Archive for child sexual abuse
It wasn’t that bad. What happened to me wasn’t “that bad” and I told myself that for YEARS. When I was in my early twenties and struggling with trying to quit the coping methods of alcohol and drug use, some of my memories of child sexual abuse were coming up and I was trying really hard to get rid of them without resorting to alcohol or drugs. At that point in my life I had never told anyone (outside of family but they didn’t validate the abuse OR me) what had happened to me.
One day I was having coffee with a friend of mine who I had met in a 12 step program. In an attempt to mentor me and validate an issue that I was struggling with he told me that from as young as he can remember his parents sandwiched him in between themselves while they had sex. He told me that he can never remember a time growing up when he didn’t have sex with both his parents. He told me that by the time he was 5 he liked it and by the time he was a young teenager, he loved it. He didn’t know it wasn’t “normal”. It was his normal. And now he was struggling to learn what the truth about “normal” actually was and to overcome the damage that had occurred in his life. He was having all kind of relationship problems as a result of child sexual abuse.
Although I felt extreme compassion for him, I didn’t hear any of what he was trying to communicate to me. He was trying to communicate that it wasn’t his fault and that his body reacted to being sexually stimulated. He had been sexualized from a very young age. All I heard was how horrible his childhood was and how horrific the child sexual abuse that he endured was. And the biggest thing I “heard” was that what had happened to me did not compare with Read More→
I am excited to have my friend and fellow writer Tracy Nall contributing to Emerging from Broken with her guest post on how her search for answers about depression led her to realizing that child sexual abuse was at the root. This article articulates how hard it is to tell someone and describes the setbacks, feelings and damage when someone reacts to that horrifying experience in a minimizing way. Please help me welcome Tracie and as always please add your comments and feedback. ~ Darlene ~ founder of EFB
Understanding Depression Led to Facing Sexual Abuse by Tracie Nall
I have traveled a long road to get to the point where I can now speak out about the abuse I survived.
I knew that I needed help before I knew the reason why. Or at least before I would admit it to myself. Depression was something I had battled since my childhood years. By my late teens, I was working in a bookstore, and I found myself regularly drawn to the self-help section, searching to answers for questions I hadn’t articulated.
One hot summer day, the kind of day when no one wants to leave the comforts of their air conditioners, the bookstore was completely empty, and we hadn’t had a customer for hours. I wandered to the biography section to re-alphabetize books and look for a new read. It was that day I came across a little book where the author shared about her experiences with depression. I skimmed through several chapters, and then hid it behind a stack of books. It scared me how much of my own life I saw reflected in her words.
Two weeks later, I was at another bookstore on my day off (bookstores are my very favorite places) and found another copy of that book. I wasn’t looking for it. It wasn’t even sitting in the right section. I re-shelved it, and left the store.
I couldn’t get away from that book about depression, though, because the next day at work Read More→
It was so important for me to believe that my childhood had in fact been difficult. I had been brainwashed that my childhood was wonderful, normal and that I was one of the “privileged” people in the world. I believed that something was wrong with me because I had so many struggles with depressions and emotional issues. I felt guilty that I was so unhappy because I had been convinced that I was so fortunate to have grown up in the family I had. I believed that I had wonderful, hard working parents who did their best for me. I constantly looked to those “less fortunate” in order to beat myself up about how “ungrateful” that I was.
I bought their definition of “normal” hook, line and sinker. No wonder I always felt like I was drowning.
The way that I was raised was not healthy nor was it “normal”. But how was I to know that? It was my normal. It was all I knew. I had no frame of reference for any other way of life. I had to face that although I had been “told” that I was a liar and an exaggerator, I did in fact know the truth about at least some of the things that had happened to me and that those things were wrong. I had to listen to myself. I had to believe myself. I had to validate the pain that being devalued, dismissed and treated as “not quite valid” as a person had an effect on me. A lasting effect. There was damage done. TO ME.
