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Archive for the ‘Sexual Abuse’ Category

I recently wrote a blog entry entitled Is it Possible to Have Been Raped as a Girl and Not Remember?. After this blog entry published, I received emails from readers asking me to discuss this topic further. This is my first installment. If you have specific questions or issues you would like for me to cover, please email them to me or post them in the comments to this blog entry. You can find my email address on the About Faith Allen page. I will not use your name unless you ask me to.

One reader wants to know more about the situation of remembering some sexual abuse incidents but repressing the memories of the rapes. This was my situation for about a year. I first entered into therapy after I began recovering memories of being sexually abused by my mother. (Before this, I had no memories whatsoever of sexual abuse.) As I dealt with those memories, more memories surfaced of other forms of sexual abuse, but none of them involved vaginal rape. I kept telling myself that I could handle the memories as long as I was never vaginally raped. As I continued to heal, I reached a place when I had to face that this, too, had been taken from me. It was incredibly painful, but I needed to remember to heal.

Why did I remember multiple other incidents of sexual abuse but not the rapes? My guess is that I found the vaginal rapes to be the most traumatizing. Different people are going to have different memories that they consider to be the “worst of the worst.” For me, it was vaginal rapes. For my sister, it was animal rape. For others, it is mother-daughter sexual abuse or other forms of abuse. I think we often save for last the memory that we fear will break us. We ease ourselves into remembering the worst.

I have talked with child abuse survivors who have always remembered some forms of sexual abuse but not others. My observation has been that those whose sexual abuse began after age six appear to be more likely to remember some of the sexual abuse but might have dissociated the accompanying emotions or some of the more traumatizing incidents.

I know one sexual abuse survivor who remembered being raped hundreds of times by a family member. Because she had these memories, she did not believe that anything had been repressed. She was wrong. Through therapy, as she healed from what she had already remembered but had refused to “feel,” she started recovering memories of other abuses that were even more traumatizing than the memories she had always held. She took this very hard because she thought that what she remembered was hard enough. She felt like she was losing her mind as more memories of even more traumatizing abuses surfaced.

It is normal for people who have endured trauma to repress the memory. It is possible (and common) for child abuse survivors to have memories of some of the abuse but not others.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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*** sexual abuse triggers ***

A reader emailed me a question that she had trouble finding an answer to online, so I thought I had better address it here. The question was whether it is possible for a young girl to be vaginally gang-raped, survive the experience, and not remember that it happened (dissociate the memories into adulthood). The answer is a resounding yes, and it happens with much greater frequency than society wants to admit. It happened to me, as you can read about in my story.

Let’s start with the physical act of raping a young girl. The reader was asking about the age of eight, but vaginal rapes can happen at any age, even in infancy. The vagina is intended to stretch to enable a baby to pass through it, so it is able to be stretched to accommodate a male appendage or other object even in a young girl. Of course, this comes with great pain to the girl, but it is physically possible.

The younger the girl was when the rapes started, the more likely she is to have repressed the memories. Children under the age of six have the gift of being able to split off the memory from conscious awareness through dissociation so that they do not hold a conscious memory of the rape immediately after it happens. This can result in a diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder (DID) or other form of dissociative disorder. I had been vaginally raped repeated from the ages of around six through 11 and was vaginally raped again a few times in my teens, but I had no memory whatsoever of the rapes until my late thirties. This was the truth I most rejected about my history.

I held onto the fact that I experienced light bleeding when I first chose to be sexually active as “proof” of my self-told lies of still being a virgin. I would have nightmares of being raped but rejected them outright due to this “proof.” Then, as I was reading Safe Passage to Healing by Chrystine Oksana, I came across a passage that talked about the hymen’s ability to regenerate in part after a period of celibacy. That is when my truth leaked out as a sickening awareness.

Throughout therapy, I had kept telling myself, “at least I was never vaginally raped…” That was the one type of abuse I needed to have been spared to be okay. Facing this truth was the most difficult part of my healing journey, and I wasn’t sure if I would survive it. However, after grieving mightily for three days, treating myself with kindness and accepting my truth was the catalyst to ending my status as a person with DID. Since I was no longer hiding big truths from myself, I no longer needed to have a host personality. The host integrated, and I forever stopped losing time. I was also immediately okay because the rest of myself had always known this truth.

