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effects of sexual abuse

My Family Hugs my Rapist

I woke up at 3am the other night (yay for insomnia), and as usual, I grabbed my phone off the nightstand to check my messages. When I checked Facebook, I saw that my cousin had posted the photos from this year’s family reunion. I have not attended an all-family event since 2011. That was the year I gave myself permission to stop subjecting myself to the anxiety that comes with being around my rapist-brother if I’m not comfortable being around him. Since then, I have not attended a family reunion, been home for Christmas, and I un-RSVPed for my other cousin’s wedding earlier this year.

Greeting by  Rose Valdivia from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Greeting by Rose Valdivia from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

My entire family (and the internet-accessible world) is on notice that my brother molested and raped me for years, and yet they still invite him to all the family events. And judging by the pictures, they are happy to see him. The idea of being in the same room with him makes me nervous, but they happily hug him. They even let him hold hands with my 3 year-old little cousin. That churned my stomach. I wouldn’t let him be within 10 feet of my dog.

My family baffles me. I am sure they have no idea how painful and frustrating it is for me to see them hugging him and knowing that he’s a welcome presence in their lives. What the fuck is wrong with them? How can they stand to be around him? It makes me wonder if they don’t believe me. I suspect some of them think, “We don’t know what really happened (we weren’t there), but we love and accept you both.” They don’t understand that by accepting him, they don’t accept to me.

You can’t you say you believe that he raped me and then gleefully invite him to a family celebration. The two don’t comport; and actions speak louder than words.

A friend asked me how common is it for families with sibling sexual abuse to side with the abuser. A quick internet search didn’t yield any statistics on this question. One study indicated that sexual abuse between siblings is 5 times more prevalent than parent-child sexual abuse so I’m sure I’m not the only one in this situation. This doesn’t make me feel better, but it’s validating to know I’m not alone.

I wonder if my family actually cares about me or if pretending that everything is ok is enough for them. Based on their actions to date, I suspect it’s the latter.

Worth reading: Responding to Sibling Sexual Abuse: What to do and Why by Boz Tchividjian (written in response to questions he received after the disclosure that Josh Duggar molested his sisters)

Ruminations on the Road

Relaxing for a moment at the Trees of Mystery

Relaxing for a moment at the Trees of Mystery

I’ve been ruminating about my sexual abuse and the person I used to be for the last few days. I’ve had memories of my past and parts of others’ stories of abuse (real and fictionalized) entering my mind at random times. They’re nothing compared to full-blown flash backs which leave my completely paralyzed until the memory has run its course but they are thoughts and ideas that invade my brain and random and often inopportune times.

It came on fast and strong while I was walking through San Francisco. Ruminations are not new for me but they are something I haven’t had an issue with for a few months. Memories and ideas by themselves are not harmful but they can be distracting, and at times distressing. I told myself, “Ok sweetie, calm down. It’s ok that you’re having these thoughts but you’re scheduled to speak in an hour. Perhaps you should focus on that.”

I got through my talk just fine, but that random invasive thoughts continued to enter my brain whenever I had down time. As I was driving north towards Oregon, I tried to step back and look for themes running through the memories. I noticed my thoughts had underlying issues of anxiety, rejection, vulnerability, being attacked, and craving comfort. I grew up in northern California and I wondered if being near the places and people that are connected to the time of my abuse and the maladaptive behaviors I engaged in to cope with it was stirring me up emotionally.

I wonder if the thoughts will subside the further away I get from California. Perhaps I’m getting emotionally agitated because The Undeniable Tour is almost done and I have so much crammed into the back half of this trip. I guess time will tell.

I Can’t Stay Silent Anymore

The way sexual assault is handled in the U.S. makes me so frustrated. Sexual abuse and sexual assault is so pervasive – the CDC estimates that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused and the number of women who are sexually assaulted in their lifetime is devastatingly high, and yet it’s something that is almost never discussed. I saw the trailer for the documentary about sexual assault on college campuses, The Hunting Ground, last tonight and it filled me with fire.

I get so angry when I hear about child molestation by church priests, the abuse by Jerry Sandusky, and the pervasiveness of sexual assaults on college campuses. I’m not angry just because people are being attacked, but because the institutions who are responsible for the victims’ safety are protecting the perpetrators. They are more concerned about maintaining their reputations than doing what’s right. Are they completely oblivious to the devastating effects of sexual assault? Do they know that they have shamed people into silence and attack them for speaking up? It makes me so angry and frustrated at “the system” that it’s hard to find words to express it. I just want to scream at them.

To every institution that turned a blind eye or blamed or shamed of victim who was sexually assaulted under their watch – Fuck You! I don’t believe in protecting perpetrators or the people that protect them.

As a survivor of sexual assault, my heart goes out to these victims and fellow survivors. I suspect I know your pain, your anger, and your shame. We live in a world that tells us to stay silent about being victimized and traumatized, to “get over it.” The people who say this are too uncomfortable with the fact that this happens everywhere and to all types of people, so they try to ignore it. They push the problem onto the victims when it’s really them who have the real problem.

The survivors of sexual assault have a challenge – to deal with the damage of the trauma we’ve been through. And if you’re a survivor too, you know how soul crushing and devastating it can be. This isn’t something we just “get over.” We live with it for the rest of our lives. It’s our responsibility to do what we have to do to take care of ourselves, whatever that looks like. And for some of us dealing with this deep trauma doesn’t take weeks or months; it takes years, maybe even a lifetime.

I’ve been silent for too long, shamed by individuals, institutions, and cultural norms. Speaking only for myself, I feel like I’m at a point where I can’t say that survivors should feel empowered to speak out whenever they need to an to call out individuals and institutions that perpetuate this problem, unless I’m willing to speak out too.