Shut down by the word “Erotic”

I experienced sexual abuse from before I was even in kindergarten through the age of fifteen, and then incest from the age of nine until the age of 15-16 (at least that is when my last known memory is).  Now as an adult I find it difficult sometimes to talk about sex, to see myself as a sexual being, to know what is “normal” in regards to sex, or even to feel that I am worthy of being desired.  I also at times feel it difficult to have desires of my own.  This puts me in a place I am not at all comfortable with, a place that fuels the unworthy feelings, or “not good enough” feelings that I already have.  It feeds that part of me that fights to not see sex as something bad.

I know that sex can be something amazingly beautiful.  I am in a very long term relationship and have felt and seen that most beautiful amazing part of sex.  For me it is kinda the difference in sex and making love.  That amazing connection where it feels like two souls collide and join.  There is no other feeling on earth like it.

I wish I could say that I experience this amazing colliding of souls each time I make love to my spouse.  The problem is that since I have been remembering more and more about my past sexual abuse I have had more realizations about my own sexuality.  What is it that I desire?  Do I enjoy being desired?

What I am finding is that I’m not even sure what “normal” sexual behavior or desire is. What I know from sex I learned from my abusers.  I learned from the enormous amount of pornography (movies/magazines) my best friend and I found in her basement one summer.  We spent the entire summer filling our minds with all we could to learn and see what her dad thought was so good that it pulled him away from the family every night after dinner.  I learned from hearing my dad rape my mom at night.  I learned from being forced to perform acts that I didn’t understand, didn’t like and that didn’t feel good. THAT was my normal.

I was recently having a conversation with someone about this topic and the word erotic came up.  I immediately shut down.  EROTIC?  That is dirty!  I’m not doing ANYTHING erotic!  In my mind I was seeing something totally different than what the word erotic really means.  I was seeing one partner tying up the other, I was seeing blind folds, hand cuffs, costumes.  WOW!  Why didn’t anyone teach me about sex?  I Googled the words “erotic sex” and clicked on images.  Go ahead, do it. . . I’ll wait.

Ok. . . that is enough time.  Come back. . . . No really. . .

The images I saw were beautiful!  Two beautiful bodies entwined with each other.  It showed love, gentleness, passion.  It was sensual.  THAT WAS EROTIC?  That didn’t look dirty at all!

Then, trying to figure out what to call the picture in my head I Googled something else.  Here try it. . . . type in “S & M sex”.  Be careful. . .again, click on the images.  My naive mind had heard people mention S&M, but I had NO CLUE what it really was.  I guess I had been living under a rock somewhere!
Did you look?  Go ahead. . . . do it!
Didn’t take you long to come back this time did it?  LOL!!

THIS is the image in my head when I heard the word erotic.  Now I know that some people get into this stuff.  That’s fine.  I’m not saying it’s bad for everyone.  What I am saying is that it is NOT for me.  It feels dominating and leaves me feeling powerless just to look at it or think about it.  If that is what you like, who am I to judge.  For me it feels bad, dirty. . .and like something that would leave me feeling so empty and used.

I would just like to have an appropriate vocabulary for sex, love making, sexual experiences, etc.  I’m well into my 4th decade and still I’m learning about sex.  What I’m ok with doing.  What I’m ok receiving, giving, feeling, desiring. . . .
I want to be able say yes or no without feeling guilty or shameful.  I want to allow my body to feel pleasure without feeling shame, or feeling like I will lose control.  I want to feel like it’s ok to not be in control 100% of the time.  To let myself go.  I have been able to experience this at times, but more times than not my body will trick me and interrupt causing me to feel like I’m not worthy of this experience.  I want to be able to talk about sex without being embarrassed by what I feel or what I do or don’t know.

I want to know that I’m not alone in how I feel.  Not that I would want this confused feeling for anyone else.  I just want to know that I’m not the only one who has ever felt this.  I know it will pass.  I know I have felt wonderment and fulfillment in love making.  I just want it more frequently.  I want my abusers out of my head and out of my bedroom.  Does the guilt and shame around sex every completely go away?

