April 03, 2008

 

Blog Against Sexual Violence: The Link to Child Sexual Abuse

My body knew it before my mind could accept it. Long before I retrieved repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse, my body knew all about it. My body knew I was a victim. My rapist knew it, too.

Today is Blog Against Sexual Violence Day. I'm under the weather, but I did not want to miss posting on this important, awareness-raising day. I usually spend most of my time raising awareness about child abuse, and more specifically, child sexual abuse. I'm the founder of, and continue to maintain, The Blog Carnival Against Child Abuse, which travels around the blogosphere and will be stopping at Beautiful Dreamer's blog this month. (Why don't you join us?)

I firmly believe that preventing child sexual abuse goes hand-in-hand in preventing all forms of sexual violence, and vice versa. I feel these forms of abuse and violence are intertwined in a most grotesque way.

I certainly am convinced that my childhood sexual abuse set me up for the acquaintance rape I experienced in college. This is part of my story. Please be careful when reading, as it may be disturbing and/or triggering.

Did any of you have a "big brother" in college? I'm not talking about The Big Brothers Big Sisters Youth Mentoring Program. This was something that was a collaboration between my college sorority and a campus fraternity. When I was a sorority pledge, I got "set up" with this fraternity guy who was supposed to be a supportive "big brother" figure.

I got to know my "big brother" fairly well. I trusted him and considered him a friend.

We attended his fraternity's spring formal one year “just as friends.” When my “friend” wanted to have sex after the dance, I broke down in tears and explained that I couldn't participate because I was still so heart-broken over a recent breakup. I did not have the assertiveness back then to say no, just because I didn't want to have sex. I felt compelled to come up with some excuse and make the guy feel sorry for me. I guess, because he knew my old boyfriend, he pretended to be understanding at the time.

Later, it was a different story. There was a party at the fraternity house of my “friend.” At one point, we went into his room. We’d been in there many times and I was not afraid or suspecting of anything.

We were sitting on his bed talking when suddenly he was on top of me. I said no, cried and tried to turn away. But, he pinned my arms down. I have always felt guilty because I did not scream out or struggle very hard. I think my CSA groomed me to stay quiet and realize that struggling was futile. Some days after the party, when I told my sister about the incident, she was the one who pointed out that my arms had been pinned down and I had, indeed, been raped.


I believe that this collegiate predator could easily see that I had "victim" stamped all over me. I also am sure that, even if my mind wasn't conscious of it, my body knew quite well that fight or flight was not possible--freezing was the only way to survive. (My incest experience included rape, also with my arms pinned.) I don't have any conscious memory of this part of the ordeal, but I'm sure--as dissociative as I now know myself to be--I moved as if in a trance when it was over. I'm certain that I silently pulled my pants back up, pulled myself back together as best I could, and simply walked out his door. I never spoke to this young man again.

I'm sure that he was sure I would never report the rape.

I now know that this period of my life was not nearly as damaging and tortuous as my childhood. Yet it was quite traumatic for me. During this time I became pregnant. I came very close to telling my old boyfriend of my condition. I had him on the phone once but couldn’t reveal my secret. I did not know who the father of the child was. I didn’t tell my ex because I still loved him (even if he didn't love me) and I didn’t want to trap him with a child who may not have been his. I decided to get an abortion instead. This added to my trauma.

Indeed, I never did report the rape. I didn’t speak of it again for another decade.

I think I then made the subconscious decision to stick like glue to any man who would finally admit to loving me. That man became my first husband. He was only physically abusive toward me once. It was when we were separated, before our divorce. In a fit of anger, he grabbed me by the arm and threw me to the floor.

During our brief marriage, my mate did many odd things that made me uncomfortable. What drove me crazy was his habit of following me around our small apartment. He often spied on me while I was in the shower. One time, I was coming out of the bathroom after a shower wearing only a towel. I was ambushed by my ex who jumped out at me and snatched my towel away. He pushed me onto the bed and snapped a Polaroid picture of me sprawled there naked with a deer-in-the-headlights expression on my face.

During my young adult years following college, my self-esteem was critically low. Yet, by the time of my divorce, something started to shift in my mind. A tiny spark of self-confidence told me I had rights and deserved better. I never used the term “abuse,” however. Although I was taking steps to that effect, I never thought or stated, “Nobody will ever abuse me again.”

One of those essential steps was quitting my first big job that I thought was leading to a successful career. I had been working at an advertising agency where one of the higher-ups sexually harassed me time and again. I did not sleep my way to the top, but worked hard and got promoted there three times. Despite the promotions and the agency paying my way toward a Master’s degree, I decided to leave.

Maybe I just got fed up; within a year, I quit my job in the sexual harassment environment and got divorced. I never did finish my Master’s, but I never allowed anyone to ever abuse me again, either.


My greatest wish is for all children to grow up with a healthy sense of self-esteem and appropriate boundaries. No one should have to wait until their 20's 30's or 40's--after rape, abortion, sexual harassment and/or an abusive spouse--to decide they don't deserve sexual abuse. No one should feel they must silently endure rape, sexual harassment, or sexual abuse of any kind from anyone--not a boss, a "friend" or a spouse--no one!

