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I don’t know if I was a victim

by Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Q: This is a difficult question for me to ask, but it has been on my mind for years. My family is riddled with sexual abuse, rape and incest. it is almost like a family curse or something. I struggle with the thought of whether I am a sexual abuse victim or not. From when I was about 5,6 or 7 to be honest there is a real haze over my memory so I can’t remember, but my older brothers used to sexually touch me and make me put on bras even though I didnt have and breasts yet. (If I can premise this, I was always sought of a loner, my older sister, and two older brother excluded me and wouldnt play with me.) I remember that they all of a sudden wanted to play with me. I remeber the games they used to play were touching ones. I remeber being so happy that they were including me and playing with me and I wanted that so much.As I got older the touching, kissing, oral sex and genital rubbing. I really didnt want him to put it in and when he did it hurt so bad. They would give me stuff to continue doing it. I always felt this constant battle of this isnt right and maybe I like it, which makes me feel now so sick to the stomach and dirty. I remeber that as they did stuff to me I would kinda be there but not there and just waiting for them to finish. Once when I was 14 my brother bought a friend over to stay, while I was asleep they came in and they said to give the other boy a hand job and oral sex and my brother told him not to worry about it. I remember i was like asleep but awake trying to be asleep like it was a dream. When my parents separated when i was 11, my stepdad moved in and he used watch me in the shower, he’d go in the room and look through the vents and once when he was drunk (he was nearly always drunk)he thrusted me several times and one night he came into my room while I was sleeping and into my bed, he must have touched me because I woke up and screamed and went to tell my mum. She kicked him out but when I came home from school the next day he was there. It finally stopped when I was 15 and I said I didnt want to do it anymore I didnt feel right, i’d always have a shower after to wash it off ( A couple of years back I had a mutual sexual experiance with a guy and as soon as he left I scrubbed my body cause i felt so disgusting after it and during it) . They used to give me things and money to do it as well as I did recieve pleaseure from it, even though I would leave my body till it was over. I think I struggle with this because I should have stopped it earlier, I shouldn’t have been so greedy that i took the money and stuff. I don’t know what to do, I feel ashamed, I hate my body, I starve myself and dont like being sexually touched and the thought of having that kind of relationship makes me feel physically sick. I’m also scared that there are other instance of incest with others that I can’t remember. What should I do? Whats wrong with me?

What you are describing is sexual abuse and incest. No, you were not at fault and you are not to blame for sometimes taking gifts. You were a lonely little kid. Your brothers and stepdad were older and more powerful. They used the usual tactics of abusers to get you to do what they wanted: threats and bribes. A little kid who needs and wants attention is very vulnerable to being exploited. Further, it’s not unusual for a kid to experience some pleasure mixed in with the pain of abuse. The body responds to stimulation even when the mind wants to get away. Some kids accept the body contact of abuse because they are starved for affection and touch. That feeling of being there but not being there is a common reaction to the confusion and anxiety and pain.

You are now experiencing the long-term effects of such abuse: shame, anger, low self-esteem, inability to be comfortable with your body and aversion to normal sexuality.

I very much hope you will do for yourself now what your mother failed to do: Take care of you. You need a therapist who is experienced with working with abuse survivors. Counseling really can help. You are only in your 20s. Please, take the time to do the therapeutic work you need to do to heal. Learn to love yourself again so that you can eventually have a normal and happy intimate life with someone you love.

For more information, go to http://www.secasa.com.au/. This is the website for the Southeastern Centre Against Sexual Assault Australia.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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