Warning – this post could trigger some
For those that don’t want to read the full post, the “punch” line of this post, NEVER allow anyone to try to make you feel something that is not yours.
Do not allow others to place how they feel on to you. With the overarching emotion that you may be feeling that feels of a lower energy such as anger, judgement, grief, check in and ask, is this emotion mine? Or is it somebody else’s projection on how they are feeling?
For most of my life, I have carried around a level of shame that I never truly understood until 10 years ago when through doing some deep healing work on my bulimia diagnosis, my sub conscious mind decided it was time my conscious mind recalled seven years of childhood sexual trauma.
I have done a lot of work on healing the trauma, but the shame continued.
The past few weeks since Finding Neverland came out, it has re-stirred a lot of those old wounds and thoughts about the trauma I thought I had conquered.
When those memories flooded back into my conscious mind, the therapist at the time I was seeing was trying to help me process the depth of the buried emotions, one of which I still remember clearly was an activity where I was sitting in a chair opposite the perpetrator where I would yell and scream and tell him horrible he was and how what he did was disgusting, etc.
I just couldn’t get angry. The therapist was baffled and kept saying to me, “you need to get angry, what he did was vile, disgusting, etc”. But I still couldn’t force the feelings he wanted me to feel.
This was the first of many attempts by many therapists to try to force feelings of anger and hatred and betrayal within me against the perpetrator that failed.
At the time, I could not express to them why I couldn’t feel those feelings. I knew deep within why they felt I should feel those feelings. I knew they were trying to help support and guide me, that was what I was paying them to do. But no matter what they tried, I couldn’t feel what they wanted me to feel.
Shame was on overload because I kept thinking, “how f’d am I if I can’t feel all of the normal emotions associated such a trauma that they want me to feel, that if I was in their shoes and heard my story, I would easily be able to feel the hatred and anger”.
Now before I continue, let me be clear.
Sexual trauma, sexual abuse, against anyone, especially a child, is unforgivable. It is disgusting. It is abhorrent and perpetrators should be held accountable by a lot tougher means that our current justice system in Victoria allows for.
But I was 3 years old.
I was bought up in a household where my mother and father where working hard to keep a roof over our heads. They were barely ever home and when they were, I was invisible.
See, I was the mistake. I was the child that when conceived was “never meant to be”. I was the third child, the one that they couldn’t afford to have and created additional financial challenges than they already had.
He was the next-door neighbour. He had a four-year old son. So, on a regular basis, I would go to their house and play games with his son.
When he found his son and I playing doctors and nurses and we were naked, he told us we were bad, and that we were going to get in a lot of trouble if anybody found out we were naked and playing in his bedroom. But if we just let him take some photos of us, no one would ever have to find out, it would be our secret.
Whilst neither of us understood what was about to happen, we both didn’t want to get in trouble. So, we agreed. Therein started a two-year sexual relationship between the three of us.
Did I know it was wrong? No. Did I understand what was happening? No. Did it feel bad, or wrong? No. Here was an adult male, taking an interest in me, and his son. I was certainly not getting attention at home, and here was an adult spending time with me. Making me feel special.
After those two years, the sexual relationship between he and I continued, and his son was no longer involved. So yes, I was only five, having a sexual relationship with a man in his 40’s.
That relationship continued for a further five years until I got my period and was told it was now too dangerous and could not continue. I was heart-broken. Confused. Abandoned. What had I done wrong?
For the majority of the time I was in this relationship, and post, I disassociated from the experience. It was like it wasn’t happening to me. I was on the outside looking in and I numbed myself with multiple addictions to soothe any feelings that came up that may link my mind body and soul back to the experience.
I have vivid memories from the age of five sitting in front of the kitchen cupboard binging on the multiple packets of chips that used to get put into school lunches. My uncle worked at Cadbury’s and he lived with my grandma who I would spend my days with before and after kinder and primary school, and he would bring home lollies most days and I would always find myself binging on Roses chocolates that he would buy in a 1kg box when they weren’t around watching me.
I self-soothed that way until the age of 36. From the age of 26-36 was when all of my addictions where going off like fireworks. There was the extreme pain of the bulimia battle, there was a shopping addiction which saw credit debts pile up to over $50k, there was the sex addiction which saw multiple casual partners every week without fail.
My body wanted my attention and I wasn’t going to give it attention. I didn’t want to hear what it had to say. I was too scared of what it wanted me to know.
I have shared my “lightbulb” moment of my multiple diagnosies, and my recovery journey so won’t go into it here, but it started at 36.
Whilst most will read my story about the childhood sexual relationship here and think how perverted, how disgusting, how could she talk about having a sexual relationship as a child and not condemn this man and want him imprisoned.
In the Finding Neverland documentary, and Oprah’s interview with Wade and James, is the answer why.
Watch both above with an open mind and you will understand why.
Perpetrators of childhood sexual trauma’s such as the one I experienced groom you. They make you fall in love with them, that you can’t live without them. They drive a wedge between you and your family, all the while, still manipulating them that they are perfect and can be trusted and wouldn’t harm your child.
The man that this relationship was with, was a jeweller and would make all of us jewellery. I still have a few of the items he made for me.
What was he did to me messed up, absolutely. It was despicable, unforgivable, damaging beyond what anyone who has never experienced such a trauma can even begin to understand.
Do I forgive him, no. Do I forgive my parents who allowed it to happen, no. Do I forgive my mother for shaming me further in 2017 when I told her the full extent of the relationship, no, and unlikely I ever will.
As James said to Oprah in their interview, forgiveness is a long road, it is not a line in the sand that you cross and never look back, it takes work.
As for the term survivor. I am not a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.
Every day I live with the impact of those seven years. Every day, I am challenged in adult relationships with men. Every day I am still challenged in my relationship with food that began during those seven years.
I am not a survivor. No one survives childhood sexual abuse. You just learn to function in the world.
Whilst I full appreciate that childhood sexual abuse elicits disgust, degradation, shock, repulsion; be aware of these words and judgements when sitting with and listening to anyone that shares their story of childhood sexual abuse.
Using these types of words, guiding as to how the person should feel, i.e. “get angry with the perpetrator”, is not helpful, in fact is some ways, it can have the exact opposite effect and make the person feel worse.
For the “survivors”, and anyone who does experience others “guiding” them as to how they should feel, about the relationship / abuse, or how you should feel about anything, kindly thank them for their viewpoint and walk away. They have not had your experience, they have not walked in your shoes and have no right to judge or increase a level of shame you may already be feeling about your experience.