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Archive for November 4th, 2010

I was surprised to learn that quite a few people have found my blog by doing an Internet search for “18 and abused.” I am assuming that this means that the person is 18 years old, which is an adult in the United States, and is looking for information about being abused after the victim becomes a legal adult.

This is one area of child abuse that many people simply do not get. I have told a few offline people about my mother stopping her abuse when I was in elementary school and then starting back when I was a senior in high school after my father died. Almost every single time I tell someone about what happened in high school, the other person asks me why I did not fight her off. This is because most people simply do not understand the mind of the abused child.

My mother began sexually abusing me when I was just a toddler (and possibly even earlier based upon some body memories I have been recovering lately). Her direct abuse ended when I was still in elementary school when my father walked in on her hurting me. While she continued to let other people harm me, she did not touch me any longer. Because I never experienced safety during my childhood, much less received therapy or talked about her abuse, that part of myself never developed. I still had an inner child (or alter part or whatever you want to call it) that was frozen at the stage of development when the abuse first started happening. So, when my mother came into my bedroom and awakened her 17-year-old daughter, the emotional age of the child she abused was only a toddler.

When my mother awakened me to harm me for the first time in over a decade, I was not the 17-year-old young woman who was applying to colleges: I was that terrified toddler all over again. I felt just as helpless as I did when I inhabited a toddler’s body, and my reactions were those of a toddler, not of a young woman.

This is why stories come out about young women in their twenties who are still living at home and being repeatedly raped by their fathers (or other parental figures). Society mistakenly assumes that once a person becomes an adult, he or she magically has the emotional power to fight back. The thinking is that the person is a legal adult and physically has an adult body, so any sexual contact with the abuser must now be consensual. This could not be further from the truth.

If you are over 18 and are still being abused, you are not alone, and there is nothing “wrong” with you. You are not “weak,” and you are certainly not consenting to the abuse. The problem is that you have not developed into an adult emotionally because you have not been safe long enough for this to happen.

The one advantage that you do have as a young adult is the legal ability to leave your home. If you try to do this before you turn 18, the State can get involved and return you to your abusive household or place you into the foster care system. Now that you are over 18, you legally have the right to leave your abusive home. I strongly suggest talking with a professional therapist or counselor about ways to help you leave your abusive home as soon as possible.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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