I see books that espouse it and hear people say it, I have worked to re-frame my childhood to make sexual abuse seem less heinous, thereby removing the word and its connotation. I have even tried to ingest the old saying, “no matter how bad you have it, someone has it worse.” Among those that share the same experience there is conflict about the word. I am trying to figure out why?
The word is victim, and ever since I can remember there have been two camps and they cannot agree, always engaging in this fierce debate. To me it is a pointless and wasteful exercise that draws energy from actually helping people. Some prefer the word survivor. Hey, call yourself a survivor, but being a survivor means you were at one time a victim, am I right?
The last few days have been very difficult. I have had a lot of physical pain, backache, headache, my joints and muscles seem to gang up on me twisting and pulling me into odd angles, it hurts. I have had anxiety wreaking havoc too, pain piercing my chest, scary, ominous…Sleep has been difficult without some sort of aid, with terrible nightmares and threats as well.
My old and valiant dreams try to find a place in my heart but are quickly forced back into their desolate home, banished from any logic or possible reality. Isolation seems to be a swirling vortex which is inescapable.
I am a victim AND a survivor of sexual abuse.
Let me share a few of the maladies that are known to exist in those who have been sexually abused:
Physical Symptoms of Childhood Sexual Abuse
- Chronic pelvic pain
- Gastrointestinal symptoms/distress
- Musculoskeletal complaints
- Obesity, eating disorders
- Insomnia, sleep disorders
- Sexual dysfunction
- Asthma, respiratory ailments
- Addictions (alcohol addiction/ drug addiction/sexual)
- Chronic headache
- Chronic back pain
I have experienced eight of these. You might argue that many people, even those not abused have similar problems. Sure, why not, that may be true. But lets also add in the psychological issues:
Psychological and Behavioral Symptoms of Childhood Sexual Abuse
- Depression and anxiety
- Post traumatic stress disorder symptoms
- Dissociative states
- Repeated self-injury
- Suicide attempts/ideation
- Lying, stealing, truancy, running away
- Poor contraceptive practices
- Compulsive sexual behaviors
- Sexual dysfunction
- Somatizing disorders
- Eating disorders
- Poor adherence to medical recommendations
- Intolerance of or constant search for intimacy
- Expectation of early death
Eleven of these have been struggles in my life.
You want me to behave, to believe, to act right and stop all the foolishness, so do I. You want to withhold your empathy and be judgmental. You want to go all spiritual on me and tell me that my problem is not enough faith. I have news for you…
I am a victim. Turn away if you like, but it doesn’t change the reality of what has happened to me. If you’ve been reading my blog you know the story, ’nuff said there.
I am also a survivor. Yes, it’s been extremely difficult all my life. There have been few to stand with me, but I have never quit, though the call to end my life at one time grew increasingly loud. I have fallen, been knocked down, been punched in the gut, nearly had my head blown off but never stopped trying and working and hoping. I have seen my dreams disappear like a wisp of smoke and yet for some unknown reason I carry on. Surely you know I have also hurt many people along the way. I feel like I am winning, minute by minute, day by day, month by month; then a few bad days hit and doubt enters in.
Walk away, judge me, feel a bit of compassion, tell me to be a man, compare me to your life, tell me get over it, lend a hand, call me whatever name makes you feel better about yourself; but hear this…
1 in 6 boys are sexually abused. They don’t all end up the same, they don’t all struggle in identical ways, many of them are already dead of self-inflicted wounds or slowly drowning in addiction. Physically, emotionally, mentally and yes, spiritually wounded, they cannot lift their heads. We are out here. We have feelings and emotions, we love and hate, we feel worthlessness and shame, we know right from wrong and it kills us to let you down. But even more to let ourselves down again and again.
Just know that we are people too, people who had decisions made for us that we had no part in and we are left to pick up the shattered pieces.
Maybe you are part of the solution, the support, the tangible hand that holds ours in this unspeakable agony? We want to be free, to take in the smell of a fresh spring day, to once again see the sun shine. Tell me, will you reach out to those in your life who you know are struggling and in some small way help them feel a part of humanity again?
I know there is hope for me but that doesn’t lessen the challenges, I don’t know how men live with this secret and somehow function at all.
So just listen, be there, don’t judge… we have a story to tell and in the telling we will find a new measure of healing and you will find a new ability to understand. Together we heal.