I deserved to heal, but first I had to believe that I had something I needed to heal from. I had to believe myself regardless of the lifelong message that I had Read More→
Some days are very difficult for me. I am always filled with sympathy and understanding for the victims and survivors of child abuse but on some days the whole subject just makes me see red. It makes me angry that so many children have suffered at the hands of manipulative, controlling and abusive adults. Every day I hear tragic stories from people who have survived very dysfunctional childhoods at the hands of horribly sick adults. I get really angry at what so many children are enduring even as I write this and at what so many (now adult) children have had to endure.
And these same adult children have been expected to grow up “normally” after having a dysfunctional childhood like that. I was expected to function normally, and have high self esteem to the degree that was manipulated and convinced into believing that the low self esteem that I experienced was my own fault! And this expectation that I should “snap out of it”, “grow up,” “get over it” and take charge of my life, was often communicated by the very same people who abused and controlled me in the first place. First I was mistreated, devalued and manipulated and then I was blamed for having depressions and other difficulties in life!
As Survivors of this manipulation and abuse we learn to accept those expectations and turn them on ourselves, believing that we SHOULD just grow up and be fine and dandy without ever Read More→
The belief system that I am constantly speaking of does not form all at once or form completely from one event. This is where it gets complicated. Other events factor into it, some of them normal healthy childhood events that may have familiar feelings attached to them, and it is really easy to lump them all together.
When a child is devalued, abused, or discounted, it is a matter of necessity, (survival) to build an understanding or comprehension, and that comprehension becomes like a filter that we look through. Child sexual abuse, being put down, called a liar, made fun of and ignored, and being physically harmed all became part of my history and the way that I processed that history became part of this “grid or filter” that I viewed all events through.
Being ignored on the playground at school brought up familiar feelings of rejection. My mind searched through my history for a reason that I had been rejected, and quickly related it to the feelings surrounding a trauma event. (Continued….) Read More→
I remember when I was talking about my first memory of being sexually abused. As I was speaking out loud about the details, being prompted for other tiny details and trying to remember even the thoughts I had about the trauma, I suddenly realized that I thought I could have stopped it. That ONE single belief caused a whole spiral of other problems for me and developed a very strong set of lies in my belief system. Because I thought I could have stopped the sexual abuse from happening, I also took responsibility for it happening. That led me to believe that I was a bad person. None of these thoughts were conscious. They happened as a result of that first subconscious belief that I could have stopped an adult from sexually assaulting me. Because I thought I could have stopped it, but I didn’t stop it, I was filled with guilt and shame. Guilt and shame that wasn’t mine, but guilt and shame that I thought was mine.
Here is the breakdown: Read More→
I am pleased to have guest blogger Patty Hite from the website Overcoming Sexual Abuse writing for Emerging from Broken today. We are continuing with a series of posts on the subject of anger in relation to abuse. As always on this blog, please feel welcome to post your comments, thoughts and contributions.
~ Darlene Ouimet, founder of Emerging from Broken
Memoirs of a Mad Survivor by Patty Hite
I am a Mad Survivor. Not crazy mad, just angry. And not insanely angry to where I view life and everyday thru gray colored lenses, with bitterness and uncontrollable rage. For the most part, I am fulfilled and overflowing with love for myself and life. I wake up happy and I go to bed happy. I am free from nightmares and flashbacks that used to be so painful that I thought having a knife in my heart would feel better.
I am proud to confess that I am angry about abuse. All abuse. I was sexually abused as a child and sexually, physically and emotionally abused when I married Satan (that’s what I call my ex). Most of what I know about abuse was shown to me by him. In fact, when I read or hear the word abuser, I picture him as the perfect example of what an abuser is. This is why I have devoted my life to healing and it is why I do everything I can to tell others about the dangers and damage abuse causes, as well as help those who want to heal. It is why I am angry. But it is a healthy and justifiable anger that is constantly on my heart and in my mind.
I am angry at every adult who harms a child. I am angry because they chose to do it. And no, I don’t care if they were drunk, drugged or a child of abuse themselves. They chose it. They thought about how and they knew when. They watched that child’s every move. They knew the weakness in that child and they knew what tactic to use in order to abuse them. Should they use force or should they manipulate the child with love and affection? Should they threaten the child or should they blame the child? Yes, I am angry. I didn’t deserve it and neither did you.
