Sunday, 19 May 2013

A Survivor's Thoughts

It seems as though the sexual abuse and exploitation of children is a subject that's never far from the news these days and, inevitably, with these stories comes wave upon wave of justifiably angry and well intentioned yet fundamentally misguided comments from the general public.

As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I can't presume to speak for every survivor, but I would like to raise a few points for public consideration based on both my own opinions and experiences and those of other survivors I have encountered in therapy, online and in daily life.

1) When you say " is ruined" As Adult Survivors, We Hear:
 "your happiness, accomplishments, well raised family, etc are all worthless, you are forever tarnished by a tragedy that happened years ago." 

As Children, We Hear:
 "There is no hope, you will never recover from this so what is the point of even trying?"

The Damage: 
To a survivor who has mostly come to terms with their past this may cause no more damage than a few days of bleakness and depression. 
 To survivors who are still on that journey it can be far more harmful. The overwhelming feelings of hopelessness can lead to self identification as a victim which make it easier to fall prey to abusive relationships and exploitation and harder to take responsibility for bad choices. It can also lead to self harming and, potentially, to suicidal thoughts.

The Reality:
 Recovering from Childhood sexual abuse is like learning to live with grief or the loss of a limb. Of course their is always going to be some kind of lifelong impact, but that doesn't mean that life is ruined, just that it's different. There can still be happiness, still be fun, still be great careers and loving families.
 I won't say that it will be easy because it won't, facing those dark thoughts and feelings is a major battle, but it's one worth doing and nobody has to face it alone. There are fantastic counsellors, and wonderful support groups both online and in real life, that provide a wealth of support. 

2) When you say "He/She's a monster/demon/fiend..."
As Adult Survivors, We Hear:
 "How couldn't you tell you were in danger?"

As Children, We Hear:
 "No matter how long he goes away for, no police, no adults can keep you safe."

The Damage:
 As adults this feeling, regardless of how unintentionally caused, can seriously impead the process of learning that we weren't at fault. All survivors face a phenomenal amount of self inflicted and unnecessary guilt. It can be hard to convince ourselves that there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING any child can do to bring this on themselves! 
 Worse still is the harm it does to children who are still trying to process their experiences and haven't even started to deal with the aftermath. They really need to feel secure and safe to even begin recovering. They are already terrified and most likely suffering from nightmares and flashbacks and trying to come to terms with the threats and control methods abusers use, the last thing they need is to invest their abuser with superhuman powers.

The Reality:
They are just people! Bad people, yes, but just people all the same. There is know way or recognising them beforehand and the threats they use are just words. Once they're out of your life you are safe!

3) When you say "they should be executed/tortured/horribly maimed!"

What We Hear: It doesn't matter if we're adults or children, we hear exactly what you say and to us it just means "our feelings of anger and disgust and our need for revenge is much more important to us than what you think or feel!" 

The Damage:
 The greatest damage this causes is that it makes abuse much harder to report. It is hard enough to find the courage and the words to first alert people to our experiences without the added complication of worrying about the devastation it will cause.
 The majority of abusers are either related or well known to those they abuse and we are not so blinded by our pain that we fail to see that there are other innocent people who will be affected. 

The Reality: There has already been too much pain and suffering, inevitably there is going to be more and equally inevitably we will internalise the guilt for that too. Please don't add more to this already unnecessary burden. We don't need our abusers lives on our conscience. We don't need their family's grief. We don't need the fear or guilt of our family being torn apart by a loved one serving a prison sentence.
 Yes we're angry about what happened too, but what we really need is guidance to handle this anger correctly so that we can move past it and begin to heal.

I don't expect to change anyone's feelings with this post. I do fully understand that anger is a natural response and that people honestly don't mean any harm. I just hope people will consider what they're saying and who can hear and just be aware that sometimes their best intentions can do more harm than good.

***Personal Note***

I apologise for the delay in posting this. I struggled to write this much more than I anticipated, especially as it's nothing I haven't said or written before. I found myself facing either writer's block or, when the words did finally come, they came so fast that I struggled to keep up. With that in mind, I also apologise for any mistakes in spelling or grammar. If I start messing with it now I may never finish and it's blocking all my other posts so I'm just going to hit publish and hope it makes sense. :)

No comments:

Post a Comment