Read e-book It Happened to Me: Four Stories of One Womans Experience with Child Molestation and Rape

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As stated, confused recollection was commonplace among the survivors interviewed. Most were aware of the fact, often apologizing for their malfunctioning memory, but at times they did not relate the confusion to being sexually abused. Others associated confusion to the abuse, but despite dealing with the issue on a daily basis did not seem to be aware that treatment addressing the issue directly could improve their quality of life.

Several survivors were ambivalent about the memory lapses and confusion.

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On the one hand, they understood that the memory deficit and confusion served to protect them, but on the other hand, they felt anxious and were curious about experiences that they had undergone but could not recollect. Michelle, who had been raped by two men, coherently explained this:.

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The experience cannot be erased or forgotten at will and survivors find their way, often subconsciously, to deal with the negative effect abuse has on them by compartmentalizing it in a manner that allows them to function. They are constantly chained to the traumatic events against their will, much like Prometheus in Greek mythology — Prometheus was a titan who defied the gods and was punished with eternal torment.

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The immortal Prometheus was bound to a rock, visited each day by an eagle which fed on his liver considered the source of human emotions in ancient Greece , which would grow back overnight only to be eaten again the following day. Survivors differed in their coping mechanism following CSA — while some experienced the abuse as a part of their daily lives even after it had ceased, others attempted to obliterate any memory of the abuse by trying to ignore it at will.

This being said, abuse has an effect on survivors, who are constantly aware of the abusive experience, regardless of the amount of time that has passed. Some carry the burden of being abused with them constantly, till they detach from themselves or become numb. The abuse that one carries around constantly acts as a captor, entrapping survivors in a state of disorientation and confusion, where time is meaningless, and the only constant is the abuse itself, as precisely noted by Violet:. Being abused is like cancer of the soul, it finds its way into little cracks like water and stays there.

Between the ages of four and fourteen, Gabriella was sexually abused by her father and at times by her siblings. I have flashbacks, pictures, disorganized images. Everything was kept inside, stored away, only images, images. Gabriella described the abuse as a burden that she carries with her at all times, slowing her down and keeping her rooted in her past, unable to focus on the present or future. This denies Gabrielle a future that is not colored by the trauma that she endured. Along with the traumatic memories, Gabriella stored negative feelings, such as shame, guilt, and blame, which accompanied the abuse:. I remember, I have another image of me at 10 and my brother at eight and we are having sex.

The terrible thing is that I think that I initiated it, I felt so guilty. Maybe I also initiated it with my father? I was such a pretty girl, I was really so pretty.

Morgan Spurlock

But on the other hand that was all I knew, that was what I was taught. While some survivors claimed to obtain a sense of control over the memories of being abused, others, like Tammy noted that the abuse, even when stored away, was a constant element in her married life:. I remember that while I was married, for quite a few years, 13 or 15 years, the pictures [of the abuse] accompanied me all the time.

On the outside, I was one person and on the inside, I was another. Unlike Tammy, Caroline who was raped at age 10, remembers an active act of erasing the abuse in order to refrain from dealing with it:. As soon as I left there [the art gallery where Caroline was raped] it was over. I erased it. It never happened, I never mentioned it, nobody asked me about it.

Today it amazes me, the ability that a child has to tell herself a different story, something that allows you to be a child that functions. Caroline relates to time breaking into two separate entities, a time before the abuse and a time after abuse, a dissociative mechanism which is common among CSA survivors which effects memory and time perception. This rupture impairs the ability to function as a time traveler — having a cohesive bond between past, present, and future — which is at the basis of the normative human experience. While some women carry the abuse with them constantly, alert to the dangers that lurk, others live in a state of denial, not even naming the abuse as such.

Both mechanisms are mentioned frequently by CSA survivors. Some survivors relinquish their story, others refute it; some, like Lisa who was abused throughout her childhood by her grandfather who she later discovered had abused her mother and additional female relatives as well as by a male babysitter when she was seven years old, chose to acknowledge her haphazard narration of her life story, storing it within her and revisiting it occasionally:. Lisa described a lack of continuity in her life story: her personal experiences are ever-changing, leaving her unable to rely on her own experience and knowledge, unable to draw from her past.

In a similar manner, Michelle who was mentioned earlier expressed remorse at the extent to which the sexual attack occupies in her life story:. I feel that it is a part, a large part of my life story and I feel uncomfortable because I want to continue the story and say that there are many other parts to my story, but it does color my story, it affects it.

Michelle lamented over the lack of continuity in her life story, as the abuse had created a break in it. Hearing survivors it is clear — abuse is stored in the body, the mind, the soul — be it consciously or unconsciously. Nonetheless, the abuse is constantly there, a burden carried around and never laid to rest. The past the abusive experience takes up a larger part than the actual period in spanned when compared to the present and the future — survivors are imprisoned in the abuse, spending energy and time in an attempt to make sense of the warped time perception and memory deficit it entails in their day-to-day existence.

The ability to recollect significant life events and to know when they occurred enables one to create a clear life narrative. An additional prerequisite is the need to experience complete occurrences, ones that include a beginning and an end. The abuse became a central feature of their lives, while other activities were pushed aside; the survivors did not have the ability to obtain closure about the abuse or to forge new beginnings. Many survivors described experiencing their lives on parallel lines, one being the actual life, and the other was the abuse and the time and energy spent concealing the abuse.

