Relationships and the Survivor of Childhood Sexual Abuse

 

Where did our roadmap into the future come from?  Who taught us how to navigate? How to love? Who to trust? When to trust? Secrecy and keeping thoughts and feeling to ourselves became our true reality.  Imagine yourself as a child, seeing the world through a child’s eyes, and then being introduced to a ferocious and violent act—an act that serves to not only damage one’s physical body and mental/cognitive mind-set, but also disrupt one’s spiritual being.  And yes, it is all these things without being beaten.  I believe violence compounds the problem.

Wounded attachment is an insidious component that I have seen repeatedly in my work with adult survivors of childhood sexual assault. What is wounded attachment? It’s the unconscious way of being attracted or attached to someone or something that reminds the survivor of or reinforces the wound/trauma, or in this case the sexual assault. At its core, it’s the way in which survivors subconsciously seek out relationships that reinforce the wounded aspect of themselves. (Valerie Kuykendall-Rogers, MA, LPC-S, June 2013)

A neglected and abused child often develops a confused attachment style when they are raised in an environment of inconsistent or unavailable attention.  This is especially true when the parent or caretaker is abusive, intrusive, neglectful or otherwise dangerous.  These children can go on to become adults who make poor partners later on in life since they are prone to acting out against themselves or others.  We (survivors) often have such high levels of abandonment and trust issues that without intervention relationships become caught in a revolving door of different version of the same relationship.

Survivors of Childhood Sexual or Physical abuse also learn to ignore his or her own needs.  As adults survivors tend to be fiercely independent and will not admit to needing others. Early training that our needs, wants and requirements don’t matter or are no importance are difficult to overcome, even when you are aware of the faulty thinking.

There can be great frustration in trying to be perfect and not getting what you need, often times not knowing what you need.  A relationship can then end in a self-fulfilling prophecy of the very abandonment the survivor fears most.  Partners leave in frustration.

They might also remain single and avoid relationships altogether. (Note: singleness does not imply a person is avoidant; finding a good partner takes a certain measure of good fortune!)

This avoidance is where I’ve been finding my own self the last few years.  It’s lonely. There is so much pain in a failed relationship.  And failure.  Society doesn’t look at you and say, oh that person wasn’t right for you.  They say things like “Too bad you couldn’t make it work.”

Then there are your own children.  Are you saying enough?  Are you saying too much?  Should you say anything at all?  What are the boundaries?  Who is showing me how to be a good parent? What if they grow up and never talk to you again?

Relationships are based on how we attach to others.  Expressing your feelings, ability to nurture, comfort and feeling connected.  Some of us struggle with the connectedness part.  If you spent your formative years running away from feelings that overwhelmed you, who tells you that you don’t have to run when you don’t even know your are still sprinting away from the very thing you want the most?

http://sfhelp.org/gwc/wounds/bonding.htm  is a marvelous self-help site that talks about the wounds you have as a grown wounded child.

Instead of relationship issues many articles and those in the mental health field call it an attachment disorder.  It’s a painful label.  However it seems that without labels no one knows how to talk about what the problem is.

I like to think about attachment/relationship issues and my dog.  My dog, Simon, was a 15 month old rescue.  He’d been poorly fed, abused and beaten up not only by the past owner but by the other dogs.  Simon was on his way to being euthanized.  No hope for him.  He was terrified of people, other dogs, cats and even puppies.  A look his way and he would cower and urinate where he stood.  My heart went out to this creature.

I took him home for 5 days.  “Only 5 days,” I said.  “If there is no improvement I can’t keep him.”

I bought him some chew bones, food and a ball.   He stared at the chew bones.  He didn’t eat.  He didn’t know what to do with the ball.  I stayed with him for those five days.  He jumped when I moved.  He watched everything around him and whimpered when my cat went to check out the house quest.  I spoke to him quietly and played soft music in the background.

I kept Simon. He will be 8 years old this month. I had him for two years before he let me scratch his belly.  He learned to trust and he learned to love.  If my English Shepherd can do, I have to hope we all can.

We need to be able to set healthy boundaries, understand and respect them.   It matters for our personal safety, and growth as well as healthy relationships whether it be family, friends, co-workers, or partners.

We were given a bad roadmap to our future.  Let’s lose it and get a new one. We’ve been alone too long.

 

Annie O’Sullivan

Author, Can You Hear Me Now?

 

We hold everything within ourselves to change our lives…

Profoundly simple and profoundly difficult.  Is it really just an idle thought on a Sunday night?  No! Not at all!

Consider this thought from Andrew Carnegie:

Any idea that is held in the mind, that is either feared, or revered, will begin at once to clothe itself in the most conveinient and appropriate form available….

Key words are feared and revered.  Why are both words key to us as survivors?  As children we feared and indeed revered our abuser(s)   They shaped our beliefs about ourselves. They controlled our belief of ourselves and to survive we clothed ourselves in the most conveinient and appropriate form available.  We also did it out of innocence.

What do you believe today?

It’s good to be back!  Annie

http://www.blogtalkradio.com

 

I AM NOT WHO I AM SUPPOSED TO BE!

I hear so often from survivors, and I was once guilty myself, “I am not who I am supposed to be!” Who do you think that was? Whats wrong with who you are now?

I myself was brought up short with that question when I was lamenting to a counselor, “Look at my life! It’s ruined!”

Who were you supposed to be except happy, able to love and be loved and at peace? You have always been that person. You just got a little lost on the trail because of lies and deceit. Get up, get back on the road with your new map and move forward.

Just be yourself, embrace all the parts of yourself. Sit quietly this morning for just a minute and tell yourself, your inner child, “Your abuser is a criminal who lied to you. You are loved and you can be at peace.”

Namaste~~~ AnnieGEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

Survivors! On May 1!

Wednesday
9:00am until 10:00am

I am so humbled to be interviewed on my book, my story and of my story is in many ways yours. I hope you respond, call in write in to the station letting them know how very important this conversation is. IF we can talk about Child Abuse, Child Rape, we can stop it. It has to begin somewhere! Let it begin with you and with me!

http://www.ijpr.org/onlineaudio2.asp?SectionID=1012&programId=11

Live Call-In show: Jefferson Public Radio (NPR) Over 1 million listeners! What an Opportunity for SURVIVORS to be heard! Please share even if you are not going! Show the media that you do care about Child Abuse Issues by sharing and inviting you friends!

To listen on your Media device, Follow the link and on the left side Click on Listen live…. May 1, 9AM Pacific Time Geoffrey Riley Host/Producer Interview w/ Annie O’Sullivan, Author, Can you Hear Me Now?

or…. on your radio:

KSJK AM 1230
Talent
KAGI AM 930
Grants Pass
KTBR AM 950
Roseburg
KRVM AM 1280
Eugene
KSYC AM 1490
Yreka
KMJC AM 620
Mt. Shasta
KPMO AM 1300
Mendocino
KJPR AM 1330
Redding
KNHM FM 91.5 FM
Bayside/Eureka