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On my blog entry entitled Enemas, Tubes, and Object Insertion as Part of Child Abuse, a reader posted the following comment:

I still struggle horribly with this daily. I didn’t even remember until about three years ago, and that was only because it had become part of my self-injury, which I have done since I was about six years old–I am 39 now. My heart breaks everytime I think about it or talk about it. And everytime I go to bed, THAT is what is I have nightmares about! I want it to stop, to just go away, but it doesn’t, and it feels like it never will! I hurt so much inside–to the point where I don’t want to do this anymore! It wasn’t just the enemas and the tubes, it was objects, and bleach and soap–the list could go on, but I can’t say anymore. My mother was the main person that actually did those things, but my dad was there, and most of the time, he had his way with me, after she was done. And this just wasn’t a once in a while thing–it was several times a day–every day! What am I suppose to do with this? How am I suppose to be ‘normal’ when I feel like I am gross, dirty, freak? ~ Theresa

Theresa is specifically talking about enemas and tubes, but every person reading this blog can insert his or her own “I just can’t get past this” form of abuse – mother-daughter sexual abuse, animal rape, sibling abuse, vaginal rape – and it doesn’t even have to be sexual abuse – being forced to kill an animal, seeing a pet killed, watching a sibling beaten by proxy, locked in a closet, being beaten, tied up, etc.

Any form of child abuse is “that bad,” but those of us who endured ongoing child abuse sometimes categorize the forms of abuse in hierarchies, such as finding enemas or animal rapes being “worse” than vaginal rape or being locked in a closet. Each child abuse survivor will have a different “this was the worst” form of abuse, even those who have been through the same things. For example, my “worst” was vaginal rape while my sister’s “worst” was animal rape. We both endured the same abuses (including mother-daughter sexual abuse), but each of us found a different form of abuse to label as “the worst” form that we would never “get over.”

The truth is that all forms of abuse are traumatizing, and all forms of abuse are “that bad.” Even if you had never endured your “worst form,”you would still be this “messed up”– you just would have identified another form of abuse as “the worst” and used it to minimize the impact of the other forms of abuse you suffered. This is a coping mechanism used by abused children. If the other forms of abuse are not “that bad,” then they are survivable.

You will use the same process to heal all forms of abuse that you suffered, from those you have minimized to those that continually haunt you. The process is this:

  1. Acknowledge that the abuse happened: Stop repressing it.
  2. Face the abuse: Allow yourself to remember and tell someone about it (such as your therapist). You don’t have to relive it, but you need to connect back to the memory enough to say, “This happened to me.” I found posting my story on Isurvive was very helpful.
  3. Express your feelings: Give your feelings a voice. Cry, punch pillows, etc. Break the silence you have held for all of these years.
  4. Comfort yourself: Tell yourself it is okay to feel whatever you are feeling and reassure yourself that it was not your fault. Let your adult self comfort the wounded child inside.
  5. Be compassionate with yourself: Choose to stop fueling your shame with name-calling such as “gross dirty freak.” Instead, flood your mind with compassionate thoughts – It was not my fault. I love myself. Visualize yourself holding and comforting your wounded inner child. Tell yourself that nothing anyone did to you could change your value.
  6. Build on what you already know: If you have already healed any level of trauma, use what worked and apply it to this. I did this with the animal rape memories. I couldn’t look anyone in the eye, just like when I first recovered the mother-daughter sexual abuse memories. So, I used the same tools. I told myself that nothing – even this – had the power to change who I am.

I am not saying that this is fast or easy, but it really is that “simple.” You have the power to break free from the shame, but you must have the courage to challenge the beliefs you have held about yourself for most of your life.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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A reader contacted me about a form of child abuse that I have not directly addressed on my blog (although I have mentioned it in passing a couple of times). This type of child abuse involved unnecessary enemas, tubes, and object insertion as part of the abuse.

This form of abuse is covered in the movie Sybil. Sybil’s mother would give her an unnecessary enema. She would then tie her up by the piano, play the piano, and threaten Sybil if she wet her pants. Of course, Sybil’s bladder would give out, which would set off the next round of abuse. I know a man who suffered similar abuse by his female babysitter. She would give him unnecessary enemas and then take him out in public without allowing him to use a bathroom. Of course, he would wet himself and be humiliated.

I joined a message board called Making Daughters Safe Again, which is specifically for survivors of mother-daughter sexual abuse. I was blown away by how many mothers gave their daughters unnecessary enemas! I even questioned whether there was something weird about my own mother-daughter sexual abuse experience because she didn’t give me unnecessary enemas. That is how common this form of abuse was in that circle of child abuse survivors.

Tubes are used to force a child to ingest a harmful (or simply gross) substance. It is the same idea as the enema, only the tube is going down the throat.

My sister and I were subjected to object insertion. S, my most sadistic abuser, would force us to play “doggie.” I was the male dog, and my baby sister was the female dog. S forced me to insert objects into my sister as part of the “game,” which was absolutely nauseating to me.

Object insertion involves inserting any object (hair brush, enema, curling iron, etc.) into any orifice in a child. What is especially confusing to the child is the why? The child is getting no pleasure out of the object insertion, so what is the point of the activity? It is about sadistic abuse and about breaking the child’s will and dignity.

If you have endured any of these forms of abuse, you are not alone. I generally hear about them in two types of settings – sexual abuse by women and as a part of ritual abuse. I am not saying that no man has ever used these tactics – I am sure many have. However, it does seem to be a more common practice by a female abuser than by a male one. Perhaps the reason that enemas, tubes, and object insertion are talked about less is because they are more frequently done by women, and talking about female abusers is harder for a lot of child abuse survivors than talking about abuse by men.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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