I wrote something earlier this week about how hard it is to be honest about having been sexually abused. On reflection, I think the answer is shame. I am ashamed of what happened to me.
Being ashamed is different from thinking it is your fault. Every therapist I’ve spoken to has rushed to tell me I wasn’t to blame. I do mostly believe that. There is still a small part of me that thinks I could have stopped it. I could have told him no, I could have told an adult what he was doing. I get angry with myself for not doing that. I remind myself however, that the one time I told him to stop, he just forced it on me anyway.
Thankfully, that was the time my mum walked in and found out. It was an incredibly painful experience. I can’t shake how it felt that she saw me like that. She was horrified and disgusted. I can still feel the burn of that now.
That feeling is what stops me being open about what happened to me. The shame and the disgust at myself. After all, if my own mother was disgusted, what would anyone else think? I know now, for the most part that I was a helpless victim. But I can still feel the heat of that shame when I recall it. So it is almost impossible not to think that other people would be disgusted as well.
Just like I don’t want to be defined by my sexuality or my gender, I don’t want to be labelled ‘victim’. Not by anyone. I imagine that if my friends knew what happened back when I was 10 they would only see me as that. As a repulsive little girl who couldn’t say no. That’s not a slight on my friends, they are a bunch of wonderful, loving people. But I feel as though if they knew the truth, that is all they would think of when they saw me.
I’ve had some experience of this feeling. My mum told some of our close family friends what had happened back then. She says it was so I would have people to talk to. I think it was because she wanted people to talk to. I hated that they knew. It meant that people I had loved seeing were suddenly people I felt anxious around. I felt like they were judging me, scrutinising me. I still do now.
Shame isn’t something I can just shake. I talk about it with my therapist and that makes no difference. I write about it. I get drunk. I self-harm. In fact I self-harmed tonight. But it doesn’t make any difference. Nothing makes any difference. I end up trapped in my head full of toxic thoughts and there is just no remedy.
Image from Creative Commons, courtesy of Soumyadeep Paul