Monday, June 15, 2009

Just Get Over It...

Hmm... this may be a tough one to write. It may come out angry and fair warning, if you have been abused, there may be triggers. It's something that has sort of been forming in me the last couple of days. This is directed at family.... church family... biological family... and all those who would tell a survivor of childhood sexual abuse to "just get over it." Do you comprehend what it is you are asking?

Okay, I would ask you this. Would you go up to a war veteran who lost their legs in battle and tell them to "just get over it?"  Would you tell a woman who has just had a double mastectomy due to breast cancer to "just get over it?"  Would you go up to a father whose only son was murdered and tell him to "just get over it?" Some of you may, at this point, be getting a little uncomfortable or even annoyed - how dare I compare what I went through to that. Well, that is part of the point... how dare you make a judgment on what I went through without talking to me about it.

In all of the examples above, there is no "getting over it." There is only learning to live with it - healing enough that you can continue to live. Get over it? How? It is the same with childhood sexual abuse. I think one of the biggest things people miss about this issue, including many victims, is that if you are a victim/survivor of childhood sexual abuse, you have lost something - something that can never be regained.

What have we survivors lost?

Well, for starters , our childhood innocence. This is something that, for me, went away when I was 2 years old. That childlike innocence that allows you to trust the people around you not to hurt you is ripped away. And once it is gone, it cannot be restored. I can never regain that place where I didn't know betrayal and confusion. And how do you even put into words what it is to have NOT had that as a child? And how the HELL do you "just get over" that? My childhood was warped - twisted - dark - frightening - desperate - and I can't "just get over it." I didn't get to be just a little kid. The wounds from it can heal (and I am working on that) and I can learn to live with the scars that will forever remain (and I am working on that, too). But it is something that will always be a part of who I am. I can't get rid of it (I tried!) and I can't "just get over it."

What else have we lost? Well, our ability to trust - our ability to function normally. For me, it is pretty severe - more than I had ever allowed myself to see. Hmm... I am 46 years old and I have never had a boyfriend - never been on a date. And I am thinking about going to a chiropractor (a friend has recommended him and I have met him and I WANT to go). But I will need her to go with me because I am afraid. Even as I type this, tears are forming, because just thinking about letting this man - a DOCTOR, for crying out loud - touch me is causing mild panic - just from the thought of it, not the actual doing it. 

That is another thing. The panic - the fear. To feel - and walk through - the feelings of panic that rise up every time I go out the door. I have dealt with that for so long that I had gotten to the place where I thought it was normal and hardly noticed it anymore. But it is NOT normal to feel fear every time you leave your house. I have rarely let it stop me from going somewhere, but it is always there. To feel panic every time a man is nice to me is not normal. The ability to have a normal relationship is another thing that is lost. My friend and my therapist tell me I will be able to, eventually. We'll see....

And then there is the pain - the anger - that you are not allowed to feel, not allowed to show - so you stuff it down deep. And your ability to see yourself as normal - as valuable - as not "damaged goods" or "tainted" or "spoiled" or "ruined." The church places such a strong emphasis on being a virgin. So did my family, for that matter (ha!). How is a 7 year old girl supposed to cope with that information - that demand - when that is something that has already been taken away from her?

Part of the process of healing requires recognizing what was lost, where the damage is. It requires being allowed to acknowledge what was lost and being allowed to mourn that loss.

Hmm.... I am reaching the limit of what I can process right now, so this will have to do. But those of you in churches - and families - please, please, do NOT tell someone who has been sexually abused as a child (or as an adult, for that matter) to "just get over it." It is, quite literally, like driving a dagger into their heart, emotionally. It adds to the damage....