I hope that the Google search engine will pick on this blog entry about whether it is possible for a young girl to be vaginally gang-raped, survive the experience, and not remember that it happened (dissociate the memories into adulthood). I don’t want other women who are facing this incredibly painful experience to find no articles when they do their search.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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See the story here.

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In case you did not catch this in the news yesterday, a Muslim cleric in the U.K. stated that it is not possible for a man to rape his wife, to which I reply bull$@#%! Because a sexual relationship is a part of marriage, he does not believe that a man should be prosecuted for raping his own wife.

First of all, I seriously doubt that many spousal rape cases are even pursued because of the difficulty of the he said/she said dynamic. I would guess that most of the spousal rape cases that actually make it into a courtroom involve couples who are separated and/or divorcing, which makes the assumption of sex in a marriage much more questionable. Setting that aside, it is never okay to overpower someone and rape him or her, whether you are married or not.

Additionally, most of the marital rape cases that are likely to be prosecuted also involved physical abuse. Rape tactics that are more emotionally coercive are very unlikely to be prosecuted or, quite frankly, even reported. How can you look a woman in her black and blue eyes lying in a hospital bed after being beaten and raped and tell her that the rape “doesn’t count” because she is married to the perpetrator? And then he gets a free pass to do this over and over again until the divorce is finalized??

One other spousal rape situation also happens in some marriages, and I am certain that few, if any, are even reported, but it is emotionally damaging. I have known wives whose husbands had intercourse with them while they were knocked out for some reason, either on alcohol or drugs (either legal or illegal). They did not know that any intercourse took place until the next morning when they saw the physical evidence. For wives with a history of sexual abuse, knowing that their bodies were taken without their permission is incredibly traumatizing. This is technically rape even if it will never see a courtroom.

I don’t understand why it is so difficult to respect that each person’s body is his or her own to share or not share sexually, whether married or not. What woman would choose to get married if she knew that she was forever giving up her rights to say who gets to touch her body, even when she burns with fever or has just given birth to a child? The marital bed needs to be a place of safety, not of abuse.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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One area of child abuse that people seem to have a tough time hearing about is pedophile rings. I don’t know why this is because there is no question that child pornography exists, and presumably it is not all orchestrated by one individual. Nevertheless, people seem to be much more open about hearing about my being “molested” by a man than they are open to hearing about my falling victim to a pedophile ring.

My partner over at my professional adoption blog wrote about three organized pedophile rings that have been in the news on this blog entry. Her focus was on those who prey on children in orphanages. The articles she cited were regarding pedophile rings in three different countries.

There is no question that pedophiles do sometimes operate in a group to exploit children, and this activity is not limited to one geographical region. These are only three recent examples, but the news is hit with these types of stories repeatedly. So, why is it so difficult for some people to believe that I could be one of those exploited children who survived?

How many more children must be exploited before society accepts that pedophile rings exist? As long as the general public continues to deny the existence of pedophile rings, these predators are free to continue exploiting children, particularly those children who have nobody who loves them enough to protect them. It is a travesty that will continue unabated until the general public breaks through its denial and recognizes that our children are in danger.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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This week, I have been talking about ways that child abusers sometimes “groom” their victims and make the child feel responsible for the sexual abuse. Children who have been groomed for sexual abuse and feel responsible often struggle with an enormous amount of shame. Because they feel responsible for the abuse, they have ambivalent feelings about whether they were, in fact, victims and whether they have the right to heal.

I have interacted with numerous sexual abuse survivors who feel responsible for the sexual abuse. I have had women tell me that they “chose” the sexual abuse when they were only 5 or 6 years old, so they cannot hate their abuser for the sexual contact. Numerous sexual abuse survivors have told me that they initiated the sexual contact as a child and are, therefore, responsible for it.

Please hear me – a child cannot initiate a sexual relationship with an adult. Period. Any sexual contact between and adult and a child is always the adult’s fault – ALWAYS!

