Jean, 1943

Part I:  Background and Flashbacks

Have you ever sat down to write and found yourself immobilized, fingers not wanting to tap the keyboard?  This doesn’t happen to me very often, but today I find myself wanting desperately to express my thoughts and feelings but having a helluva time doing so!  Why?  It’s the nature of the material, the long term effects of child sex abuse.  It’s a topic that I thought I had made peace with, but obviously I have not, completely.  However, I am going to forge ahead with this post because I believe the information may be useful to others.   A word of caution:  If you have been sexually abused as a child, be cautious.  If you find yourself being triggered by what I have to say, stop!  Please do not continue reading. 

During the period when I was three, four, and five years old, I endured violent sexual abuse by a neighbor woman and less physically violent but just as emotionally violent abuse by my parents.  I’ve described this abuse in several of my posts—“Shadow Girl,” “The Day I Stopped Dancing,” and “My Own Comments on The Day I Stopped Dancing.”  Please use the search feature on either blog to locate these titles if you are interested.  I don’t need to repeat the material here.   

First of all, I have recognized and dealt with the memory of being violently sexually abused by the neighbor woman.  The memory of the event that happened back in about 1943 vaulted into my awareness in the form of a flashback some thirty-nine years later, in about 1980 near the end of my stressful marriage.  Initially, the material in my flashback shocked me, for until then I had buried the memory deep, deep, deep.  Little by little, over the next few years I remembered more of the event.   

Then, in about 1994, I had what a therapist called a body memory, but what I believe was really another, more complete, flashback, so complete that it terrified me!  I remembered the neighbor’s kitchen, the appearances of the woman and her adult son who abused me, and the specific details of the abuse.  I felt the hands holding me down and felt the steam of the hot water as it splashed over my body.  It couldn’t have been more complete!   

For those who question the authenticity of my memories and who think that my memories may have been suggested by a therapist, let me reassure you:  I was not in a therapist’s office when I had the flashbacks, and I had not discussed my abuse with a therapist prior to my first flashback in 1980.  When I saw my first therapist, I wasn’t even aware that I had been abused! In addition, after my first flashback, I not only returned to my hometown to verify the locations of my house and the neighbor’s house but I also questioned my mother as to the physical appearance of the neighbor woman and her son—this without telling my mother why I wanted the information.  The information I received from my inquiries substantiated the information I received during my flashbacks. 

In addition to re-living the violent abuse, I have re-experienced the feelings associated with the photo sessions my parents forced me to endure when I was four and five years old.  The difference between these sessions and “normal” photo sessions that kids tolerate in the course of childhood is the fact that I was forced to pose stark naked in front of my parents’ friends and was yelled at when I tried to cover myself.  So during the time I was being terrorized, humiliated, and embarrassed during the nude photography sessions, I was also being groomed by the neighbor woman in preparation for her final, violent abuse event.  Now, that’s a big psychological burden for a little girl to bear!  I bore it without telling anyone at the time, but decades later I found myself no longer capable of keeping the secrets.   

Recently, I have undergone EMDR to release some of the distressing energy surrounding the events.  Now I can remember without having to feel the horrors.  The abuse happened, and now I am able to understand it and some of its effects more clearly.  I can look back and understand, too, why I had bad dreams as a child and why I became claustrophobic in elementary school and frequently threw up when the teacher closed the classroom door (See http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/conversion-disorder/DS00877)  I also can understand my lack of trust for people and my fear of closeness.  My parents forced me to pose nude for their friends, and the next door neighbor woman fed me cookies, fondled me, and then violently sexually abused me.  Why would I trust or want to be close to anyone

A little girl might escape severe emotional damage by these events if she were helped to process them right after they happened.  This might be the case today.  However, back in the early 1940s, help for traumatized little girls was not readily available.  In my case, too, why would I have trusted my parents enough to have reported the neighbor woman’s behavior?  After all, my parents were also my abusers.  So I was a child caught in a trap of silence, a child who grew up possessing huge and horrible secrets that festered for decades before breaking into my awareness.  And all the time that these secrets festered and spilled their toxins into my subconscious mind, I was living my daily life unaware of them.   

Next—Part II: I Connect the Dots

 

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