Am I too old to learn what is true about sex, about making love?  I almost feel like I need to be reprogrammed.  Delete the old files in my head and start over.  My body remembers more than my mind.  I feel safer than I ever have, where sex is concerned, with my spouse.  It’s not about that.  It’s about being able to get past all the programming and create my own sexual experience.  Allow myself to feel completely, to desire, want, give, receive and ask.  And to be ok, or even more than ok, feeling desired. . . .wanted.

Anyone else ever feel like this?

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Letter to my younger self

Today has been a hard day.  I have a therapy appointment in a couple of hours.  We have been discussing what it means to forgive.  Am I there yet?  It seems too soon, but what is too soon anyway?  I have been conflicted in this space of missing my dad, the Good dad.  The dad that I wanted, I wished for, the one that I saw often when he wasn’t visiting me at night or fighting with my mom.  It’s proof that nothing is all good or all bad.  I’m the one who set the boundaries, who said I could no longer maintain contact or a relationship with him.  Even though I hadn’t really spoke to him in several months and it had been even longer than that since I had seen him.  Neither of us really made much of an effort.  We really haven’t had much in common since I grew up and moved away.  Our life paths simply took us opposite directions.  I have always felt like a disappointment to him.

So on the topic of forgiveness, I thought it might be easier to think about forgiving myself.  Forgiving myself for being so hard on me, for making me responsible for the abuse.  For never cutting myself any slack or thinking about me as an innocent powerless kid.  At least that is what I’m hearing people around me say I should do.  This is a foreign concept.  I thought maybe I could write a letter to the younger me.  And maybe I would be able to see forgiveness coming through in some form.  I’m still not sure that I really understand what it looks like or even sounds like.  It is just an invisible concept to me, so difficult to understand it’s full meaning.

The letter didn’t turn out quiet like I anticipated.  I started writing and just let it flow.  Instead of seeing or hearing forgiveness, I was feeling anger.  Anger at that younger me who didn’t speak up, didn’t fight back hard enough, didn’t stop the abuse.

The letter went like this. . . .

To my younger self,

You were such a sweet little girl! You wanted to be included – in the middle of whatever fun was going on.  You were so quick to trust anyone – especially people you already knew.

How were you to know that this curiosity and trust would land you in situations that would bring you pain for so many years?  your desire to be “included” only put you in a place of being hurt over and over.

I have spent so many years being angry at you!  You should have told someone!  You should have told when it started with Uncle Dave.  If you had told mom that day she would have believed you.  It would have stopped!  You were so trusting that you believed him when he said not to tell.  That very day started the spiral that wouldn’t stop for too many years.
Because you didn’t tell 0 it left things open for David.  It made it easy for him to touch you and you still never said anything!  You didn’t want him to think you were a baby – I get that!  But you still knew it was wrong – you feared getting caught – someone noticing or walking in.  As it progressed you even began to like it – though you didn’t want anyone to know.  You liked the excitement of doing something you knew you shouldn’t – something that would feel good.  Who wouldn’t want to feel good right?  Yet you still knew it was wrong and didn’t stop it!

It got more scary as Derrick joined in.  It became more painful, more forceful 0 and sometimes both of them at the same time.  Again, you still never told.  You didn’t make it stop!  You should have told someone – yelled – bit – anything to make it stop!  But you didn’t! You were always too afraid! you were just too afraid of everything, just like everyone said!  They were right!  You were a baby!

If you had told – maybe it would have stopped!  Instead it just continued with many more boys  – and even worse – with Dad!  You begged him to stop – I’ll give you that!  Then you just cried and checked out.  Still not telling anyone – it just kept happening!  You could have told mom or Susan, they would have made it stop!  They would have believed you!

Acting out in school only brought more trouble – more people who thoughts you were just a liar and defiant!  It didn’t bring help!  You should have told!

As things with Dad became more frequent you stopped fighting – you would check out completely and even let it feel good.  Really??  You should have stopped it!!  Even losing your virginity to your dad – you should have stopped it!!  Having your first orgasm with your dad – you should have stopped it!!  That should have NEVER have happened!  You were old enough to fight, to say something, so tell someone!  You could have done something.  How could you have allowed this to feel good?  You knew it was wrong, everything in you knew it was wrong, and yet you allowed your body to feel some kind of pleasure.  How could you?

Because you didn’t stop this, I have had to re-experience this pain as an adult!  I’ve had to live it again.  It has effected every relationship I’ve had – it has distorted the meaning of love – distorted the way sex is supposed to be.  It has made it nearly impossible for me to understand and believe what is true.