The separation between these parallel, unconnected existences made it difficult to experience time going by in a cohesive manner. This was especially noted with regard to the abuse that had gone on for years. I have whole years of my life that are erased. One day I will, ages nine to sixteen! In a similar manner, Vera related to the time she kept the secret, after being molested by her uncle, when she was After finding out that her younger and older sisters had both been molested by him, they confided in their father but refrained from telling their mother whose sister was married to the abuser.

Vera drifted through time, without an anchor to ground her. The absence of an anchor means that there is no basis to return to and time loses its key role in providing order:. Looking back it seems absurd to have kept the secret from my mother for so long. How long was it?! I think it was about 10 years. When did it happen?! While telling her life story, Vera was aware of her lack of consistency, regarding her perception of time for the duration of the ongoing abuse. A similar experience was shared by Emily, who was regularly abused by a neighbor, between ages 13 and Emily related to the discrepancy between the ongoing abuse, which occurred at least twice a week for five years, and her lack of comprehension in grasping the extent of the abuse:.

When it happens, again and again, you say to yourself, okay, because you have two or three days between each time. A parallel thought was relayed by Nora who was abused as a child by her father, a prominent religious leader of their congregation. When referring to the duration of the abuse, Nora related to the cessation of the abuse as being clouded in her memory:. It was always a threat. Violet, mentioned earlier, who had been molested by her swimming instructor, referred to an objective indicator, the weather, in order to pinpoint when the abuse took place; nevertheless, she was still not sure of her age at the time:.

The abuse happened when I was 11 or 12, I was on a swimming team and the instructor messed with me. I remember that in the beginning, we swam in an outdoor pool and later on when it became cold we swam in an indoor pool, so I know it happened at some point between summer and winter.

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Survivors of CSA are frequently abused by numerous perpetrators, sometimes simultaneously and sometimes later in life. This is due to their being groomed by the initial abuser, which makes them vulnerable to additional abusers. Another symptom following CSA is the acquired disposition to choose abusive partners later, as adults, reenacting the submissive role absorbed in childhood.

Such is the case of Grace, who was sexually abused by her uncle, beginning at age four. This abuse went on throughout her entire childhood and puberty, with her abuser waiting until she turned 18 to rape her. Grace was subsequently raped by a date at age 21 and again by an acquaintance at age Grace, like other survivors interviewed, could not account for the duration or extent of ongoing abuse:.

After the third rape I kept asking myself why I suffer from this illness, why it happens to me again and again, what did I do in life to have all these things happen to me. Abigail, who was sexually abused by her brother for a decade, from age seven, and sexually abused by a family friend from age 14, spoke about the distorted sleeping patterns she still suffers from, as an adult, a decade after the abuse ended:. Part of the problem is that it stays with you, not the actual rape, but the sleeping pattern.

Even today when I get into bed I automatically think — maybe tonight the abuse will end — I try and figure out how many hours until the abuse begins and how long I need to stay awake and how many stories I need to tell myself until it ends. These are the remnants of the abuse. I am still trying to get rid of them. Abigail explains that once she understood that the abuse was not normal behavior, her sleep, during the years of abuse, was disrupted:.

It took me a few years to understand what was going on, after all, I was a young girl, it was only at 14 that I understood that it was wrong. When I was 15 I started seeing a psychologist and a psychiatrist, taking medication, to sleep, for depression, for anxiety, for a million different things.

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  • As demonstrated in these narratives, abuse impacts the ability to experience time in an orderly manner; sleep patterns are disorganized; and even the capacity to gauge the extent of time the abuse went on for is disturbed. The blurred duration of abuse, lacking a definitive beginning and more essentially an absolute end, create a situation in which CSA survivors are stuck in the drama of abuse, unable to partake in real-life experiences, often failing to keep up with their peers in age-related milestones such as academic studies, marriage, children, careers.

    This confusion regarding actual life as opposed to a virtual existence is at the core of the traumatic existence many survivors experience throughout life. One of the functions that time fulfills is that of putting experiences into a context, enabling a creation of order: for the past, it is remembering experiences and linking them to outer stimuli; for the present, it is relating to ongoing experiences; and in the future, it is about planning ahead and anticipating. Time is an anchor in the sense that it is inflexible, not governed by human whim, not pliable or open to manipulation. These qualities ensure that time is a constant, a known factor, a reliable moor in a sea of unknowns that make up life.

    When the ability to perceive time is affected, the imperative ability to rely on time is disturbed. Survivors related to a central factor that caused them to feel adrift — dissociation — during the abuse or following it. The common thread is the sense of loss: loss of connection to reality, loss of time, loss of an anchor to ground them.

    This loss leaves survivors adrift in an abyss where time and space are deflated. Dissociation is a detachment from reality, a term that includes an array of behaviors on a continuum — from mild detachment, which occurs while daydreaming, to severe pathological detachment, which can include amnesia, loss of identity and fragmentation of identity. As dissociation is a coping mechanism, aimed at minimizing stressful situations, it is not surprising that countless studies have shown a correlation between trauma and dissociative tendencies, with sexual abuse figuring recurrently as the ground upon which dissociation flourishes.

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    • The majority of survivors who partook in this study commented about experiencing dissociation, or referred to dissociative experiences that occurred during the abusive encounters or in the aftermath of being abused. Sarah, mentioned previously who was abused regularly by her father, depicted the dissociative experience in almost whimsical terms that are in stark contrast to the horrific experiences that she endured:.

      The experience was so difficult that I disconnected.