I get angry when those who should be supportive and comforting, tell us to forgive, forget and put it behind us. I also get angry when these same family and friends tell us to not get angry. Why can’t I be angry? I was abused! I was beaten and forced to have sex. It was so traumatic for me that I had to leave my body in order to survive. I spent most of my life in fear and learning how to love myself. Yet, I should not be angry about it and at the ones who did it?
The same people who don’t want to hear about my abuse are the same ones who try to stop me from being angry. It’s because of THEIR fear, that they try to stop us from being angry. Fear of exposure, fear of losing control over us, fear of rocking their boat. They feel safe as long as they can keep us in a child frame of mind, under their control. What about how I feel? Why can’t I feel safe? What I don’t understand is why our loved ones aren’t angry. Why aren’t they angry that I was abused?
I’m sure some of you who are reading this are wondering why I am still angry after all the years I’ve spent in healing from abuse. (30 years to be exact) And some of you are wondering if I am really healthy, since I talk about anger and the importance of being angry at our abusers. How can I say I have forgiven my abusers but still be angry at them?
It is because of healing, that I am able to be angry. I spent most of my life obeying the same false beliefs that you listened to. “Put anger aside and move on.” Healing from abuse doesn’t mean forgetting and it doesn’t mean excusing the abuse and it doesn’t mean that we stop being angry. Trying to stop my anger about abuse is like trying to stop a moving train with my body. It can’t happen and it will never happen. I choose to remain angry about every man, woman and child who has, is or will be abused. It’s the nature of the beast, the nature of a Mad Survivor.
I know, I am stepping on some toes, because we were taught that anger should not be expressed, it is not lady- like and anger will eat us up. Yet, anger is an emotion that we need to express. We need to get angry about our abuse, about our abusers, about those who didn’t protect us and at those who tell us to stuff our anger. It’s the only way that internal boundaries will surround us to protect and guard us from future abuse. It’s like a fence that has signs posted “ Do Not Touch or You Will Be Prosecuted” “Warning: No Abuse Allowed” “Warning: I Hit Back.”
This is a list of things I USED to get angry about before healing: The cashier for talking too much and taking too long. (She isn’t being paid to talk!) The little boy who let his dog pee in my yard. (I don’t let my dog pee in your yard, why are you letting your dog pee in mine?) The guy in the mustang who has his music up loud. (Where’s the cops when you need them?) The butcher who took another customer before me ( I was here first!) The couple in church who didn’t tithe (God’s gonna get them).
Silly things. I mean, come on! If I wasn’t such a nice girl, I could have slapped these people without thinking twice. If I would have told my friends about them, they would have encouraged me and told me that I had every right to be angry and upset. Yet, when it comes to something as devastating as abuse, we are told to not be angry because it will eat us up inside. And we listen to these people. Why? Most of the time we don’t even question it, we just obey because it has been so ingrained in us that anger is a bad thing.
My question to every Survivor is this: Is love a bad thing? What about compassion, sadness, or joy? They are all emotions. Are we supposed to pick and choose certain ones and discard the others? Should we toss love aside and not cry or jump around with joy? It makes no sense to me to use some and squash another. Because of this, I will continue to express my anger. It is my emotion, it is my right and I am giving myself permission to do so. It is said that anger is the backbone of healing. I say, anger is my backbone.
Patty Hite is one of four facilitators of Overcoming Sexual Abuse. A survivor of emotional, physical and sexual abuse, Patty has been tenaciously pursuing her healing for over thirty years. She’s a passionate advocate for all survivors and dedicates her life to inspiring emotional wholeness in others. As a former victim of spousal abuse, she’s delighted to find true love with her husband of five years. She’s blessed with four children and five grandchildren.
I tried to LOVE by the definition of love in the last post “Love is Patient, Love is Kind ~ a bit of a rant” but I was not valued for that because I (whatever I did) was never good enough. How could I have learned to understand the true and lovely meaning of this poetic bible verse “1st Corinthians 13: 4-7 Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud it is not rude it is not self seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” if I never had an example of human love that actually loved this way or presented love in some sort of balance?
