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?

 

TELLING IS HEALING, by Guest Malisia McKinney

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I’ve often felt sadden when I heard of stories of men and women whom were physically and or sexually abused as children. I never considered the courage it took to come forward until I began to face the reality of my own childhood. At 34 my memories and the trauma from the abuse caught up with me. The world I had built for everyone to see started to crash and I could no longer pretend. I read stories about survivors because, in fact, I was one of them. Those stories were a link to a world I tried to keep secret,but, within those articles I found a little of myself in the story of each man and woman. Each story brought me closer to letting myself out of the cage my abusers had placed me in.

From the beginning the abuser gives us a crash course in keeping THEIR secret and what might happen if we tell . I was sexually and physically abused by my mother and other family members. My mother use to say to me, “If you tell anyone they will take you away and kill you. They will believe your evil and (you) made me do it! I grew up thinking people would hate me if I told.

When we hold the secrets of abuse it pours out to many aspects of our lives. For example. I was very distant in my relationships and often found myself alone.  This was due to holding in such deep emotional pain I was unable to give to anyone else. All my efforts were spent trying to just hold myself together.

I remember the first time I told. I was shaking on the inside and wondered if my world would end.  In fact, my world did end! My posture changed! I no longer had severe headaches! The world my abuser built for me came down and I slowly crawled out from the rubble. I began to grow into who I was meant to be before the abuse shadowed everything in my life. The best thing I have done for myself was come forward with my abuser’s secrets.

I stress the fact the secrets don’t belong to us. We did nothing wrong.

The abuser forms the bond of secrecy by making us believe we caused the abuse and/or we should protect them if we love them. I’m now 39 and looking back I see great change.  When I told my truth, my story and released myself from my abuser’s secrets I have grown into the woman I was meant to be.  I have been able to have a relationship for the first time.

Telling is healing. As long as I held the secrets I was unable to have emotions in fear all that I was holding in might burst out. The hardest thing for me was not loving another,but being loved. I didn’t believe I deserved to be loved like everyone else. I can honestly say 4 years after telling for the first time, I am able to receive love. As I write this tears of humbleness roll down my face.  At 39 for the first time I was able to lay my head in the lap of the one I love and sleep. It felt like the first real sleep I ever had. Being a survivor of abuse you struggle with being able to trust, that’s why it is so important to find a healthy support system. No, it’s not going to be easy, but I promise the outcome is worth the effort. If you at first don’t get what you need when you disclose the abuse keep telling until you find those who will listen.

It’s so important to have our pain validated because for so long we had to pretend it wasn’t happening to survive. Remember you are not alone there is a group of courageous men and women survivors on the same journey who will gladly take your hand and lead you out of that cage. We spent our childhood carrying someone else’s secrets and lies,but as adults we can unpack what doesn’t belong to us and embrace life on our terms without fear.            Malisia McKinney October 2014

SEEK-ASK-KNOCK

Seek and you shall find.

Ask and you shall receive.

Knock the door shall be opened.

This is law!  The Universe is calling to your power.  It calls for you to find your gift in this life.  Ask the question and listen to the answer!

Seek your gift!  Everyone has one.  But you have to seek it, become conscious of it.  Most are asking, how can I make more money, get more things, collect more stuff.  How can I avoid pain?

Instead ask what power is in me?  How can I become more myself?  How can I achieve my potential?

Survivors!!  It is not too late to become aware of the wonders that are inside you once you take the time to look.  You can do it reflecting from the comfort of your sofa.  You can ponder on a walk.  You can discuss it with a trustworthy friend.  Spend just five minutes out of your busy day on this quest for self-enlightenment and empowerment.  You are not the past.  You are the future.

We all have power that we might think was taken away.  We all have a gift that no one told us to look for.

What is yours?

 

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