I am writing this in the hope of reaching others who have been affected by the horrifying damage of sexual abuse, to know that you are not alone and there are people who love you and feel your pain. And that as hard as it is, speaking out, when ready, in the right place, can be the most liberating thing on your journey of healing.
I am also writing to those in the caring and medical services, schools, along with friends and families of survivors, to maybe understand the depth of the impact of sexual abuse, and maybe become more aware of spotting it in children.
I was sexually abused by my mother. Every part of me felt ruined by this all the way through me right to my soul. I thought I was the only one. It was something I was certain I would never and could never speak about. I didn’t even see it as sexual abuse when I was a child as I only heard of uncles abusing or perverts in parks, not of a female, let alone a mother, so I saw myself as having the most vile terrifying and disgusting things happen to me. But it must have been my fault because it never happened to anyone else in the world ever, and that’s why I thought I was the most disgusting thing on the planet. Even though I tried to stop it in any way I could think of, I was also dependant on this person for my life, food and shelter.
My first memories of it were as a five-year-old and I still can’t get the contaminated feelings and taste out of my mouth from what she made me do, and I feel sick writing about it.
I feel I didn’t have a childhood. I have felt so horribly isolated and alone in a world that was unsafe especially at home in any room, at any time. I tried to speak out when I was five, but nothing was done and it just made it worse, as I was told by my mother that no one wanted to know and no one would believe me.
From then on, I just thought that horrifying unfathomable things happened to me and that was the way life was. I was raped by a man at the age of eight, and I just put it down to part of the bad things that happened, even though I thought the pain was going to kill me and I was petrified. When he told me that if I told anyone he would come and get me, I thought of course I won’t tell anyone, it didn’t enter my mind, and who would I tell anyway? What happened to me didn’t matter to anyone.
As a young child I felt completely different to everyone else. I knew I only had myself to depend on. I cannot remember any moment in my childhood ever being truly happy.
It is amazing that never once did anyone ask me what was wrong, even when in my later teens I was getting in lots of trouble. The only way I thought I could connect with others was by being outrageous in one form or another, by getting myself in trouble being destructive or extreme in order to hide the feelings of worthlessness and burning shame.
I do recall I did once say something to a doctor and afterwards someone came to visit, presumably a social worker, but when I saw I was causing trouble, I retracted it. I was told no one wanted to hear what I had to say or would ever believe me. That really shut me down and further silenced and isolated me.
Everything I had ever done in my adult life felt ruined and pointless because I believed I was flawed, not human, a worthless bit of sub-human scum that deserved to be killed for being abused by my mother. I thought, literally, if I told anyone then they would kill me, and that would be right and what I deserved. I see now I was carrying the thoughts that belonged to her. I always felt contaminated and unclean.
I always felt like a freak that no one could ever like, let alone love, if they really knew the truth. I kept a large part of myself away from anyone who was a friend, which in turn left me feeling very lonely and not understood. I had a some long-term relationships with women, but chose partners who I could see were not well balanced or suited to me, and would not treat me nicely. I felt I had to put up with this.
Self-annihilation, utter isolation, shame, self-disgust, extreme trauma, anxiety, depression and anger are all things I have lived with throughout my life; with the resulting self-harm in many forms through having no value to my life, and addictive tendencies to keep away from my inner reality and beliefs. Dissociation with much lost time, which is a subconscious way of keeping away from this inner reality. This was useful as a child so as to disconnect from unbearable inescapable situations, but can be a huge hindrance as an adult. Waking up screaming in the middle of the night or not sleeping at all for very long periods, or indeed being overwhelmed with flashbacks, visual and non-visual, day and night, as if in my worst nightmare, and resulting suicide attempts. These were all my symptoms of complex post-traumatic stress disorder.
The horror of the years of abuse, which was emotional and physical also, at times torturous on all levels, still haunts me. At times I felt crippled with pain so intense that it knocked me off my feet and I lay in a sobbing screaming ball on the floor, feeling such intense pain as what she did to me seemed worse than death. The horrid disgusting, contaminating, vile, and most disgusting thing that could happen and the betrayal by the person who brought me into the world – breaking what I believe should be a sacred bond.
Until a few years ago I thought I was the only person in the world that this had happened to. Then I read an account by a man who was also abused by his mother. I was overwhelmed, and the fact he also didn’t think he was human, made me challenge this belief in myself. If he was human then I must be too. My road to recovery began and I managed to tell a friend. To me this was a huge risk, which it seemed could almost be fatal. I then had the fortune to find a therapist (which seemed an even bigger risk) who had the amazing skill and patience, kindness and care to reach me and help me see the truth of the situation, so I could begin to actually value and love myself. This is something that seemed impossible. The gaping, painful hole in my chest that I had always felt, as if my heart had been ripped out, began to fill with light.
What I have come to see, by having therapy and working on my self, is that the feelings of worthlessness, contamination and self-disgust were a story I was telling myself. These feelings about myself weren’t the real truth, but I couldn’t see that until I worked with a counsellor. These feelings about myself were lies that I was telling myself, attaching these self-annihilating thoughts to debilitating feelings. I did this unconsciously as a child to gain some control, because accepting the real truth as a young child, of the reality of my situation and my world, would have been too much to acknowledge. I always had a part of me that still had hope though, like an inner part of my soul that was burning bright and alive although hidden at times.
By taking what felt like a big risk of having counselling, when I was at a point where I had tried everything else, and it seemed like the only other option than death, I found the only way to recovery for me. I know I still struggle and can’t change what has happened. I have learned, and am very much still learning, to be at peace with myself and learn from all this. I struggle to have intimate relationships with a female, even though I think I would like a partner to share life and intimacy with. At the moment the more I am connected with myself, the more disturbing intimate contact feels. This may change and the most important thing is that I have myself, and can hold myself and I know that is all I need.
The most corrosive and debilitating thing for me in my life has been the silence around the awful things that happened to me, which allowed all the harmful thoughts and emotions to fester and grow with extremely damaging disfiguring, almost fatal results.
The more the silence is broken, and the more care and understanding is shown, the more survivors may be freed from crippling mental chains.