Let us never let up on our determination to spread awareness about all forms of sexual violence. Let us never give up on our goal of advocacy for survivors and abuse prevention. Let us all keep up the good fight! Onward, brave warriors all!

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Comments:
Marj, my heart goes out to you, but I thank you for sharing so much of what you experienced for the BASV day.
 
Oh, thank you, Marcella. AND you're welcome! Thanks for being you and for all that you do.
 
The early experiences condition us to accept violence as our fault, that somehow we could have stopped it. It also blinds us to other abusive situations. We seem "clueless" about what is assault because for us assault was a "normal" part of growing up. It's no wonder that abused children often end up in abusive relationships. We don't see it as abuse until it's nearly too late.

Austin
 
I wonder how many rapes never get reported because the victims are still shell shocked from their abusive childhoods? Certainly if one grows up being used as a sex toy, rape can seem all too familiar.

I was raped many times during my teen years (not by my step dad), and never told a soul. It didn't occur to me that I should or could. Like you, I shrugged it off and went about business as usual--but surely another part of our soul shrivels up and dies with every contaminating touch!

(I'm so sorry for what your "friend" did to you.)
 
You are welcome on both counts.
 
Austin: Well said.
Beauty: Thank you. I'm sorry for what was done to you, too. These were people we should have been able to trust.

Austin & Beuaty: Thank you both for your validation. I still doubt myself sometimes.

Marcella: Thank you...and thank you for thanking me...and... ;)
 
"My greatest wish is for all children to grow up with a healthy sense of self-esteem and appropriate boundaries"

That's my wish too.
 
I thought we'd have that in common, Dr. Deb!
 
Hi Marj.
 
I'm cutting and pasting the following comment, as it contained an e-mail address. I'm going to check out this blog/book tour thing. It sounds cool!

Comment:
Marj:

Can you please contact me at xxxxxxx? I'm setting up a blog tour for an author--and I believe her book would fit well on your blog--you both have the same goal. Thank you!!
Joyce
Joyce Anthony
 
Hi, Kahless! It's always great to "see" you!
 
sorry we havent been around lately and we are dissapointed with ourself for missing the carnival again :( But we also understand what you said whne you began to realise you had more confidence once you got rid of your ex the same thing has happened to us many hugs to all of you
 
I'm so sorry this happened to you. I'm so glad you didn't stay in your first marriage. I'm so glad you are YOU.
 
Thanks, April. I'm so glad to know you...and that you are YOU as well! :)
 
Hugs to you, too, JIP. I'm so proud of your strength! Don'g worry, there's another blog carnival deadline coming up next Wednesday, 4/16 for our 4/18 April carnival.
 
Holy cow - you described your college rape, and it's exactly the kind of thing that happened to me. I didn't want it, said no, but froze and allowed it to happen.

I think in my case it had to do with the physical abuse I'd suffered as a child. I had to stay until my father was done. Running away or fighting back was unthinkable.

I think if he really knew what his rages taught me, he would never be able to forgive himself.

I'm starting (finally) to realize that he never meant to be a bad father. He just never understood that he has depression and a rage disorder, so he rationalized his behavior.

Sometimes I wonder why my siblings have all managed to forgive him and I haven't. Oh well.
 
Tabby Cat: Oh good Lord! I'm doin' it again! I put my response to you on the 4/18 blog carnival entry. What I said was that I believe any kind of child abuse can cause traumatic freezing and set us up as later victims. Also, I thank you for having the courage to share part of your story here. I also want to add: If you decide to forgive, I believe it is a process...a process that takes a lot of time. (((((safe hugs)))))
 
I am not even yet ready to talk again with my therapist further (he does know), but I feel like I just need to tell someone and eventually in my own blog some of what happened to me. Between the ages of 5/6 - 8/9, my step-father and his father, at first, forced me to have sex with them and other men in my step-father’s bedroom. It also included sodomy, oral sex and beatings with a belt or antenna and being tied or held down and or with something in my mouth until I learned not to make a sound or move.

Then, when it moved into the garage in was usually one or the other and just two other family members. But, included crawling things, objects, erotic aspxiation, beatings, sodomy, oral sex, genital beatings, popsicles and ice into both openings. All while being tied down for hours and with no clothing.

At six years old I remember my step father putting a knife up to my neck and reminding me that he could kill me whenever he wanted to and no one would know or care. He continued until he moved out when I was 21. My mother who wouldn’t get out of an abusive relationship used to constantly warn me to watch what I do and say because he could kill me.

I am so numb and going away, now. Thanks for listening and I hope it didn’t trigger you.

Why did I write this? I really wanted to write it in a post that was really far back, but it wasn't allowed. I think I just wanted to tell someone else and looking at your site it seemed like you would understand.

I'm sorry about the skin cancer...I will be praying for you.

Now, I want to delete this whole thing, but I think the part that wants to fight, tell the truth and needs a little validation and comfort is trying to reach out, but afraid it will get slapped.
 
You will never get "slapped" here, Clueless. I do, however, want to put up the following:

TRIGGER WARNING, READERS, FOR THE ABOVE COMMENT

Just so victim-survivor-thriver folks can keep themselves safe.

You are, truly, NOT ALONE. ((((safe hugs, all)))))
 
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