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Posts Tagged ‘infant abuse’

I have shared with you that I suffered from sexual abuse as a toddler. One of my earliest flashbacks is of my mother/abuser removing my diaper to sexually abuse me. When I share my story with people offline, that seems to be the hardest form of child abuse for people to grasp or believe. They cannot fathom that anyone would hurt an innocent baby or toddler, and yet this happens with much more frequency than anyone wants to believe.

A reader contacted me about a news story of child pornography involving an infant that has not made much of a splash in the headlines here in the United States. You can read the story at the following links:

Remember when I was on my soapbox about the Protect Our Children Act? I first learned about this legislation when Oprah put a spotlight on it. In that show, a police officer shared that child pornography involves children of all ages, even babies. He talked about a man removing a baby’s diaper to perform sexual acts on the baby on camera. The look on the audience’s faces was absolutely horrified.

How could something as serious as infant rape and pornography not make a ripple in the headlines? My guess is that people don’t want to hear about it. They don’t want to believe that babies are at risk of being raped, sodomized, and abused in other ways.

While I don’t want it to happen, either, I don’t have the luxury of burying my head in the sand because it happened to me. The more society buries its head in the sand about this type of child abuse, the more freedom child abusers have to continue engaging in this type of abuse. After all, if babies can’t be sexually abused, then they don’t need protection, right? This gives child abusers a green light to harm all the babies they want because (1) nobody is watching to protect the babies; and (2) nobody will believe the memories when the adult has flashbacks of being sexually abused as a baby.

As a society, we are sacrificing our most innocent and helpless members. Because we don’t want to believe that infant abuse and pornography happens, we bury our heads in the sand and ignore it. What does that say to the babies who are being sacrificed so we can live in our denial?

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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One topic I don’t see discussed a lot is preverbal abuse. Preverbal abuse is any abuse that a child experiences before he or she has developed language. Because the child has not developed language, he has to store the memories in ways that do not attach language. This can present quite a challenge to the adult who is experiencing body memories with no “explanation” behind them.

I read about this phenomenon in great detail in the book When You’re Ready by Kathy Evert. While this is a book about mother-daughter sexual abuse, it covers healing from preverbal abuse in powerful ways.

From what I understand from reading multiple books on the subject, our brains are like filing systems. When you experience something today, your brain looks for a similar experience in your memory bank for a place to “file” away the memory. When a baby is the one being harmed, the baby does not have enough experiences yet to file away something as mind-blowing as abuse, so the memory gets stored in a different away.

On top of this, a baby does not have the ability to describe what has happened without language, so what is stored is the reaction to the abuse. So, someone who suffered from preverbal abuse might experience flashbacks by reenacting the abuse as it occurred. If you don’t know the history, it might not make any sense. However, the flashback, experienced physically, makes perfect sense when you understand the cause.

The closest experience I have had was recovering a memory of my mother sexually abusing me while changing a diaper when I was a toddler. As I had the flashback, I had an overwhelming urge to suck my thumb even though I was in my mid-thirties when I experienced the flashback. I guess because I was crossing over to being verbal, I recovered enough in the memory to understand it. However, if I had been nine months old when this happened, this urge would not have made sense.

In the book When You’re Ready, the author talks about needing to be held and comforted in the ways that she wasn’t as a baby. An online friend told me about her strong need to be rocked, even though she was now an adult. This woman had the great idea of buying herself a hammock so she could meet this need in herself.

If you are struggling with flashbacks that are mostly bodily and don’t seem to make much sense, consider the possibility that you are dealing with a preverbal memory. If you are, then you will need to comfort yourself in ways similar to how you would have comforted that traumatized baby.

The myth that babies do not remember trauma is a bunch of hogwash. Too many people have reported similar experiences with releasing preverbal body memories to debunk that myth.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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