People tried to tell me that Christ was this example but this was not my childhood experience. The bible tells adults to be an example of Christ ~ but where WERE those adults? I recall being “preached at” being talked down to so often the people delivering these messages were delivering them in a UN-loving way. As I child I learned that I MUST do this “love thing”~ but I didn’t learn that others must also try to achieve this standard, I only applied it to me. The fact that all people (INCLUDING ME) have equal value, was missing from my learning. What I learned was that I was not going to BE loved, but I HAD to love.
This missing information went with me into adulthood and everything I knew (right or wrong) about love went with me and I processed all relationships through the grid that I learned as a child. Things have to be RE LEARNED properly with the right definitions in place if we are to heal this gaping wound. People said things like “just put it behind you” or “Just give it to God” but nobody told me HOW to do that. I was not able to put the massive mixed messages about love or about my worth behind me until I really looked closely at how they got there and what the real truth was. And this was not a small mess, it was really huge.
This post is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to sorting some of this stuff out but one thing I learned on my journey to wholeness is that the key to my understanding the true meaning of love was by realizing what it was not.
If I am supposed to treat others the way that I would also like to be treated, then I had to begin to treat myself with respect and love too. Self love was never taught. I had to learn to regard myself the way that I was being encouraged to regard others. The first step towards self love came from the work of looking at how I arrived at “not loving” myself.
SO……Just what does that mean; what did I do?
I looked at the abusive situations I had been in. I examined them in a new way as though they had been done to me instead of that I had been a participant or somehow responsible for what had happened to me. I began with the first memory of trauma. As I have shared before, my first memory of trauma was of being sexually abused by a female babysitter when I was just over two. When I took this memory apart, revealing to my therapist everything that I remembered about it, I was shocked to realize that I thought I had a choice. Even at the age of two, I thought that I could have done something to stop it. And since I didn’t stop it, I concluded that I must have participated in it. This conclusion did not come from that one event. It came from many other times in my life when I had not been validated and my only conclusion was that it was my own fault. Self blame was how I survived. I could not blame the adults that took care of me, for without them (when we are children) there no hope.
I looked at the child sexual abuse, psychological abuse and physical abuse spiritual abuse and the trauma that I had experienced. I examined how each situation had affected me emotionally and how I adjusted in order to cope with the reality of how I was actually regarded or not regarded.
Then instead of trying to change ME which was the solution I believed in all of my life, I stopped trying to change ME and I looked at the root of the abuse and what I believed about myself because of it. I looked at WHY I blamed myself and HOW I came to blame myself. That is where I found the answers. What I changed was the false belief system that I had accepted about myself and my value.
This false belief system was given to me by many others and by many situations. Not all of them were abusive, but the grid that I viewed them through was discoloured and foggy from a very young age. I already had self esteem problems.
When I was actually able to straighten this false truth out, I was able to realize that the state that I was in emotionally and mentally was never something that I brought on myself. I was able to place the responsibility where it belonged; on those who failed me, abused me, mistreated me and devalued me. The good news is that I didn’t have to stay there forever either. I stayed there long enough to validate myself and to believe that I deserved equal value to everyone else.
Then I had to own that value. I had to embrace my own value deeply inside of me, all the way to the very core of me. I had to take apart the damage, in order to realize that I was indeed lovable and that I could love me. This took time. There were a lot of false beliefs and false definitions about love living as truth in my head. I had to take a look at it and re-wire a lot of it before I began to feel the burden of self hatred lifting. There was a lot of re-parenting involved ~ learning to love and nurture myself ~ to do and be for me what others never were for me. I had to let go of the guilt that went with not being able to “just let God do it”.
It was like a huge clean up project; I might not have been the one that caused the damage but it was my work to fix it. Love, healing and wholeness were my rewards; I found myself and I embraced the unique self that had been rejected, first by others and then by me, all my life.
Please feel welcome to contribute as much or as little as you wish in the comments.
Freedom calls from the other side of broken,
When I decided to tell the Chris Story ~ the story about how Prince Charming was a Murder Suspect, I intended to write one post. I intended to keep the focus about my belief system, and highlight the fact that I missed and or ignored the red flags because of learned unworthiness issues resulting from child abuse and child sexual abuse and invalidation. That was the first post.
