As I go back and look over past posts (add links, clean up writing, fix spelling errors, etc.), I’m starting to feel like I have the habit of repeating myself, tying into my other problem of not sticking to one topic at a time. It all just seems to bleed through the pages – I’m sorry.
I originally planned to post this before the last entry, but I think this works out better in this order. I wanted to go back on a topic I actually did stick to pretty faithfully, on feeling dirty from sexual abuse, and the common addictions, habits, and disorders victims/survivors struggle with, often in secret.
See…I think a lot of us struggle with stuff like that because of the blame our abusers (and some crooked people today) put on us for the assault rather than the ones who did the assaulting. In the Stanford rape victim/survivor’s letter, she shared how the lawyer tried to make a case that she caused it, even enjoyed it. The rapist himself made sure to let it be known that she orgasmed during his raping her as a way to support that accusation. Pretty awful, isn’t it? It also is kind of silly; to use a commonly quoted example, that’s like asking someone who ate a poisoned candy, “Well, did it taste good?”
It’s actually a pretty common thing for victims/survivors to experience some pleasure from what’s happening to them, but it never means they wanted it. To use another example, sexual touch is much like being tickled; you laugh even though you don’t want to, even when you can’t breathe and every part of you hurts. The body just doesn’t know the difference between the touch from an abuser or a lover, especially if the abuser conducts him/herself as a lover, like mine sometimes did.
This is especially damaging for a child, who simply cannot understand what’s happening to them. The most they could understand that the abuse made them feel “yucky”, so they in turn believe themselves to be “yucky.” From there, it’s very easy for them to take all of the blame as their own, and from there, act in a way that expresses this belief, the “psychological bleeding” my therapist described.
…This is really hard for me, as I’m sure it is for others. I don’t understand when people tell me, “It wasn’t your fault.” It gets worse when I remember how I was groomed to participate in the act, or as I would consider all the things I’d done myself since that first abuse in kindergarten. I have an incredibly hard time to pull apart what’s their fault and what’s my fault, and more often than not, I default to believing it’s all my fault.
I recently was telling my therapist about a very shameful detail of my habit. I was trying to be as vague about it as possible, carefully dropping hints rather than just saying it. Eventually, he understood what I was trying to tell him, and he spoke the dreaded words I didn’t want to say. It was asked as a question to clarify, but I heard condemnation.
I immediately curled up into the tightest little ball I could, and was soon crying uncontrollably. “I’m rotten!” I kept saying through the sobs. “I’m rotten! I’m rotten!”
I remember him telling me no, I’m not rotten, it’s not me who’s rotten. He said that this instead was exactly what’s so evil about sexual abuse: the victim coming to eroticize the abuse, coming to think that is love, that is what sex is, that is what her body is for. He kept talking like this until I could lift my head again, suggesting I talk/write to God about it (though he suggested it might be prudent not to publish it, and at this point I do agree). He waited until I made eye contact with him to tell me God loves me, that He lives within me. I just felt a deep ache in my chest, and looked away to cry more.
I still can’t believe it, that God would live in my heart, in my body, in my soul: I’m rotten. Of course…this is what I was just talking about before, one of the many ways the abuse distorts our understanding of reality. Because God does love me. He does live in me, just as He does in every human person ever conceived. His words are written on all of our hearts, on my heart. The abused child in me fights against these things with all her might, but it’s real. It’s Truth.
I also remember another time, when I admitted to my priest friend how I would fight urges to go into prostitution. Money was tight, but really…just like what my therapist said, I’d think that was what I was for; all those grown-ups, my parents, raised me to believe it, so it must be true. Besides, I’m the one who’s the pervert, the slut, the whore.
He, this celibate priest, told me many things the many times I confessed about this, but what sticks most in my mind is when he said, “I think that would destroy you, and I’d hate to see that happen.”
Like the truth about God living in me, lots of times I struggle to believe that people like my confessor actually cares about me, or that they’ll continue caring about me. I keep wondering when will it be over, when and how will I set then off, make them hate me, never want to so much as see me again. The truth is apparent though; they do care. Every time my confessor tells me not to do something harmful or unhealthy, he couples it with an expressed wish to “see [me] better in all this.” That friendship is also real, also truth. It’s not as infinite as the first Truth, but it’s nonetheless truth.
And yet, writing this, knowing this…I just can’t see how either of these wonderful things could be true for someone as rotten as me.
Sometimes I wonder if another reason why victims/survivors come to have those behaviors is to prove to themselves and others that what their abusers pinned on them was real. That’s a form of insanity, isn’t it? Living in a way that’s contrary to reality? I guess it makes sense though; if we didn’t, then the world we lived in, where people raped and abused us who were innocent, was what’s insane, and thus inhospitable, un-survivable. To believe I’m rotten, therefore, is to affirm the reality my abusers live in, where they can rape and abuse me without guilt because I’m not innocent. Maybe that’s why actually caring people always tell me, “It’s not your fault!” even the ones who know exactly about the habits I struggle with (who say it more than the former group does).
Changing the way you see the world is hard. My belief that I’m rotten isn’t going to go away at once. Matt Fradd, a former addict of porn and masturbation, once bravely admitted in one of his talks that even being free of his habits for a long time, “doesn’t mean I couldn’t do it tonight or tomorrow.” But…I have changed these 6 years. I’m starting to admit that it wasn’t all my fault, that I’m not all rotten. A lot of things brought me here, and maybe a tiny part of me does know that God lives in me, that He loves me.
The reality is that people care for me, that God loves me and lives in me, and that the rotten things my abusers did to me was their fault. The more I live in this truth, the Truth, the better.