All because you were too afraid to stand up and defend yourself.  You were a baby – just like everyone said!  You could have made it stop!  You just had to speak up!  Be brave like your sister.  She never let anyone do this to her.  She always was able to speak up and say what what she needed to say.

You wanted to be a big kid –  a grown up!  All you did was get stuck! That nine year old kid just can’t grow up.  You still appear – even today – acting out.  Making people think you are all innocent, trying to get people to like you.  You are just a reminder of the pain you allowed.  You have to go away.  You have to stop showing up!  It’s too painful to see you lurking right behind me everyday.  You are the reminder of all those people who caused me pain, who took you away from me, who separated us.  It’s time you go away now!  I can’t keep trying to take care of you!  I need to get myself back, learn who I am without you.  You have only allowed the pain to stay.  I need for the pain to stop and the reminders to be gone.

Your 40 year old self!

 

Maybe I’m just not there!  Maybe I can’t think about forgiveness yet.  Maybe it’s too much!  Or maybe I just need to know what it truly looks and feels like.  Right now, I think I’m just mad at that kid.  The 5 year old, the 9 year old, the 12, 14, 15 year old.  The one who never spoke up.  The one who learned to check out mentally yet allow the physical sensations to take over her own body.  I’m just angry at her for those sensations!

 

Acting Out. . .

**This post may cause triggers for some people who have experienced sexual abuse in their lives.  There are graphic details in this post of my childhood sexual abuse.  Please use your own judgment when reading.  **

By nine years old I was well aware of what it felt like for a boy or man to touch my most private parts. For them to touch my most secret places with their penis. For them to insert their fingers into that special place, that was forbidden to be touched.

It was when I was nine that I had showed a younger cousin what it was like to touch a girls secret spot. I can’t remember exactly the age difference but I believe he was just 3-4 years younger than me. We were playing house in his sisters bedroom. We had built a tent and he was the “daddy” and I was the “mommy”. I showed him what mommy’s and daddy’s do when they are alone. Or at least what I thought they did.  I pulled down my pants and panties and showed him my secret place.  He pulled down his pants and showed me his.  I let him touch me, with his hand like David (my older cousin) did.  For some reason it just didn’t feel the same.  My stomach was flip floppy, I felt like I wanted to cry.  This wasn’t at all what it was like with David.  Why?  I told him to stop and pulled my panties up and we stopped playing altogether.  Something was wrong.  I must have not been doing it right.  Why did I feel so bad?

It took more than 30 years for me to remember all of these details about that particular day.  About how my smaller cousin told his mom.  About how she said she was going to  prosecute me.  I remember her saying that when I was nine, but I didn’t know what that meant.  The closest things I could relate that word to was persecute.  And for this nine year old, I thought I would be stoned or nailed to a cross like Jesus was because I had done something so horrible.  No one ever said it was bad for David to touch me.  Yet  in my heart, or maybe my stomach, that day I knew that what I had done with my younger cousin was wrong.  It just felt wrong!

On a Sunday, I was made to stay home from church with my dad while the rest of the family went on to church without us.  I was sat down on the couch and dad told me to tell him what I had done with this younger cousin.  I couldn’t speak!  I didn’t know what to say.  I didn’t know what to call it.  I was so afraid of his tone and anger that I couldn’t get anything out except, “I don’t know”.  The more I said those words the more angry dad got, the more angry he got the more I was unable to say any other words.  Since I couldn’t tell him, he demanded that I show him.
The next thing I know, I was sitting on the couch next to my daddy with pants pulled down a little.  He asked if my younger cousin had touched me.  I still couldn’t answer, I was only crying.  He made me stand up and take my pants and panties off.  He put my hands around his penis and with his hand over mine began to move my hand up and down.  He asked if this was what I did?  Still, I couldn’t speak.  I couldn’t see, through the pool of tears that continued to spill over my eyes and drop to the floor.

