There is Life After Sexual Abuse
One of the toughest, most horrendous things that can happen to a person is to be abused sexually. Rape, incest, molestation...whatever you want to call it, it's the most personal invasion and violation that can happen. Once this has happened to you, how do you go on with life? Can you ever trust anyone again? Will you ever be able to have a relationship, a marriage, and some sort of normal sexual relationship?
The only reason I share the details of the abuse is to give a picture of what the journey was.
When I was 11 years old, my youngest sister was born and complications from the birth kept my mom and the baby in the hospital for some extended time. My other sister and I were home with our dad. One day, Dad had me come into his bedroom with him and the abuse began. He would say things like "in some parts of the world, the father is the first to have sex with a daughter" to explain what he was doing. He would tell me that my mom wouldn't do anything anymore sexually. He started with kissing and fondling, but quickly worked his way up to having me touch him and finally to sexual intercourse.
I was so confused! It really didn't seem right, but how could I tell my father no. He offered no choices. He did what he wanted and pushed harder when I resisted. When a man in his 30's has intercourse with an 11 year old girl, the experience is very painful for the girl. I felt like my body was being torn apart and he would respond to my cries by saying that it feels much better the more you have sex.
Abuse Becomes Self-Abuse
The message I got from being abused was that my value in life was linked to sex. That's all people want me for, right? I hated my body in an intense way. Unfortunately, puberty led to a very well endowed chest. I hated myself even more for that. Although my dad stopped abusing me after a few years, I ended up being quite promiscuous. Any relationships I had with boys quickly turned sexual. By the time I was in high school, I would willingly give myself to guys sexually and I had decided that after high school, I would become a prostitute. I even went after men and talked them into having sex with me. Every time I had sex, however, I would tune out and mentally leave my body. I would lay there, lifeless, and let them do what they wanted. Most didn't seem concerned, but I did have a sort of boyfriend who noticed that I tuned out and was bothered by it. Even though my perpetrator was no longer molesting me, I still saw my only value in being sexual and gave so many others the opportunity to use me sexually as well.
Survival and Recovery
It's almost a miracle that I ended up getting married. What really impressed me about my husband was that he didn't make a move on me sexually. He respected me and that was a very new experience for me. By the time we got married, I had let him know about the abuse in my history since I figured he deserved to know what he was dealing with. During the twenty years we have been married, I figured out several things that were key to getting past the abuse.
- Respect from my partner. Having a boyfriend (then husband) who respected me enough not to pursue a sexual relationship allowed me to find out that someone could like me for more than just my body or for sex.
- Apology from my abuser. I was fortunate to have received an apology from my dad a few years after I got married. Something like this hardly ever happens. It was a weak apology and full of excuses, but I decided to have it count. The result of his taking responsibility was that I finally relaxed enough in the bedroom and was able to actually enjoy sex for the first time in my life.
- Communication during sex. My husband has learned that he has to listen to my requests during sex. Sometimes a certain touch or smell or sound will trigger a memory and I let my husband know that I have to stop.
- Control. The biggest thing for any abuse victim is to be able to have control of a situation. Part of why I gave myself to men earlier in my life was because it put me in control. I am able to have a good sexual relationship with my husband because he allows me to be in control. I decide when we will have sex so I don't feel forced. That may seem unfair to my husband, but I also try to make sure that I do things for him to keep him happy. As long as I feel that I have some control of the situation, I'm okay.
I have met many other sexual abuse survivors and we have a lot of things in common. We struggle with our sense of worth and feel a constant need to be in control. I've noticed that some girls swear off men as the solution to their situation, but that rarely results in happiness since they are just shutting off a part of themselves. We all have to find our own ways to take control of our lives if we are to get past the horror of what happened. It is possible to be loved for you, the inner you, the real you.
An interesting hub on some of the permanent effects of sexual abuse can be found here.
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