Children who have not gone through puberty do not have sex drives. They do not have a desire, interest, or even knowledge of sexual relationships. Any prepubescent child who desires sexual interactions with others only gets that way from being sexually abused. It simply does not happen otherwise. Puberty is what awakens sexual desire in a child. Until a child’s body goes through puberty, there is nothing to stimulate a desire for a sexual relationship.

That being said, babies are born into the world in bodies that have been designed to grow into having sexual desires after puberty awakens that desire. The “hard wiring” is already there, so child abusers can stimulate a child’s body to cause it to orgasm prematurely. Once a child’s body has been stimulated prematurely like this, the body’s reaction is completely out of synch with the child’s emotional maturity and needs, which wreaks havoc in the child.

This is doubly an issue when the only positive attention that the child receives is intermixed with the sexual abuse. Then you have a child who wants to meet her emotional needs to feel loved and special who must endure abuse in order to get it. The child does not want the sexual contact – she wants the attention – but it all gets jumbled up in her head. Then, she grows into an adult who believes that she invited the sexual contact when what she really did was try to meet her very normal emotional needs (to feel loved and special) at a very high price. Wanting to be loved is not the same thing as wanting to have sexual contact, but the abuser makes the child believe that they are the same, causing the child to experience deep shame for “wanting” the abuse.

Sexual abuse is one big mind-f@#$ to a child. A child is never responsible for the sexual abuse, and the resulting mind-f@#$ is yet another way that the abuser hurts the child.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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In my last blog entry, I shared an example of one child abuser’s story for how he groomed his victims (prepubescent boys) for sexual abuse. Today, I would like to focus on other ways that abusers can make their victims feel responsible for “choosing” the abuse.

Children are not naturally shy about their body parts. Children who have not experienced abuse often run around their houses naked and think it is quite funny and fun. Child abusers will take advantage of this very normal behavior to make the child believe that he invited the abuse. For example, a child might run around naked after a bath and kiss an adult that he loves. The child abuser treats this innocent kiss as an invitation to abuse, making the child believe that he is responsible. The child believes that the kiss is what initiated the abuse when, in actuality, the child abuser took advantage of the child’s innocence.

Child abusers might give the child a lose-lose option to make the child believe that he is “choosing” the abuse. For example, a child abuser might tell a child that something very bad will happen (such as harm to someone she loves) unless she agrees to “have relations” with the child abuser. This is blackmail and coercion, but the child does not see it this way.

Also, as with the story I shared yesterday, a child abuser will manipulate a child’s need and twist it so the child believes that he invited the abuse. With the example I shared yesterday, the child abuser targeted children whose strong need to feel loved and special was not being met in their lives. The child abuser offered to fill that need at the price of being abused. The child’s need to feel loved and special (and not lose that feeling after finally having it) overrides the child’s ability to make an informed decision about entering into a sexual “relationship” with an adult.

Bottom line – A child is not a “short adult,” so she had no way of comprehending what a “sexual relationship” means. She does not have all of the information to make an informed decision. Children do not have a need for sexual contact, but they do have needs to feel loved and special to an adult. Adult abusers know this and use it against the child, leaving the child feeling responsible. It is never the child’s “fault” – a child does not have the ability to make an adult decision about a sexual “relationship” because a child is not an adult.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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On my blog entry entitled Removing the Secrecy to Remove the Shame, a reader posted the following comment:

Would you be able to do a post on grooming for sexual abuse and how a child can be made to think that they have ‘chosen’ to engage in sexual activities with the abuser and the shame that comes with that belief? ~ Dawn

Today I am going to share a story I read in a magazine on this topic. Tomorrow, I will address this question from other perspectives.

I cannot remember where I read about this, or I would credit the source. In a magazine, I read an article written by a convicted child sexual abuser about how he groomed his male victims. Here is a condensed version of what he shared:

This man targeted prepubescent boys. He would hang out at the mall at times when prepubescent boys were likely to be there. He knew that parents would drop boys off to take care of themselves, so they were unsupervised. He would look for boys who walked around alone and looked lonely. He observed where they went and would casually appear in the same places, occasionally making eye contact and giving a smile of acknowledgment. After he “happened to show up” at the same places a few times and reached the point of saying hello, he was no longer a “stranger” and could move in.

