|2014 100-Theme Challenge #11 - Shattered (final)|
I was asked by my therapist to do a piece for Sexual Assault Awareness Month (April 2014). This is what I handed to her a few weeks ago. It went through several "re-do's" before I felt ok giving it to her. It will be hanging in the Ft. Lauderdale Government Center for a month starting next Tuesday (GULP!) This is the first time any piece of mine has been displayed publically, let alone "advertising" something so personal.
I thought about it though, and no longer care about confidentiality around this. It's something that happened to me, not something I asked for or welcomed. The people who perpetrate sexual violence are the ones that should carry all the shame, not the survivors (though often times they are survivors of childhood sexual assault themselves). It's shitty and horrible to go through it. If it's something that happens to you as a child, it cracks you at your core, and nothing is the same after that. Trust is never the same. Safety is never the same. It breaks you from the bottom up, and you have to learn to live with that brokeness until you can learn to repair it. While you may be able to glue pieces back together (most of the time as the ghost of your adult self trying to pick up the pieces of a broken childhood), the cracks never really go away. There's lots of scar tissue (literally, figuratively...) that betrays the shit you went through. It reminds you daily of something no one should ever have to endure, let alone a child.
For whatever reason, survivors of childhood sexual abuse tend to be victims of more abuse later in life, often by people different from than the original abuser. A whole host of factors led me to be "a survivor" of assult more than once. When trying to talk about the second bout of things for the first time, I was shamed into believeing that what happened was not wrong. I was led to believe (by peers in the mental health field) that because I had not screamed until my voice was hoarse, because he did not have scratches and bruises, and because I remained in that relationship for an extended period of time while it was repeatedly happening, what he did was not "wrong" (and that I had somehow wanted it). Though I went through hell over it, I shut my mouth and no longer acknowledged any of it (despite my then-therapist, my aprn, and my gyn's best efforts to figure out what happened). I stuffed it for 17 years even after crazy flashbacks/body memories led to a lot of emotional and physical damage. I finally started talking about things again after my 30-something-th psychiatric hospitalization and yet another social worker's strong recommendation that I seek sexual assault counseling. I sought help at the local sexual assault center (I needed to find a new therapist anyway because mine's internship was up). It took me 2 tries, but I found a therapist I was comfortable talking to about all this gunk. We are just getting to more of the details, but I'm finally working on all this stuff...
The moral of all this: IT'S NOT YOUR FAULT. Seek help from professionals (I would suggest someone specializing in assault because even the best-intentioned therapists don't necessarily know how to handle sexual violence if they don't have too much training/experience around it - as evidenced by my very judgement-filled conversation with my peers when I was first coming out about it. www.RAINN.org is a good resource for finding local help. They also offer a hotline and a crisis chat for the US (800-656-HOPE)). Even if you remain in the situation that perpetuates the assaults, it's not your fault. Even if you "should know better," it's not your fault. A lot can play into any situation. Keep reaching out until you can find the help you need, and there's no foundation to the shame you feel (something I need to keep reminding myself daily because there's a whole lot of shame most of the time)... You are worth the effort to get help, and you deserve to be safe.