Sexual Abuse?

by "Persephone" (compiled by Pat Törngren)

What follows is a posting that appeared on Yahoo's Primal Support Group. It is reproduced here with permission, but the names of the people have been changed to protect them and their families.

Dear Roger and Tom,

Thank you both for very thought-provoking posts on sexual abuse. I understand and hear the dilemma that Roger expresses, as it is one I shared - "Was I sexually abused, or am I creating a 'false memory'?"

I went through this for years in therapy too. I could remember later molestation by a great-uncle, but my symptoms suggested something much earlier, though it was hard to pin-point them or come up with any tangible memories.

At one point, my previous therapist said to me, "Whether or not there was 'overt sexual abuse' or not, the relationship you have just described with this elderly relative when you were a toddler, tells me that it was certainly and unhealthy relationship for a little girl. So treat it as just that and feel the feelings - you don't need to label it." That was very helpful to me.

With my present therapist, more specific memories started to emerge regarding my relationship with another male family member, also when I was very small. Once again, we didn't label it, but I just followed the feelings. This developed over time into the fact that I became afraid of my therapist because he had genitals, and I would panic about us being alone in the same room.

The most important issue was that I didn't want to see any evidence of 'what he had' and would ask him to keep his legs crossed so I didn't have to 'see it' by mistake. One day he forgot, and uncrossed his legs. I was able to yell, "Don't move", and went straight into deep crying and screaming, with the voice of a very small child.

Afterwards he said to me, "Whatever this is a memory of (I didn't yet know), it sounds like you got an awful fright as a child - almost shock". That was how it felt. I was afraid to see any 'shape' there, especially any evidence of an erection (which as a 2 year-old made no sense, as I had no idea what an erection was).

Then in the following days came the connection, that just before being grabbed and sadistically tortured (tickled so I nearly wet myself and couldn't breathe), I would see the adult approaching with an erection showing through his khaki trousers. Since he was so much taller than I, it was very evident as I looked up at him. It became a life and death issue to always know if there was an 'erection' approaching, as it signalled impending danger.

The reason why I am sharing this, is to emphasize that when we have symptoms of this nature, which make us unsure as to whether or not we were sexually abused, we don't need to 'try to figure it out and give it a name'. What helps most is to follow the feelings, and see where they are coming from.

After that, whether or not the incident can be labelled 'sexual abuse' is not as important as getting in touch with the memory and resolving it. If it left us with scars or sexually disabled in adulthood, then it can definitely be called sexual abuse. For example, circumcision is an experience that most people wouldn't 'label' sexual abuse, yet for many people it leaves emotional (not just physical) scars and is therefore a form of sexual abuse all the same.

Many people give sexual abuse a very narrow definition, but as the subject becomes better understood, the definition is being extended to cover anything that leaves the person with a sexual disability. One such person comes to mind. He told me he didn't think he had been abused as a child, but showed clear symptoms of sexual dysfunction. Then the story came out that as a small child in an orphanage, older boys had pinned him down, and pushed a broomstick into his anus. It had never occurred to him that that might be seen as sexual abuse. A lot of this kind of thing goes on in boarding schools and institutions, and is not acknowledged as sexual abuse as such.

I think what I am trying to say, is that it isn't necessary to 'know for sure' that you have been abused, or to have had an experience that is labelled 'sexual abuse' in some textbook. If you have any symptoms that suggest that your sexual integrity has been damaged, it is a good idea to explore the feelings, and see what the primals bring up. If they are helpful, then you will have worked through something important for your healing. It actually doesn't matter what name you give it - healing and becoming whole is what counts.

Thanks again to all who shared!



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