The sexual abuse started when I was six years young, maybe earlier but six is where my memory of it began.
The Abuser wasn’t a blood relative. To me that’s relevant. He’s long since dead and I’m long since “over it.”
I realized recently—10 minutes ago in fact—during a semi-self-directed meditative regression session (see video below) that although I’d forgiven my abuser and The Wife Who Knew but didn’t protect me, and I’d mostly forgiven myself for years of irrational guilt and feeling at fault, I hadn’t fully addressed a certain aspect of that shame.
While I knew somewhere deep in the crevices of my innocent psyche that what The Abuser was doing to me was wrong—there was also a physical pleasure in it.
By my early 20s, despite outward calm and budding career success, I was an emotional mess—raging without reason, lashing out, mood swings and insane insecurity. I couldn’t go to a restaurant without comparing myself to the female servers and loathing what God gave me.
I detested my body, criticised my abilities, downplayed my accomplishments and hated the world. But being a doer, list-maker, spreadsheeter, goal-setter, post-it-upper—control freak—I figured I could tackle this nuisance issue: shame.
Somehow I came to acquire a detailed trunk-size volume of a self-help book for the abused. But it was too early in my healing journey.
I wasn’t as tough as I thought and the information in the book—including how many abuse victims feel shame for the pleasure they felt during abuse, a natural physiological effect if nothing else—only served to multiply my crazy card exponentially, to the point where I was ready to take my own life. I wasn’t yet 25.
With the steadfast support and patience of my then husband as well as a dear friend, and with the aid of (temporary) get-happy anti-depressants, I checked in to what I call a Saved My Life Course.
It was a last ditch effort, either I was checking in or I was checking out.
Without giving detail I will share that this program gave me the courage to carry on and the “tools” (thought ideas) to change what had happened to me into a positive. Truly.
The five mantras that have stuck with me almost 20 years later—
- If we always do what we’ve always done we’ll always get what we’ve always got.
- Hurt people hurt people.
- Life begins outside our comfort zone.
- What’s the worst that could happen?
- If better is possible is good good enough?
The course was four days of crate-of-tissues tough. I credit it with saving my life. But really it only helped me save my own life because I could’ve walked away and not taken those scary few steps to make changes in the real world.
Eventually I was able to experience the pleasure of sex without the associated shame, and much later—after a comedic memoir full of vanity insanity—the acceptance of self: mind, body, spirit.
Fast-forward back to today. The regression session takes me back to a childhood memory. I have the choice to make it a pleasant one. Although I have memories of pure joy from my early childhood, I choose a particular incident with the pedophile. The
we “he got caught” scene.
I saw the bedspread and felt the fishing-line thread stitching in it. I saw the wood panelled walls and sliding closet doors, the pinwheel crystal and doilies. I floated above the scene looking around at the things in the room, much like I did then. But with peace in my heart, an innocent angel.
While acceptance doesn’t remove The Abuser’s responsibility—he was still culpable and had he been alive by the time I’d finally been able to voice what had happened, justice might have been served and ought to have been—we can forgive the abuser for us.)
When I came out of the trance I knew that I had to write this. Not for me but for those who still suffer with the shame, guilt and grief of having been abused. If this is you, please hang on. Trust that there is hope and joy and love and purpose in life.
And know that no matter what happened and what choices we made then (if we did have any), we are the innocent angels in our stories and we deserve and are worthy of overflowing, overwhelming love—from ourselves as much as anyone.
For those who aren’t ready, willing, open and able, I recommend talking with a professional therapist and if viewing this video, choose wisely.
A final thought on pedophiles. These people have issues, no doubt, but they are also human and struggle. No shaming is okay. I recently listened to this audio of a 19-year-old pedophile who has never touched a child. He’s a pedophile nonetheless because it’s about attraction not just taking inappropriate action. For those who think they’re ready, it’s worth a listen. #shameonshame #nomoreshame #CSA
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Author courtesy of Catriona Richardson/Viable Options Photography