The Conflict of Loving your Abuser
Written by Elizabeth Shane (survivor of CSA)
For so long now I wondered what is like not to wear the heavy anchor of shame around my neck as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse (CSA). I spent much of my adulthood trying to reconcile what happened to me with various professional psychiatrists and counsellors telling me it wasn’t my fault.
I wanted to believe them; I really did. I read the self-help books, I also kept telling myself it wasn’t my fault. But did this ring true? No. Instead I carried around a secret burden that I couldn’t eradicate no matter how hard I tried. It followed me wherever I went. As a parent, as a wife and as a person living in a world where I felt silenced and misunderstood without ever knowing why.
I had never considered sharing my story, the thought of speaking out was terrifying. But I was given a salvation of exploring my life through the power of creative outlets. I joined a choir, started singing lessons and began finding ways to express myself through singing, drama, and writing. With the support and encouragement from my teachers, I began to find a voice and confidence within myself not seen before.
I had just started drama lessons when one of my abusers passed away. I had not expected to feel any emotions from learning of his death and thought I could just block my feelings and distance myself away from any sadness. Wow, I had no idea how triggering my abuser’s death could be! I found myself in a constant state of rage, flashbacks were occurring out of nowhere and discovered hidden memories about some of my abuse that I was never aware of before.
I was spiralling towards a path of destruction with all these feeling while everyone who knew my abuser were oblivious to my grief at loving a man without being able to share how I felt.
When more stories came to light about how other people were also abused by the same person, it felt even more silencing that I could not come out and admit that I loved a child abuser who was also a member of my family. I thought by saying this, I would be no better than him and be just as evil. When the anniversary of his birthday and death arose, I could only share my sorrow and grief with my counsellor, which was soul destroying as well as being full of anger and distress that I couldn’t be free of this emotional burden I was carrying.
I reached a point, where I could no longer be silent. I needed to acknowledge my pain and conflict of not just loving one abuser, but both and through lots of support from my drama teacher, began to share my story through poetry and wrote my book, Silhouette of a Songbird. What a release to express all the anger, the shame, the fear, the silence, the rage, and the emotional pain of abandonment. I expressed my confusion whether both my abusers ever loved me and the continual searching for someone to just take me in their arms and love me the way I deserved.
It has taken a long time for me to reconcile my feelings and self-hatred of younger me. I now recognise the shame was never mine to take. I am meant to survive the storm and walk through it with my head held high and empower other women to find their voice, one day at a time at their own pace. I hope by writing my journey through the power of poetry, it helps other women to know they are not going through their trauma on their own.