My crying only made him more angry.  He then put a finger in his mouth and began to touch me in my secret place with his wet finger.  It was just like what my older cousin David had done.  But I thought that was just something he did,  I didn’t realize that daddy’s did this too.  It hurt, I was scared, I didn’t like this at all!!! David was never angry!  He was only trying to teach me how to be a big kid.  Daddy was mad and yelling!  He kept telling me to “Dry it up!  Quit that crying!”.  Since I wasn’t able to stop crying and I wasn’t able to tell him what I had done, he just kept going.  He yelled at me again and told me to “Kiss it!”  He meant for me to kiss his private area.  I didn’t want to!  I didn’t want to do this to him!  NOT MY DADDY!  He took his hands and guided my head, leaving me no choice.  I thought I was going to throw up!  He yelled at me, telling me I better not throw up!  That I needed to learn.  If I wanted to be an adult, I had to learn how to behave as one! When he was all done, he pushed me away hard enough that I landed in the floor.  I quickly pulled up my pants and ran to the bathroom.  I made it to the bathroom just in time, before I threw up.
The rest of the day I stayed in my room with the door closed.  Mom came home from church, came to my room and asked if I was ok.  She had already talked to dad, but I don’t know what he said to her.  I only remember that I wasn’t hungry for lunch and just stayed in my room the rest of the day.

This was the first time that I remember him touching me.  I have other memories that are still fragmented and unclear, but this is the first full memory. I had already felt so bad about what I had done with my younger cousin.  This just made it worse.  I didn’t realize I was really doing anything wrong.  David had touched me so much before that I thought it was just normal.  Didn’t all cousins play like this?  I don’t remember a time that David or some other older cousins hadn’t tried to “teach” me.  Teach me how to be a grown up, one of the “big kids”, or a good girlfriend.
What I did was never spoke of again.  It was like I had taken my punishment and it was over.  What dad had done to me was never spoke of again.  However, it wasn’t the last time he would touch me.  This was just the beginning . . . .

Once I was an adult and came to the realization of all that happened to me and all that I had done, I had so much confusion around this one incident with my younger cousin.  As an adult I can completely understand his mother’s (my aunt’s) reaction to someone touching her son.  I also became very confused.  Did this make me a perpetrator? Was I now, one of them?  I would have never done anything to intentionally hurt my younger cousin.  I was acting out what had been done to me.  What I thought was normal.  What no one seemed to know about.  What no one stopped.  My cousin and I never spoke of this, in fact because of many family dynamics we have not seen each other in more years than I can count.  I’m not really sure I would recognize him if I saw him now.  What I know is true, is that I hope he has no memory of our isolated incident.  I hope I am the only one who remembers and that I can bare the pain for both of us.  He is grown, married and a very successful man, possibly with children of his own.  He has created a good life for himself and I would never in a million years want him to feel pain.  Especially this kind of pain.
The part I have to work on. . . how do I forgive myself for such a thing?  I believe it is going to be an ongoing process that will take some time.

For people who don’t know my story, it may seem odd for me to start of telling it this way.  This is just one small piece of the puzzle.  This is the one and ONLY time I ever touched anyone else (when I wasn’t forced to).  The only way for me to live with myself with this is to remember what was done to me for at least five years (that I remember) prior to this isolated incident.  The sexual acts that created normalcy for me.  Didn’t everyone live this way?

The Butterfly

In 1920 a woman by the name of Alice Freeman Palmer was elected into the Hall of Fame for Great Americans. Her name as well as a bronze bust sits among other great Americans such as Clara Barton, Samuel Clemens. a.k.a Mark Twain, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Ralph Waldo Emerson.  They are proudly displayed with ninety-eight other great American on the campus of the Bronx Community College in New York.

Alice Freeman Palmer was a great educator paving the way for women to receive the same education as men. At the age of twenty-six she became the world’s first female college president, at Wellesley College. She was known for pushing students and faculty alike to higher levels of achievement.

I would guess that when Alice Freeman Palmer wrote the poem, The Butterfly, she had no thought that it would touch someone like me, more than 100 years after her own death.  I imagine she wrote this poem for all the women she was urging to attend college, to become something/someIMG_6192 11x14body beautiful, to not sit down at the feet of a man simply because she was a woman.  How could she had known that this poem would for me be a reflection of the journey I have been on for the last several months.  The journey of remembrance.  Remembering secrets long forgotten and pushed to the catacombs of my mind.  Memories of a childhood scared by sexual abuse, incest and the feeling of never being good enough.  This poem speaks of my emergence from the chrysalis that has protected me for most of my life.  The safe place that has kept the secrets from damaging my mind, my spirit.  That chrysalis has been opened, I’m stretching my wings, I’m learning to trust myself.  I’m learning how to take those horrible memories, acknowledge them, allow them, remember them and not let them become who I am.  They are what happened to me, they are not me!  I’m stretching my wings, while God gives me the courage to fly!