But the commenter’s and private e-mailers wanted more. They wanted to know what kinds of red flags exactly. I could see the benefit of sharing more of the details and highlighting the actual red flags, and for sharing a bit about my rational for disregarding the danger signs. So that was the second post.
As I write this post, I have not yet published the second post “Dangerous Men, Red Flags, Victim Mentality”. When I finished writing that post and did my final read on it, I felt stupid. I thought I was really lame for missing so many of those blatant red flags. And worse than that, the way that second post reads I didn’t really miss them; I just ignored them. I considered not publishing the post. I felt insecure. I felt “dumb”. I felt like no one else would have EVER been so stupid as to stay with that guy knowing everything that I knew. This is exactly the type of thinking that kept me in the cycle of abuse and in victim mindset, covering up for the things I think are MY fault instead of exposing HIM and telling my truth.
I questioned myself, “what the heck was wrong with me back then?? How could I have let that stuff go? How could I have gotten into that relationship and then left myself, in that situation? What was so great about “that guy” that I didn’t dump him? What the heck did I think was going to happen?
And I heard the thoughts behind the thoughts ~ “I didn’t think, I didn’t care, I didn’t know; he could have changed, he had been damaged and he needed me, what if I was wrong about him? What if he killed me if I tried to dump him? What if he was the best that I could ever do? What if I dumped him and found myself alone for the rest of my life……. Sometimes he was sweet, sometimes he was tender. He was charming. He looked like a movie star… he called me “baby”.
And the even deeper thoughts~ playing detective was exciting. It was a way of proving to myself that I really DID have a brain. Being afraid of him was thrilling. Getting away with knowing that he didn’t know that I knew…. (When danger has been a part of a sexual abuse history, sometimes danger is a turn on; danger is familiar. And in this particular story I find it interesting to note that I was NOT at all sexually attracted to this guy, so the thrill of danger had more to do with validation.)
Sometimes I tell myself that I am just making excuses for myself. (which also comes from upbringing) During that time with Chris I had dissociative identity disorder. Since I have recovered from DID, I look back and see it differently now then I used to. One of the things that I did that is common for anyone who dissociates, (not just dissociative identity with multiple personality) is that I “separated incidents”. I did not put all the incidents and red flag events concerning Chris, in my mind at the same time. In a way I put them through separate filters. I believed that each one was separate and had nothing to do with the other one. I disconnected each red flag from the prior red flag. Think of it this way; each event or red flag had its own sealed envelope. In my mind, none of the red flags were related. That was how I learned to cope with child sexual abuse. I broke off from myself, and left my body. And I learned an intricate system of coping; disconnecting and separating related events, too scary to look at, too scary to stop, too powerless to stand up for myself. That is how I learned to deal with life; by separating incidents and by disconnecting. And so ~ there I was, all grown up in a dangerous relationship with a dangerous man, disconnected and ignoring all the red flags.
(And it is by reconnecting first with myself and then with the events that I discounted and ignored and eventually blamed myself for, that I became whole again.)
The desire to make excuses for myself has its roots in the same belief system that I write about all the time. As a child I believed that I could change, and if I changed then I would be loved. So I felt insecure about telling the story because I grew up being told (Not always in words) that I was wrong; that I had a faulty memory and that I was the real problem. I was trained to keep the secret; don’t bring any shame on the family and I was told (not always in words) to find a way to cope with it myself. I was also pretty young when I believed if there was a problem that I caused it, made it up or exaggerated it or misunderstood it and I learned that the best coping method of all was to disconnect myself from it.
But I have learned that I am not the problem. I am not the one that made things up or twisted the truth around, (other than in my own mind in order to cope with it); I did not exaggerate, and if anything I diminish the stories; I do not have to keep any secrets; I am NOT wrong and there is nothing wrong with my memory. So I published that post. And I am publishing this one too!
Thanks to everyone who has shared these posts on facebook or other sites and to everyone who has participated in conversations here and on the Emerging from Broken facebook page.
Please feel free to add your thoughts, feelings and stories.
Keep striving to move forward!