Archive for February 15th, 2011

This blog entry continues the one I started yesterday on menstruation after sexual abuse.

Like any trigger, getting triggered by menstruation comes from the association you have made between your period and a traumatizing event. This makes complete sense. I have recovered the memory of my first rape (when I was very young – not sure how old, but in the 6-8 year range). That memory was extremely difficult to recover, and it includes bathing with blood coming out from between my legs.

I was so young that I did even know there was a “hole down there.” I am convinced that my virginity was sold to the highest bidder, and I was not prepared for what was to come. I was laid out on a bed in a sheer white nightie, and the man came and “took” my virginity without me knowing what was going on. Up until that point, all of the abuse I had suffered had happened outside of my body. This was the first time that it happened inside my body. Even inside of my own body was not safe from these evil people!

It makes perfect sense that I would associate the bleeding of a period with that first incidence of bleeding from a broken hymen and probably additional tissue damage. Periods also come with pain for many women (cramps), which could also trigger an association with being abused “down there.” So, it makes perfect sense for a sexual abuse survivor to be triggered by menstruation.

As with any trigger, the key is to dismantle the trigger. You need to understand the cause of the trigger. You then need to heal the underlying pain that is causing the trigger. Even now, writing about that first time is causing me to dissociate somewhat, which tells me that I have more healing work to do in that area.

Some sexual abuse survivors have success in applying a different meaning to the trigger. For example, my yoga instructor (who was also sexually abused) has chosen to view her period as a physical cleansing that reminds her to do emotional and spiritual cleansing. She sees her period as a gift that reminds her to focus on letting go of anger, bitterness, etc., on a monthly basis.

I confess that does not work for me. For years, I tried to view my period as a gift that would enable me to give a baby life, but that was not to be. (I am infertile and am a mother through adoption.) To me, my period mocks me on so many levels, from being a monthly reminder of my “barrenness” to a reminder of being raped. I also have endometriosis, which makes my periods more physically painful. So, I am not really in a place to rejoice over my periods.

Instead, I try to view them from a biological standpoint and remove any emotional attachment to them. They are a nuisance to be managed on a monthly basis. I will take that over being triggered by them any day!

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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