Jayne (female)

In my anxiety I still sleep with my hand positioned in a protective hold in an attempt to keep my privates safe for fear of an intruder, scared someone will enter uninvited: my subconscious still attempts to protect my modesty. What he did to me affected my whole life, every relationship, my personal identity and the general trajectory of my life’s path. Childhood sexual abuse manifested in all aspects of my life. The first two relationships it besmirched were the most important ones: the relationship to and perception of myself; and my relationship with my mother. I hated myself; I felt a level of shame that I could only be in the world if I wore a mask. I pretended to be confident and became a people pleaser. I despised myself for allowing, tolerating and colluding in the lies and deceit to protect this family member who sexually abused my body and betrayed my trust. I wasn’t able to concentrate at school. Teachers said: “She gets distracted easily” but I was disassociating in order to manage my thoughts and the images of the abuse. I used to think of a bowl of sick. This might sound weird but it was my way of putting it all into one; it was easier that way. Distancing was my only defence, in the moment and thereafter. The teachers who suggested that I go sit in the library and read were helpful as I was able to escape my reality in books and enhance my reading and knowledge of the world. My behaviour as a child was considered as being ‘bad’, so I was told I was bad, which was easy for me to accept because I had all this other evidence in my mind to support the claim; essentially I knew I was bad. I was trapped on the inside of my life, I was helpless and nobody knew my suffering. I was so sick of being interpreted as ‘bad’ that my anger took charge. I became aggressive outwardly and inwardly. I was a tortured soul so took drugs and went into school hoping someone would figure it out, but I was expelled. I ran away from home, which only led to being taken into care. When I was there I did disclose the sexual abuse although nothing was done about the perpetrator. Trying to commit suicide didn’t work. Nothing I did attended to the gaping wound of my childhood sexual interference. I became a victim who masqueraded as a tough, feisty tomboy. I was trapped in two emotional worlds; that of anger and of shame. I was furious that I had been wronged and I was disgusted with who I was. Any attempts I made to speak about my feelings were quashed; any cries to be noticed were silenced. I was left alone with my shame and humiliated for anything I said about my feelings. I was and still am hyper-vigilant, which can lead to my misunderstanding a situation. So how did I start to heal? How did I make it this far in becoming a therapist? Little by little, I worked with a long list of therapists who each helped me manage a bit. I would start with them, do some work, then find that I couldn’t go any more, or just notice I had stopped going and feel guilty for not saying goodbye. Some of the social workers who cared for me were skilled enough to reach me; they were congruent in their approach; they gained my trust by being transparent and totally accepting of who I was. I was the girl that always ran away but the girl who needed most of all to stop running. I felt abandoned in life and it took me many years to realise that I may well have been abandoned by key people in my life but I never really understood the consequences of the fact; that I became really good at abandoning myself. An example of this was losing myself in drugs; taking numerous cocktails of ecstasy, cocaine, acid and amphetamines was my ‘normal’ weekend, partying, leaving myself vulnerable to those that took advantage of the fact that I froze as soon as I was touched and I would disassociate in sexual encounters of any kind. I continued the abuse, not only by allowing my vulnerable self to be in danger, but with my internal dialogue, as what I told myself amounted to my lack of self esteem and worthlessness. I was convinced that this was my fate and that I had deserved everything I got, I had for some reason been so ‘bad’ that my punishment was to live this life of perpetual abuse. I confronted my abuser when he repeated the abuse in my late teens; he said he thought that I wanted it! I met a stranger the other day outside my house in the street. He told me he raises awareness of child abuse by making films and is a committed activist. We discussed the dogs we were walking, then he told me he had been abused as a child. I felt so much freedom in being able to say: “Me too!” His transparency was helpful because I didn’t need to hide the part of me that most needs not to hide. It was truly liberating and often is in the company of survivors, knowing you are not alone. As we said goodbye and walked away from each other he called back to me and said: “Well done.” I gave him my puzzled face and he then said: “You know what I mean.” The penny dropped; he was congratulating me on becoming a butterfly against all odds. I cried a few tears of joy as I went to work that day because I had been seen. My healing process is informed through this part of my journey. Writing this has been excruciatingly difficult, raising the memories of the sexual acts carried out, seeing his face in my dreams and fighting him, having to work hard to care for myself and remind myself that the feelings that have re-emerged, are the feelings that I have previously worked through and I don’t need to feel them as an adult. It’s worth feeling the pain in this way if it gives people a clearer idea of a real life that has been broken by childhood abuse. My reparation includes this piece of writing, although I will not name him here as it would be fruitless to name a dead man. I value myself as the survivor – exposure for my closure. ———–