Monday, February 07, 2011

Theft of Innocence, Redux

I think I received (and still hear from readers privately) the most responses to this post.It comes to the forefront again with the death of someone who was close to the family. Never close enough as she could not relate to anyone in an intimate way. Her childhood had been stolen from her too. And then a psychologist entrusted with her care abused her also.

A friend, a child psychologist herself, once told me that it is impossible for any victim of child sexual abuse to relate to people normally or be capable of intimacy or nurture their own children in a healthy way. Therapy is just a sop to the outsiders. It has no effect on the victim or can bring them into 'recovery'. For there is none. She wouldn't tell her patients or their caregivers this, she said. They needed some hope, for what else could she give them? But there was no recovery.

From what I have observed over the years I reluctantly have to agree with her. It is a hopeless and heartbreaking situation. Apart from the victim, those surrounding them are left feeling helpless, angry and powerless. I tried to help this person who just died as did another family member. As I've done with others.

And my conclusion is always the same, there is something so dead within them as to leave the helper feeling chilled. As if the candle of hope or even simple humanity was extinguished a long, long time ago.

I saw this in another friend who had been incested since she was a toddler. Try as I might, I could never reach her or she reach me in the ways of true intimacy. Her sudden spats of fury out of nowhere, with me as a target, frightened me. Her chilly self- protection was animalistic at times. And we both tried. And tried. Until I had to walk away.

It's true. Therapy doesn't help. I've known people with years and years of it, still floundering, still solitary in their blocked out world, still terrified and usually alienated from their families who refuse to believe their narratives in spite of all the evidence. For to do so would rock their own foundations and break the silence forever. I can't count these victims amongst my own circle there are so many. Mainly women. But some men too.

I am very angry tonight. Angry at the world that allows this to happen over and over again. Angry at the lack of understanding of the lifelong imprisonment of such innocents on top of the original violations by the ones who were entrusted with their care.

They never leave this prison cell. They never get their trust returned to them. They are crippled and maimed and tortured. And bleak in their hopelessness. "I feel nothing!" one such victim screamed at me one night, dry-eyed, trying to make me understand.

What is even more disturbing is that only 1%, if that, of such cases ever get reported. To anyone. Most victims go on alone, dysfunctionally, fearful, lonely, permanently sad or angry or addicted. Unable to feel joy or happiness or peace of mind.

I am not a violent person, but if I could get my hands on their predators I would swing them from the highest noose and walk off without a backward glance.

Angry. Yeah.


  1. You have every right to be furious with this abuse. But it's also true that there is very often no distinct line between victim and perpetrator. Those who were abused as children so often go on to act the abuse out in their own turn. Many adoptive and foster parents are living with this nightmarish problem right this minute, and there is practically no help available at all, because society doesn't seem to be able to take the problem on board. I believe that early intervention could be of some use if only in changing the behaviours and awareness of the affected children. Perhaps, as your friend says, healing the wound will never be completely possible.

  2. And there are still people who refuse to realize that.

  3. Tragic indeed. A shame they cannot learn to block out what happened to them/the perpetrator as effectively as they have evidently learned to block out love and and the possibility that they could still re-write the rest of their lives towards a happier ending.

    Re the perpetrators, I'm all for hanging! Even if they started out victims themselves and use that as an excuse.

  4. Oh WWW, this makes me feel so sad. I too was somewhat molested as a young girl, but recently my long-time marriage ended to a man who I believe was molested but could never face it/admit it/maybe even remember it. Other of his siblings admitted it, but he denied their memories. He was and is a dear man but finally I couldn't live with the addiction, lack of intimacy, criticism and apparent loathing of me that was only exceeded by his loathing of self. I still feel guilt about leaving, but my life is happier, more joyous, freer. I am sad, I feel some guilt, but I've got only one life of my own. I'm sorry for your loss.

  5. I agree with Grannymar - hanging would be too good for the predators. They ought to be subjected to a lifetime of a comparable mental pain to which they subjected their victims.

    I can't think of anything that would help - other than to encourage all who suffer to report the fact as soon as possible. But getting to the victims early would be difficult due to their young age. They won't read newspapers, or watch much serious TV.

    Maybe adverts in children's mags or announcements on children's TV - if that's not already done? I seem to remember Esther Rantzen used to speak on this subject on TV in the UK. She attempted to confront the problem anyway.

  6. You're right, I'm sure, what's reported is just the tip of the iceberg and there's so much abuse of this kind that goes on behind closed doors and in the so-called sanctity of the family. I can quite believe that the victims never recover and are always emotionally blocked. What perpetuates all this misery is people's tendency to turn a blind eye to it and also misguided "loyalty" to their partners and relatives.

  7. Castration. Start there. I know so many women who have struggled to recover from incest that I went through a period when I couldn't look at a man and not see him as a predator. I finally decided that they are a different species - to be able to do that to a child. Now I have male friends I love very much - but I choose my male friends very carefully.

    I am sorry for your loss, and I feel sorry for the loss we all suffer when any child is abused. May your anger lead back to the love that fuels your life, my friend. Meanwhile, my heart always holds a space for you.

  8. I don't have the necessary courage to detail my experiences here. I went to your original post and the Shakesville site for as long as I could manage. Saved most of the comments for another day. Something that bothers me a lot - my new doctor's nurse, doing the paperwork, asked if I had been sexually abused. I answered "yes". When I saw the doctor she asked who had abused me. I answered "my mother" and she dropped it like a hot potato - if you can't tell your doctor [a very good doctor I might add] who the hell can you tell? It happens - mothers use their daughters in many ways! If yours used you don't feel too bad. Yes the harm is forever - silent, unseen, misunderstood and misdirected BUT do not despair - we have lots to offer and others to help. WWW is a good example. I don't think there is as much abuse now as there once was - simply because it is talked about and kids are far more likely to know it is wrong and far more likely to tell. I have seen it happen.
    PS - I have written this and sit here for 30 or so minutes wondering if I should post it until suddenly I realize "what the f#ck am I waiting for? - I didn't do anything wrong - my mother is long dead and even if she wasn't who cares? she earned this post!" BTW I am sure she was sexually abused my her father who also abused me.

  9. Angry, disgusted, frustrated.
    Yea, me too.


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