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Reclaiming Myself after Child Sex Abuse

Reclaiming Myself after Child Sex Abuse

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Publicado porsos-sa
This book was written with female survivors of child sexual assault/abuse (CSA) therefore we have used the feminine pronoun throughout this text when speaking about CSA survivors. That is not to
say that much of the work covered in this book would not be useful and appropriate to males as well.
We believe all survivors will find benefit in working through this book, but males will have to alter the feminine pronoun as they read. There may be additional issues that male survivors need to face and deal with and these would not be covered in this resource. We have spoken about the perpetrator
of the CSA as ‘he’ because in most cases the offending perpetrator was a male. That is not to say
that women do not perpetrate sexual abuse, or that males are not the victims of child sexual abuse/ assault.
This book was written with female survivors of child sexual assault/abuse (CSA) therefore we have used the feminine pronoun throughout this text when speaking about CSA survivors. That is not to
say that much of the work covered in this book would not be useful and appropriate to males as well.
We believe all survivors will find benefit in working through this book, but males will have to alter the feminine pronoun as they read. There may be additional issues that male survivors need to face and deal with and these would not be covered in this resource. We have spoken about the perpetrator
of the CSA as ‘he’ because in most cases the offending perpetrator was a male. That is not to say
that women do not perpetrate sexual abuse, or that males are not the victims of child sexual abuse/ assault.

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Published by: sos-sa on Aug 12, 2008
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12/08/2013

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One of our most basic human needs is to live in relationships where we can give and receive love.

This remains an area of considerable tension for us. We are uncertain about what to do with our

childhood family situation. In some respects we want reconciliation and reconnection with some

members of our families. Yet this has met with mixed responses. Some women have been able to

reconnect and can now talk about their past in a calm manner with family. Others have been met with

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open hostility. It is clear that it can be an unsafe option to reconnect with our childhood family if they

are abusive. Yet it is difficult to sever these connections because we hope that our primal need for the

love of a parent might be fulfilled.

We need to weigh up whether our healing can afford the setback that rejection triggers in our

personal growth. Rejection leads directly to feelings of despair, shock and sadness. We believe it’s better

to wait until we are stronger in our new patterns of living and responding before we return to such

relational situations.

Tip

There is no place in your life for any person who is abusive because they delay your healing.

If you are going to attempt to reconnect with your childhood family you need a safety plan

before you attempt it. You may never have to use the plan, but it’s not easy to think up a plan

when you are hurting from a bad reaction. It is at these times that your brain will click into old patterns

of responding and before you know it, you may be drinking or using again. You may never have to

put your safety plan into action, but you should know which support people to call and their phone

numbers. It may help to bring a friend with you. If that’s not possible make sure you have organised

a friend to phone you or meet with you afterward, so you can debrief. Have the names and phone

numbers of two safe counsellors or support people you can call, programmed into your mobile phone

before you go. If you don’t own a mobile phone, borrow one from a friend and learn to use it so that

you can take it with you. If you cannot access a mobile phone, buy a phone card and take it with you in

your wallet with phone numbers for your support people listed on the back. You may also want phone

numbers of places like Crisis Care (see Appendix A). Crisis Care can give you shelter for three days in

case you are unable to return to your home. In those three days you can get professional help, so that

you are in a safe place at all times.

Reconnecting with Our Mothers

For some women the reaction of our mothers at the time of our sexual abuse remains one difficult area

to make sense of. We asked, ‘Where was my mother when all this was happening to me? What caused

her to respond in the way she did?’ On discussion we found research documentation that says child sex

offenders use specific strategies to isolate the abused child from the rest of their family and especially

their mothers. They trick them into abuse situations and the most common tactic sex offenders use

is to cause a division and feuding between the mother and her child [47]. The perpetrator creates

the context in which the child and the mother become blind to the undermining role he plays in

their relationship [48]. This understanding has helped some of us to reframe our perspective on our

mother’s position within our life story in such a way that reconnection has become possible.

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Reconnecting with Our Children

There is significant pain in working through relationships with

children when they remind you of your shortcomings. For some of

us the pain is still too raw to be able to contemplate reconnecting at

present. Some of us never cut ties with our children and they provide

a great source of love, joy, comfort and inspiration. Reconnecting

with our children has meant we need to give them space to express

the emotional pain they may have experienced when we were not as

fully present in their lives as we would have liked to be.

For some women in our group the addictions we had, meant

that our children’s lives have been impacted by this experience.

Some of us have reconciled relationships with our children

by asking them to forgive us for the fact that we were not as

present as we should have been, or for other issues that may

have caused them to suffer. We are talking about this and

helping them to understand the reasons behind our former

attitudes and actions. It is part of their, and our healing, but it does comes at a personal cost. The

realisation that our children still love us has been both humbling and good for our self-esteem.

As our knowledge, understanding and insight grow we can see our children hurt themselves in similar

ways to what we did. Some are reliving patterns of violence in marriage, some are using addictions

to cope with life. This is one of the most painful aspects of our recovery. In some ways it continues

to make us feel disappointed, confused, sad and guilty. We really want to be able to rescue our kids,

but we know it’s not possible, just as it wasn’t possible for us to be rescued. This continual reminder

of the impact of our behaviour on our children does cause us sadness. We understand that we

could have done things differently had we known then, what we know now. We gain our strength by

continuing to turn to others to speak about our pain. We want to be the parents that we would have

wanted, and that our children deserve. We want our children to learn from our mistakes, by being

there and helping them. We want them to see that we will not do to them what our childhood family

did to us, which was to cut us off if we were ‘misbehaving’. We are trying to be role models to our

children by living our own healing journey one day at a time, sharing with them a more hopeful way

of living and trying to create a future that becomes stronger and healthier. We try not to dwell too

long with regret and remorse, instead we use that energy to make our current relationship with our

children loving and nurturing. We want our children to see that there isn’t a hurdle that they can’t get

over, if they have support. In reconnecting with our children we are trying to provide them with as

much loving support as we can.

We met and she got some painful

stuff off her chest. It’s been going

around in her head. She needed

me to be able to hear that and see

I could still be in her presence. It

was amazing, but oh so painful. I

was able to say that was me using

alcohol but it is not me now. I

am sorry for the pain my drinking

caused you. I think it was a healing

thing for us both, but boy did it hurt.

Chemicals create a synthetic barrier

between your mind, body and spirit.

You can’t relate honestly with your

kids. I talk about the past with my

kids. Only last weekend I told my

daughter, ‘I really do apologise for

not being there when you were 14

and 15, but I’m here now’.

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We are finding joy in the simple aspects of nurturing and being with our children. For many of us,

violent partner relationships hinder our ability to access our children. The ability to reposition our

partners in our thinking, as weak and unable to manipulate us, has facilitated our reconnection with

our children. As this woman reflects:

I’ve got the power to do it. I’ve got the confidence to do it. To actually speak to him…I’ve got

the courage and the strength now because I can see he’s really quite pathetic. He is. Since

then it’s been really great, waking up in the morning and going into the kitchen and making

sandwiches for lunch, getting breakfast ready, making sure the kids clothes are done, just

keeping the house clean, even doing shopping and things. Just being there for them and

meeting their needs has been really, really good.

The most important aspect of reconnecting is to proceed slowly and continue to maintain control of

the situation by establishing and maintaining boundaries. When we see just how far we have come in

one year, we are hopeful that our healing and motivation to keep working at changing our behaviour

will enable our children to grow. We can use the insights we learnt from the past to renew our

relationships and make them more compassionate and loving in the future.

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