The Butterfly
By Alice Freeman Palmer (1855-1902)

I hold you at last in my hand
Exquisite child of the air.
Can I ever understand
How you grew to be so fair?

You came to my Linden tree
To taste it’s delicious sweet.
I sit here in the shadow and shine
Playing around it’s feet.

Now I hold you fast in my hand,
You marvelous butterfly,
Till you help me to understand
The eternal mystery.

From that creeping thing in the dust
To this shining bliss in the blue!
God give me courage to trust
I can break my chrysalis too!

Prevalence of Sexual Abuse in Children

According to experts it is difficult to predict the prevalence of sexual abuse in children because all too often it goes unreported.
What is sexual abuse anyway?  How is it defined?  According to Darkness to Light, a non-profit organization with a mission “of reducing the incidence of child sexual abuse through public awareness and education”, sexual abuse is defined as

  1. Any sexual act between an adult and a minor or between two minors when one exerts power over the other.
  2. Forcing, coercing or persuading a child to engage in any type of sexual act.
  3. Including non-contact acts such as exhibitionism, exposure to pornography, voyeurism, and communicating in a sexual manner by phone or internet.

One out of every 4 girls is sexually abused before their 18th birthday.  One out of every 6 boys is sexually abused before their 18th birthday.  It can also be said this way; as many as 400,000 babies born in the United States this year will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday.  To top this, nearly 70% of all reported sexual assaults, including assaults on adults, occur to children ages seventeen and younger (www.d2l.org). When thinking about these statistics, this would mean we all know of someone who has been or is being sexually abused right now.

It’s important that parents and children are educated about sexual abuse.  It is not just something that happens to “under privileged” children.  People who abuse children do not discriminate.  They look and act just like anyone else.  They frequently will go out of their way to appear trustworthy. They seek out settings where they can easily gain access to children.  Places such as sports leagues, clubs, schools, parks, churches or faith centers, tutors, libraries are just a few common places these type of people can be found.  They are very likable people.  Often funny, friendly, charming and appear safe.  30-40% of children who are sexually abused are done so by a family member.  As many as 60% are abused by someone trusted by the family.  THIS MEANS THAT MORE THAN 90% OF SEXUALLY ABUSED CHILDREN ARE DONE SO BY SOMEONE THEY TRUST.  

The terrifying statistic I found, is that 80% of child abuse victim never report their abuse.  As terrifying as this is, I can completely understand not reporting it.  I was sexually abused by many boys and men in my family as well as family friends from before I was in Kindergarten until about 15 or 16 years old.  I never reported any of the abuse.  I did not realize it was abuse.  I was groomed for such behavior.  I thought all little girls “serviced” their older male cousins, the older boys who belonged to my parents friends, my uncles, and even my father.  I was told I was being taught how to be a grown up and if I wanted to play with the big kids, this is what I had to do.  It took many many years before I realized this was only normal in MY family.  It didn’t happen in everyone’s family.
This blog is where I will share my story.  It is where I will speak truth about my childhood, my teenage years and my adult life.  It is where I will leave the memories of abuse and work my way through healing.  It is where I pray I am able to shine light on my own darkness and maybe help someone else see there is light in their own as well.

Some people may find what I’m writing about to be disturbing.  There is only truth written here.  It is my true story of sexual abuse and incest.  If you are currently in an abusive situation or are a survivor of sexual abuse, you may read things here that might trigger your own pain from abuse.  Please trust your gut, stop reading if you begin to feel it is too much.  Take care of yourself.  You may even see your own story in parts of mine, that isn’t anything bad.  It just means we share similar stories.  We all have a story.  And I am choosing to speak out and share mine.

I welcome and look forward to your comments, please keep them respectful.  I also reserve the right, as this is my blog, to delete any comments that are degrading, mean spirited, or otherwise downright disrespectful.
I want this to be a place of release and healing.
WELCOME!