Friday, January 10, 2014

What Victims of Abuse Need, In Order to Speak Out!

Trigger Warning! I do give some overview-examples of how each point can be seen in my abuse experience.

When I was a teen I had a strong desire to set the record straight and speak out.  I wanted to speak out so bad I practiced my witness against my father over and over for months.  I put so much effort into being prepared I felt that with my preparation, my goodness, and a little help from God, I would get a chance to speak, to witness against my perpetrator.  But my moment of witnessing never came.  My skilled pedophile/ perpetrator/ father was always one step ahead me, cutting off any places I would have turned for support.  Once he finally broke me, after significant amounts of resistance from me, it took me twenty three years to break the silence and report my father to any authority figure.  I believe most survivors go through a phase of wanting to speak out against their abuser.  I have done my best to consider all the elements that could have helped me speak out, and listed them here.  Maybe if we know what survivors need to speak out, maybe we can help more of them break free from abuse.

1. Victims need to know that abuse is not right.  This might seem very fundamental to some people, but for survivors of abuse it is essential.

Consider my story here.  Around the age of seven my father raped me multiple times.  He gave me the impression that we were married.  I viewed him as a religious leader, with authority to claim we were married.  He was my father, I believed he knew right and wrong more than me.  When he told me we were married, I wanted to challenge it, I did not think it was right.  But then I considered his position of authority over me, and I felt it would be greatly disrespectful of me to challenge him in any way.  I did not challenge him. Instead, I challenged myself.  I assumed my father figure was right, and if he was right I must be wrong.  Instantly I rewrote my view of the world to include the fact that my father could have a marriage like relationship with me.  Because of my age, and the childlike nature of my immature brain, I could not resist, it was not an option.  My role as a child was to obey and follow my parents.  He said we were married, I believed him, the end.  I have dissossiciative amnesia, I don't remember the rape, I only remember before and the pain after the rape.

 If someone came in and challenged this strange sexual relationship I had with my father, and told me it was not right, it may have helped me break through the all encompassing hold my father had on me.  In fact, when I was 13 and trying to speak out, a lot of what gave me the strength to speak out, was a sure and utter knowledge that my father was in the wrong.  I knew he was in the wrong because I had to endure one of those uncomfortable talks in church about sexual sin.

2. Victims need to know that they are not guilty.  Sexual stimulation produces pleasure responses from the body, it is a biological fact.  Pedophiles blame the sexual abuse on the child.  Once the child responds to the sexual stimulation in a pleased way, at all, the predator uses it against the child to shame them and fill them with guilt.

In my story I fought against my fathers sexual advances for months as a 12-13  year old.  But then one night my father decided he would not take my resistance any more.  He attacked me sexually while I fought to get away.  Once the attack was over I was left with a feeling of pleasure in my body.  I hated the feeling of pleasure.  I hated my body.  I felt betrayed by my body, because it felt pleasure for something I did not want.  I felt guilty and evil because my body responded to the sexual stimulation with pleasure.  It ate me up inside for the rest of my life, from that point on.  I was evil, and I knew it, and I hated my body for it.

Educate children and tell them that the body naturally responds to sexual stimulation with pleasure, that is what it is made to do.  They are not wrong for feeling pleasure, in fact their bodies responded in the way they were made to respond.

3. Victims need to know that they have someone they can trust.  They need to feel like that person is not connected to, or partial to the abuser in any way.  They need to feel that the will be believed over the abuser.  They need to feel comfortable being open and talking about anything.  They need to be listened to, and payed attention to.   

They will first start to hint at the abuse to test the trusted source.  If the trusted source does not respond favorably to the hint they may not try to talk about it again.  If they talk about abuse, keep your face calm and relaxed, do not show any extreme emotions on your face, or they will be fearful and discouraged.  Keep a neutral listening facial expression the whole time.  

They need to feel that confiding the abuse will not open them up for further abuse.  They need to feel that confiding abuse will not hurt the listener.  They need to feel that confiding the abuse will not hurt others.  

I had an old lady from the church who was my youth leader.  She cared alot about me and devoted lots of time to me.  I often thought about telling her, but she always praised me for being such a perfect child, I was afraid to shatter her image of me.  In addition, she was medically fragile,  I worried that if I told her it would not be good for her health.  

4. Victims need to know that they will be safe after telling.  They need to know that their loved ones will be safe after telling.  Often victims are stopped by this one thing, and in fact this one thing might be the hardest thing to overcome. 

The abuser has already proven to the victim that they can do a lot of damage and hurt to the victim.  This hurting is very real. The victim remembers the pain inflicted by the abuser, they remember how the abuser seems to always be one step ahead of everyone, fooling everyone.   They remember how the perpetrator hurt them, seemingly under everyones noses and got away with it. If the victim reviews the situation and does not feel like they, or their loved ones, will be safe after telling, they will keep quiet.  This safety can be especially difficult to establish if the abuse comes from a family member.

I strongly believe that if abuse victims are educated that abuse is wrong, if they are accepted and not shunned,  if they have someone they trust to talk to,  if they feel like they will be kept safe, if all of these things are established... I strongly feel that more and more youth will speak out about their abuse, because their needs will have been met.  When we meet an abused child needs, they will reach out and report their abuse.

Please reach out to children who you suspect are abused.  Please help take care of their needs, so that they can be freed from their abuse.  Please educate the children in your care, that they are good, that abuse is bad, that you will listen and keep them safe.  Thank you!

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