Was I abused?
If you can relate to one or more of the types of abuse listed in the ‘what is abuse?‘ page then you have probably been abused.
One of the biggest problems facing adults who were victims of child abuse is denial. As children we probably dealt with the abuse by dissociating ourselves from the situation, and therefore have been in denial ever since.
Another way in which we as children can mask our problems is by turning to violence or drugs as a way of releasing tension and diverting attention away from the abuse. This self abuse can continue into adulthood. Part of the major healing process is breaking this denial and accurately naming your experiences rather than minimizing them is what the first stage of healing – awareness and disclosure – is all about.
The human brain is a clever piece of equipment, it has a unique ability to ‘forget’ bad experiences and concentrate on the good times. It isn’t an easy task to admit to yourself the abuse you suffered and actually disclose this information. Jerry, a reader who was abused by his Mother for six years as a child, denied he was being abused and stated that his Mother did the sexual acts because she was showing her love for him. Even after twenty five years he still sometimes makes excuses for her. Slowly and surely he is coming to terms with his past. In an email we received he stated My Mother was the prettiest woman I had ever seen, she was the funniest and kindest person in the world, she just had this one problem. I still admire her a lot though. You can see that through his denial he couldn’t really accept what was going on in his life. The idea of healing isn’t so Jerry can hate his Mother, rather than allow him to acknowledge the abuse and understand his feelings of anger towards his Mother.
Rationalizations occur during the denial period, men in particular are good at thinking their way out of problems, where as women are better at feeling and dealing with their emotions. Some rationalizations include: I was a difficult kid to raise; I never used to listen to my parents; I didn’t try to stop them; it was just normal punishment; I was a dumb kid; I never told anyone; my parents had it rough; we were poor; I was seductive; I would dress improperly; my body developed too early; I enjoyed it etc.
Another major problem we suffer as adults is we always imagine we were young adults during the abuse. We weren’t we were children. If you still have difficulty imagining the difference between an adult and a child, then get someone to stand on a chair and kneel down in front of them. You’ll be looking at their knees!!! That’s how small a child is compared to an adult. Try and imagine a young child you know who is the same age as you were when you were abused; realize how small you must have appeared to your abuser – it was not your fault. As a child you are programmed to obey and trust adults, you had no chance to overcome your abuser – it was not your fault!!
Think about an incident that happened to you that could have been child abuse. Remember what led up to the abuse, what the person/s did to you, and how it felt at the time. Were you abused? It is important to say ‘I was abused’ and if you can, tell someone close to you. You will probably feel a big sigh of relief. It may be the first time you have admitted to the abuse and lifted the great veil of secrecy over child abuse – you are on your way to dealing and coping with the experience. WELL DONE.