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Archive for July 2nd, 2008

Man on swing (c) Lynda BernhardtAs you can probably tell by reading this blog, I do not have any trouble labeling myself as a survivor of sexual abuse. I can even “own” the label of being a survivor of ritual abuse. I have no issue with the label of emotional abuse, either. However, I have a hard time with this when it comes to “owning” the label of physical abuse. My sister, who endured the same abuses that I did, also struggles with this label.

Perhaps the reason for this is that we did not spend our lives hiding our physical bruises from others. We never went to the hospital for unexplained broken bones. I never worried that my parents were going to kill me by inflicting physical pain. About the worse thing either parent did physically was to slap me across the face when I was around eight years old. It wasn’t pleasant, but it hardly rises to the level of being beaten with a belt or having my bones broken.

However, I did suffer from physical abuse. S, my most sadistic abuser, would suffocate me with a pillow as “discipline” for my sister (and vice versa). One time, S took it too far and smothered me until I passed out. She had to give me mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to bring me back to consciousness. If that is not physical abuse, then I don’t know what it. Nevertheless, it is hard for me to think of myself as a “survivor of physical abuse,” even with this history.

I have no explanation for why I resist that label. It is not because the other forms of abuse were “worse” or anything. In fact, I struggled with body memories for years of “tasting” cigarette smoke, even though I have never smoked, because S had smoked a cigarette recently when she performed the mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. When hub used to jokingly put a pillow over my head early in our marriage, I would freeze up and be unable to “fight back” or even move until he removed the pillow. Clearly, this was a traumatizing event in my life.

However, that is pretty much the only direct physical abuse that I can point to. Perhaps it makes a difference to me that it only happened that one time. However, if that only happened one time to my own child, I would have no problem labeling a smothering as physical abuse. I truly do not know why I struggle with this.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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