This man would notice that the boy was flipping through a particular magazine or looking at a particular game, and he would strike up a conversation. He made sure he knew a lot about the interests of prepubescent boys, so he could carry on a conversation with them.

This would move into something innocent like grabbing a bite to eat, where he got to know the boy better. He offered the boy what he was not getting at home – a father figure/friend. The “friendship” would deepen as he filled the void in the boy’s life. When the boy trusted him, they would spend time together in private.

Then came the “price” of the friendship. If the boy wanted to continue the friendship, then he has to have sexual relations with the man. This was not forced, but it was the “cost” of maintaining the friendship. The boy was welcome to walk away from the “friendship” at any point, but the end of the sexual “relationship” meant the end of the friendship. The boys he targeted were so desperate for the father figure/friend that they would give the “sex” in order to keep the friendship.

Then, when the boy wanted to end things, the man would let him go, no questions asked. The boy believed that he “chose” the sex, so he would not tell. The man got away with this many times before he was finally convicted of raping boys.

All of this man’s victims were groomed. The man took a normal need that all children have – to be loved and feel special to an adult – and used that normal need against the boys in order to have access to their bodies.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Animal skull (c) Lynda Bernhardt*******trigger warning – animal, sexual, and ritual abuse*******

I have discussed animal rape on my blog before, but I do not believe that I have shared my specific story. I don’t know if it happened only once or several times, but I have recovered a very detailed memory of one incident. Trust me – one incident is more than enough to traumatize a child.

I was in my place on the table as usual, lying naked on my back. The bonfire was going as my abusers brought in a brown boxer on a leash. They led the dog up to me, and he raped me – simple as that. Someone took photographs of the rape taking place. To this day, the sound effects used on TV for a professional camera completely wig me out.

I do not blame the dog for what happened – he was merely the instrument used to perpetrate the rape. The dog went right to work, so this was clearly not the first time that the dog had been used to f@#$ a child. The feeling of being raped by a dog is indescribable. Anyone else who has experienced animal rape knows what I am talking about. The flashbacks include body memories that are almost too horrible to bear.

As a child, I was always bothered by our dog’s penis sticking out. Our dog was neutered, but even neutered dogs will sometimes “let it all hang out.” Whenever that happened, I could not help but stare. Now I know why.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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*******trigger warning – sexual abuse*******

Anyone who follows my blog knows that I went through a very difficult time last Spring (of 2009). The reason for this was my struggle in recovering the memory of the first vaginal rape. Being vaginally raped was my deepest trauma and the truth I ran from the most. I thought recovering the memory was going to kill me. I got very sick for several weeks with bronchitis and the early stages of pneumonia.

Up until this point, all of my abuses took place outside of my body. I did not appreciate that I had an orifice that could be penetrated or that a grown man could insert a part of his body into mine so that I was harmed inside of myself. I was only 6 or 7 – I did not have the first idea about intercourse. I didn’t really appreciate what was being done to my sister when she was raped in my presence because I was not directly next to her, and it was dark other than the firelight.

Here is what I remember … Instead of stripping naked and going to my table, I was invited into the cabin with my sister. We were both wearing sheer nightgowns that anyone could see through. I felt uncomfortable because men were drinking alcohol and watching me. I had no idea what it meant. I believe that my virginity was auctioned off that night. I was paraded around in a sheer nightgown like a prize cow, and men bid on who got to “deflower” the little kid.

What I do remember is that I was brought to a room with a large bed on it. I was told to lie down in my nightgown on my back and wait. A man came in the room, and he raped me. I had no idea what was coming. I did not know that level of pain could happen in that part of your body. I did not understand the mixture of fluids – blood and semen – flowing between my legs after the rape. Nobody talked to me about what was going to happen or what it all meant.

I remember curling up in the bathtub, feeling so much pain and violation and wanting to die. I did not want to exist any longer. I believe this was the moment that I become a multiple with a diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder (DID). “Annie” (the name I have created to represent my child part) no longer wanted to exist, so she went to sleep inside of me.

On the heels of this event, I experienced a second betrayal that sealed the deal, and Annie was gone for decades, leaving the rest of my soul scrambling to figure out how to exist with no inner child.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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