My elderly parents are staying with us for a few weeks. I realised, that every time they've come and stay with us, there's a different dynamic..not in terms of the usual, that of having a third generation under one roof as it were, but a deepening understanding all the way round..a strengthened tolerance, (possibly borne of the gradual maturing of family members and of the slow realization of transience of life and with it the need to appreciate it) the need to bridge gaps, a need to hear, to be with, to appreciate.
All the older women in our family were victims of sexual abuse by a close family member with the consequence that every one of us have battled with some or other 'demon'...and subsequent children have become the victims in some way too . I am now speaking about this openly for the first time, as over the past few years, I have become profoundly aware that our family is not the only family to have gone through this terrible scourge, but many, many others have too.
My parents and aunts and cousins..... were, or rather ,in some cases ARE, part of the 'silent generation'..where it was 'best' not to ever mention it but 'just get over it'. In a sense, yes, we all did get on with our lives, some of us perhaps being perceived as managing 'better' than others.
But, I believe, the subconscious mind is very much part of the conscious mind ...the latter just suppresses the former out of a sense of survival.
Flashbacks and triggers have plagued me, sometimes quietly creeping in and subtly producing a vaguely anti-social, yet (by modern social standards) a response which could be acceptable, given an academic excuse or label, rendering it almost unnoticeable in fact....or it has produced a response which not only turns my world upside down, but those of all that care about me. Still, and even more so, the subconscious will work hard to protect, to cover-up, to fight back.....producing an unending cycle of unbelievable pain, and all the while, the true source is never dealt with.
The pain is just a bi-product of something that has never been consciously acknowledged, spoken about or worked through, not as a child when it happened, nor as an adult. That adult has to function in an unforgiving adult world from that point of emotional childhood trauma, reacting to triggers as that little child would do, irrationally, immaturely, spontaneously, unintentionally hurting bewildered loved ones.
It boils down to validation I guess......a child's understanding that being sexually molested is not really that important because the silence screams 'nobody gives a damn!'....and that mindset continues in adulthood, creating an illogical need for people to care, to 'see', to understand... failing which...the terrible feeling of isolation and worst of all, a gripping sense of emotional loneliness.
My 75 year old mother walked into my studio a few days ago and dropped, what for me, was a huge bomb-shell. Her and dad were going to Madeira...sharing their year between here and my darling sister. My first reaction was confusion, then absolute blind fury. I went shopping and arriving at the shops, I sat and sobbed and sobbed...and phoned my middle sister. I thank God daily for the relationship I have with my precious sisters. Lord, how I love them!!!! They have been a silent but ever present strength in my life...no matter what or how geographically far apart....they have always just been there. She quietly and calmly sat and listened to my rantings asking me "Sharon, what is really wrong"?
So I told her, having suddenly realised, through her love, that there is a deep, unfathomable emotion coming out here:
My reaction was that of a 5 year old, feeling abandoned by my parents at the house of my abuser! Immature, illogical....I reacted as a child of five..feeling abandoned, rejected, terrified...at their going and the impending abuse......and not having the 'VOICE' to tell them what had been going on, what was about to happen.! I was SCARED...I feared losing them and felt a white anger at their intention of, once again, 'abandoning' me!
Somewhere during all this emotional mix, I remembered something. I had recently gone for a Reiki (not something I would have done a few years ago!) and I was asked "Sharon, why am I seeing you hiding in a cupboard?" I was dumbfounded! My consciousness had suppressed that memory. Yes, I had often hidden in a dark wooden cupboard to escape my abuser and the memory was one of white fear!!
Having confronted this 'thing' inside of me, this hurt child, I was able to comfort her....as an adult...just by caring enough to look for her, finding her and then openly LISTENING to 'her'! I discovered that I loved this little girl so much and with a bit more work...yes, she was going to be fine.
By the time I got back home, having processed the whole thing, I went over to my parents and spoke to them as a 46year old woman...asking them questions, discussing their move and motivation for it and voicing some of my concerns. At the end, they themselves came to the conclusion that due to their health and medical issues, it would not be a wise move.
I have just read an article asking questions:
Do you fundtion at your optimum? Trauma tends to have negative long-term effects. "Hell, you think!!"....I can honeslty answer: 'no, I dont'!
Are you self-destructive or unkind to yourself? Guilt associated with childhood sexual abuse often causes people to punish themselves. As a small child, I couldnt accept sweets from my grandmother, who I truely loved and who I know, loved me dearly. As an adult, 'I'm not worthy of true love, respect and I work my ***** off doing things to make me feel loved and appreciated.
Do you have problems with intimacy? Childhood sexual abuse can affect your capacity for intimacy, both sexual AND emotional. Yes, and at risk of an OMG, TMI response, I will admit that I was inorgasmic for a good part of my marrige. Emotionally...I think I am needy, and I think, need to discover a lot more about myself in this area. The journey continues.
ACCORDING TO THIS ARTICLE, THERE ARE 8 WAYS SEXUAL ABUSE LINGERS:
1. Poor self esteem - the child is forced to be the victim, which leads to lack of self-confidence.
2. Self-Punishment - eating disorders and substance abuse are ways of self-harming.
3. Anti-social personality disorders - kids stop feeling to minimise trauma and become manipulators.
4. Personality splits - A child needs to go "somewhere safe" while abused, which can cause a dissociative identity disorder.
5. Sexual Problems - These include inability to have an orgams, vaginismus, asexuality and promiscuity
6. Becomming the perpetrator - victims can internalise the persona of the abuser.
7. Serial Killing - Sexual abuse, especially if coupled with sadistic acts, evokes anger in the child
8. Sexual Identity - a boy may develop an attraction to men if the perpetrator was a man and vice-versa
I have identified the above , to a greater and lesser degree, in ALL the people I know, including myself, who have been sexually abused.
I have no summary for this blog, as the understanding and 'dealing-with' it is always continuous. I dont believe that a person EVER gets over something like this, but I know that acnowledging childhood sexual abuse, and learning to 'Love the child within' - unconditionally, are all little ways in which we can slowly start to heal by hopefully, recognise and changing those behavioural patterns which are hurting ourselves and others.