Some of you may have read some of my previous blogs. To summarise, I grew up with an educated alcoholic father and an emotionally disturbed and overbearing mother. Each of these items has its own emotional impact on a child’s growth.
This painting’s message is: Love is sacrifice. The swan’s bleeding and sacrificial love depict the woman’s spiritual enlightenment and her past, present, and future potential. The swan is bleeding because the woman has lost her purity. The colour red represents blood, love, and sacrifice. The swan’s sacrifice to reclaim what she had lost is symbolised by the blood. The underlying gleam of the silver colours represents the swan’s purity. It is under no need to sacrifice itself, yet it chooses to do so.
I met an older man when I was 14 or 15 years old. He was just 20 or 21 years old at the time, but he was large and muscular, and I needed love and protection. At that age, a 5-year gap is significant. He was also a rapist and an abuser.
I am not saying that I was not also to blame. I rebelled against my parents and started a relationship with this man without knowing what I was getting into.
The night he first raped me is a blur in my mind. All I remember is standing in front of him and he is wiping the blood from my legs. I don’t remember anything else. Things got worse from there. He would beat me black and blue, and then come cry in front of me.
Abusers frequently employ manipulation and guilt to make the abusee believe it is their fault. Because of my relationship with my mother, I was willing to accept the responsibility. From a young age, I was taught that I had no rights and that other people’s faults were mine.
He successfully isolated me from everyone and everything. He became obsessed with me. Twice a week he would drag me off to his room and the sexual assault would continue. I did not have a choice. I was slapped or beaten, or dragged by my hair. I learned to just disappear into my own mind.
Some have asked me; Why didn’t you ask for help? You have to remember that I grew up with alcoholism and emotional trauma. The roots of my despair were already sown. I knew from an early age that my parents would not be able to help me, and frankly, I didn’t trust them.
Children with an orphan spirit are the result of alcoholism and maltreatment. Children who attempt to look after themselves, feel responsible for everyone else, but are unable to change their own circumstances. This eventually leads to serious control concerns.
There are many emotional and psychological reactions that victims of rape and sexual assault can experience. One of the most common of these is depression.
I had depression for most of my life and was completely unaware of it. It was simply another day in my life.
During a flashback, memories of past traumas feel as if they are taking place in the current moment.
After a traumatic event, it is typical to have feelings of anxiety, stress, or fear, making it difficult to adjust or cope for some time afterwards.
Those who have been victims of this brutal crime of rape feel humiliated and guilty. Despite what we know now about psychology, the psychology of rape, i.e., that it is a violent crime rather than a sexual one, and that women who have endured this horrific destiny were not at fault, many of them continue to feel guilty and ashamed of themselves for years afterwards. That, I believe, is the fundamental point: rape is a crime that deeply harms a person’s self-esteem and dignity.
For me, it appeared as a constant sense of shame and responsibility. Never feeling like I’m good enough as if there’s something fundamentally wrong with me. Everything that had occurred to me was because I deserved it.
Each survivor uniquely reacts to sexual violence. Personal style, culture, and context of the survivor’s life may affect these reactions. Some express their emotions while others prefer to keep their feelings inside. Some may tell others right away what happened, others will wait weeks, months, or even years before discussing the assault if they ever choose to do so whether an assault was completed or attempted, regardless of whether it happened recently or many years ago, it will impact daily functioning.
I held everything inside, but whatever is inside must find a way out. It manifested itself as rage and self-destructive behaviour. I developed anorexia.
Survivors thinking they are bad, wrong, dirty, or permanently flawed.
Survivors feeling that the abuse was their fault. It is very difficult for survivors to place the blame on the person who assaulted them. Often the offender was a person close to them that they want to protect. Conversely, it may be that by placing the blame on the offender they then feel helplessness.
Survivors saying, “It wasn’t that bad.” “It only happened once.” “I am fine, I don’t need anything.”
Minimizing the assault can be a coping strategy. It might include survivors thinking that their abuse was not as bad as someone else’s. Those supporting a survivor should validate the impact of the abuse and that it is appropriate that the survivor is upset, traumatized, or hurting from it.
Because sexual violence is such a boundary violation, it impacts the survivor’s perception of when or how to set boundaries. Survivors may be unfamiliar with boundaries in general; they may not know that they have a right to create and reinforce them.
Sexual assault is a betrayal of trust. Most survivors find it difficult to trust other people as well as themselves and their own perceptions. On the other hand, they may place an inappropriate level of trust in everyone.
Survivors’ sense of safety has been altered; they may assess unsafe situations as safe and perceive safe situations as dangerous. It is important to explore with a survivor what feels safe by asking specific questions about safety.
This is a big issue for adult survivors. Many feel that they do not deserve support, that they are tainted, and that others will not want to be their friends or lovers. A survivor’s culture and (lack of) community connections can, at times, compound feelings of isolation. Survivors may have been shunned or avoided by their families and/or communities because of their disclosure.
A survivor may not remember what happened. In the long-term, if the sexual assault happened before the development of language, the survivor may not have memory that can be verbalized.
A survivor may have dissociated during the sexual assault incident(s). They may describe “floating up out of their body” or “looking over their own shoulder” during the abuse. Dissociation can happen even when the survivor is not being assaulted/abused; an event or memory can bring up emotions which trigger dissociation.
The body is where the sexual abuse took place and many survivors feel betrayed by their bodies in various ways. They may have tried to numb/dissociate from their bodies in order not to experience the feelings brought on by the abuse. Sometimes in connection with the experience of numbness, survivors may seek out experiences that provide more intense physical sensations like self-injury.
Survivors may have somatic (body) complaints, eating disturbances, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and physical symptoms related to areas on their body affected by assault.
Survivors may be very expressive (anger, sadness), disoriented (disbelief, denial), or controlled (distant, calm).
Survivors may be unable to block out thoughts of the assault, or alternately, forget entire parts of it. They may constantly think about things they should have done differently. Nightmares are common. Survivors may also have thoughts or fantasies of being in a similar situation and “mastering” the traumatic event.
Other related issues that may emerge are eating disorders, physical changes, changes in sexuality, substance abuse, self-harm, thoughts of suicide, anger, and mood disorders such as depression and post-traumatic stress.
If my story spoke to you and helped you please share it so that more people can be helped.