option=com_content there is a very real possibility that something could happen to my little girl. Besides watching her closely and making sure she is never in compromising situations, there is not much else I can do. The perpetrator could be anyone, a family member, a friend’s dad or a friend’s brother. As a survivor I know how easily it can happen. As a mother I would never be able to forgive myself something if my daughter was abused, and I would forgive myself even less if she felt that she wouldn’t be able to talk to me about it.
In an article in the Journal of Forensic Medicine, depending upon the study cited, between 5% to almost 21% of the rape victims responding to the researchers’ surveys reported significant sexual arousal or orgasm during the attack. The researchers uniformly agree that whatever the reported percentages are that they are most likely less than the actual percentage because the emotional pain and embarrassment usually felt by a woman that experiences sexual response during a sexual assault would lead them to not admit that it happened. Anecdotal evidence supplied by counselors and therapists supports the conclusion that while orgasm during a rape might not be very common, it is hardly unheard of and is something that they have to be prepared to deal with when treating a survivor.
If this is confusing for a grown person, imagine the mixed feelings a child must experience should they become aroused while being abused. They don’t know this feeling, they don’t understand how or why it happens and they definitely don’t know that it’s an involuntary response to what’s going on.
In their minds they are trying to comprehend the incomprehensible, trying to make sense of the nonsensical. Their thinking, I would imagine, would go along these line: Mom and dad have told me that there’s ‘good’ and ‘bad’ touching. This is ‘bad’ touching so why does it feel good? If it feels good then I must like it. If I like it I must be a part of it. I must have allowed it. This is all my fault.
Of course the abuser is aware of this, and quickly pulls the child into their world: Did that feel good? I know it did. Remember, it’s our secret. If you tell mom and dad they’re going to think you’re bad. They’re going to tell you you’re naughty and you know they don’t like it when you’re naughty.
Children, like adults, need to make sense of their world and their experiences. They too need to find reasons for things that happen. Without honest and frank discussions, they, like us, will blame themselves. Whether it’s divorce, death or abuse, children often lay the blame at their feet, carrying their feelings of guilt, shame, blame and hurt into adulthood. How to deal with this, I’m not sure. I’m a survivor, not a trained therapist. Each and every parent has their own way of communicating with their child or children.
Speaking from my own experience I wish I could have told my parents. Sex was taboo, discussing it was off limits. I never felt like they would understand and so I never even tried. I felt alone and scared. I thought it was my fault and I thought saying something would tear the family apart. I thought I had encouraged it in some way, and instead of been an innocent bystander I soon felt like I was committing the crime too. There was no way they would ever love me after admitting to something like that.
So for Emma, we will let her know that she can chat to us about anything. Nothing will be off bounds. We will let her know that there could never be anything in the world that would stop us from loving her. We will not judge. We will not criticize. We will not doubt and we will not question. We will let her know that she is always safe with us. I never felt safe…sometimes I still don’t.
***this post is my experience. It is not meant to replace professional counselling or advice. It is not meant to offend or upset anyone***