I wanted to share a few examples of the layers that complicate the effects of abuse in a person’s life. For someone who has experienced abuse these will be very familiar. For those who have not, it will give a deeper understanding of the effects it can have in a person’s life.
Something as simple as a smell can trigger a response. For me it is the smell of the cologne my brother-in-law wore during the sexual abuse when I was a child. Because you don’t know when something could affect you, it can cause you to isolate yourself.
While I have not regained memories I lost, I have experienced some very severe triggers from the abuse and other childhood experiences. I want to share two with you as examples.
The location of the sexual abuse by my brother-in-law took place in the country. Their home was isolated without other homes close by.
Several years ago, my husband’s employer relocated us to a different state where we are currently living. They flew us here once to look for a house. We were suppose to have a second trip, but they ended up wanting my husband to come sooner than originally planned. So we were in an even bigger rush to find housing. We lived in a hotel for six weeks before we could move into our current home. It is in the country on an acre of land. We have farmland all around us. It seemed perfect.
Instead, it ended up being the beginning of a nightmare for me. I went for months, whenever I was alone, (which was for more than twelve hours a day, several days a week) sitting frozen on our sofa, crippled, unable to move. I had no idea what was going on or why. I also became filled with a crippling fear to the extent that I could not go outside in our yard by myself. I couldn’t walk from our back door to the driveway to get into my car to drive anywhere. I was filled with fear. But worse than that, I was too embarassed to say anything. I did not know what was wrong with me.
It took a lot of pain, crying, fear, anxiety, and a lot of talking. When I was finally able to admit to my husband what was going on, it took endless talking to him before I discovered what the cause was. One day when we were having a conversation, I mentioned to him that what happened to me with my brother-in-law happened when I was trapped in the country. And a light bulb came on! However, we just bought our home and so I still felt trapped. I had to just endure and cry and scream and struggle! I was embarrassed and humiliated by the fact that I felt so crippled.
I don’t know if all the anxiety has ever left me. I do function in my home. I can go outside into our yard now. My car is now in the garage, so the walk to the driveway is no longer an issue. However, I still have a hard time even wanting to leave my house. I can and I will, but I do avoid it if I can.
The other problem I have that is very hard to even admit, is that I do not have the same relaxed feeling that others have to go for a walk in a park or do anything like this by myself. I cannot do this without a lot of fear. This fear stems from when I was very young, probably eight to twelve years old.
There were many, many instances when I was staying at my older brother’s house that he would force me, in the dark, late at night, in the city, to walk for several blocks to get him cigarettes, a soda, anything he wanted at a convenience store. I was terrified. I would go out into the middle of the street and run as fast as I could.
I was already going through the sexual abuse during this time. I was so frightened. It is actually heart breaking now when I think about it. Who would make a small child do this when you are a grown adult? This is just one more example of the lack of care I received from the adults in my life when I was a child. It all seems so cruel now to me! No one in my life made me feel safe or took care of me in the way they should have after my father died!
I have experienced many paralyzing experiences where I had reactions without knowing why or where they were coming from. It often takes a lot of crying and talking about each experience before I can figure out what is going on. Sometimes I never figure it out.
What I am trying to express here is when someone violates a child sexually, the ramifications are never simple. There is no such thing as “just getting over it.” We do not even know what all the triggers could be. It is complicated at best and isolating at its worst. None of these things are easy to face much less talk about.
Again, these are just a few examples. I hope this helps to give you at least a glimpse into some of the hurdles that victims have to face on a daily basis just to function and get through a day. They have to do this while at the same time appearing normal to the rest of the world so that they do not get hurt further by any misunderstandings or cruelty.
If you ever try to get someone to do something and they resist, don’t push them. You never know what could be the reason behind their struggle.