Today I am reposting a story of one woman’s recovery (still in progress) from her traumatic ordeal of childhood sexual abuse. This story comes from HumanitysDarkerSide, and I hope it might help others.
Broadblogs wrote an article called Why We Have Sex based upon the findings of CM Meston and DM Buss at the Department of Psychology at the University of Texas. These two researchers wrote an article called Why Humans Have Sex in 2007. In their article Meston and Buss cite 237 reasons that students at UofT had listed as their reasons for having sex.
I commented on Georgia’s post and ended up being asked if I would like to write something about my own experiences and the effects of medication on myself.
One of the reasons being listed for having sex in Meston and Buss’ article is force. Sometimes sex isn’t a voluntary thing and in my case the force happened at a very early age and seriously messed up my head when it came to anything sexual. Well, not just that, as anyone who has run into PTSD will attest to.
PTSD, or post-traumatic stress syndrome is a strange thing. It is basically a severe reaction to trauma expressing itself in as varied manners as re-experiencing the original trauma(s) through flashbacks or nightmares, avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma, and increased arousal—such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, anger, and hypervigilance.
In my case I experienced pretty severe nightmares and hypervigilance (and probably some anger). As I was 7 when the whole thing started, this was normal to me and I thought most people experienced life the way I did. Turns out they don’t. Some who get PTSD as adults remember life before and a state of non-PTSD. In some ways I would imagine that could be worse (although maybe not). Depends on the trauma and the psyche of the person struck down with it.
I would guess that most people would see me as a boring person with a weird sense of humor. It is that strange sense of humor that has carried me. After the awkward teens and early twenties, I came to realize that life was just one gigantic joke and the only defense was to laugh at it. Laughter has been my friend throughout my life, laughing at myself and the world and it has gotten me through some rough spots (my psyche).
Anyways, I got married and when I met my husband I was a virgin (well except for CSA that is). I’d seen some porn, read books with sexual content and talked to people. But, you know, people just don’t talk about sex and death – the two great taboos in life. I didn’t get that sex could even be pleasurable and was afraid during sex. I wanted it, got horny and all of that, but when it came to actually doing it, well.
Thankfully, my husband is the kindest, gentlest and most patient person on this planet and he worked with me and tried to make things good for me. But you know, there is only so much you can do on your own. Poor guy, living with a CSA survivor is not easy. No matter how optimistic a person is, having trouble with your sex life just hurts both parties.
I tried psycho-therapy. Hah, what a joke. Talking through the effects of PTSD as something that was supposed to help. Sometimes I wondered if I or my therapist was in need of help.
Then I found my psychiatrist – my voodoo queen – magician galore. Granted, it took years and years before I did find her, but this is my miracle person. We used three tools in getting acceptance of myself into my mind, heart and body. Cause you know, CSA people just don’t have a healthy view of themselves.
Tool one was cognitive therapy. Folks, this stuff actually works. It really does. What happens is a re-wiring of the way you think of yourself and the world. Yes, it is an ongoing process and some parts will probably have to be a life-project, but it works. I can now do this all by myself because I know how it works.
Tool two was EMDR. What the hell is EMDR, you ask. Before I tried it I put it in the same category as homeopathy. But it’s just a kind of hypnosis light. It should be tried with a therapist that knows what on earth they are doing and it does not work for everything. However, research in Holland and Germany shows that it is good with PTSD. Just do a search on Google for Dutch and German research on EMDR and you will have plenty of articles to choose from.
Tool three was medication. People, you know this, but it cannot be stated enough times. No new psychological medication without therapy. There are side-effects with every bleeding medical product out there and you might need help coping with them.
At first we tried beta-blockers. My god. The first time I tried them this super-tense feeling in my chest lessened and I fell asleep from sheer relief. I’d walked around being hyper-alert all of the time and that really isn’t good for you. My world changed, but tension around sex was still high. No wonder, as this was my major trigger.
Then a miracle happened. And I am serious about this. A major miracle happened. My psychiatrist suggested that I try something called venlafaxin – an efexor depot medication. Instead of being scared every time I had sex I was loving it. Sure, it had taken years for me to get there and my husband had had to endure my pain for a long time, but I have actually gotten to experience the joys of having sex. How cool is that? And we all know that my husband has been having the time of his life along with me.
Kristen Lewis Cunnane is associate head coach of the UC Berkeley women’s swim team. But as a teen her own swim coach molested her, with the abuse continuing into adulthood.
It all began in 1993. Kristen and other middle school swimmers looked up to Coach Julie Correa. And Julie took a special interest in Kristen. The two secretly left campus to get Slurpees, Julie gave Kristen gifts, and Kristen began confiding in Coach Correa as she became one of her closest friends.
After several months, the relationship crossed a line. Kristen remembers mentally escaping into a painting of a Labrador Retriever as she was raped on a bedroom floor, but being startled back into reality when her back scraped the carpet.
Julie controlled Kristen by carving out a section of a dictionary, putting a cell phone inside, and insisting Kristen carry it at all times. She also used Kristen’s fear against her:
Your parents will never understand. If they catch us, I will take care of them. This is your fault. I wanted to wait until you were older, but you made me.
When another middle school teacher killed himself after a molestation charge, Julie used that to further intimidate Kristen, telling her that they would both be dead, like him, if anyone learned about them.
Love eventually brought Kristen courage. When she met her future husband, classmate Scott Cunnane, she threw out the hidden cell phone, but not without fear. Kristen expected to die after her 18th birthday, when she finally told Julie to leave her alone.
I no longer cared if she killed me. It’s hard for me to describe to people, but I just hated her so much that it being over was more important to me than living.
When Kristen ended things at a hotel, she called Julie a monster and threatened to run to the hotel clerk. She was surprised that the warning ended the abuse:
The chains I felt around my heart and wrists, they weren’t real.
But, “When I got rid of her, I got rid of the part of my brain that knew that happened.” In 2010 when a USA Swimming abuse scandal broke the memories flooded back and she became anxious, even avoiding her kitchen, afraid of sharp knives.
She reported the abuse to police and then secretly taped a confession. At trial Kristen was surprised that staff from her high school defended her attacker. But Julie eventually confessed and was convicted.
Kristen’s story resonates with experts who explain why kids don’t report abuse. The Hero Project says that children are used to obeying adults and doing things they don’t understand. They may be threatened or they may be ashamed of what they worry is their fault. And they may not have the words to explain what is happening.
Kristen hopes that by telling her story other abuse victims will come forward.
Molestation’s chains melted away, first as a little girl became a young woman who learned that others don’t have as much power over you as you think they do, and later when her courage restored the balance of justice for herself and, she hopes, others.
The complete story can be found in the San Jose Mercury News.
Vatican Warned Bishops Not to Report Child Abuse. Vatican Shielded Dublin Priest Until He Raped Boy in Pub, Inquiry Says. Pope Lashes Out at Belgium After Raid on Church (investigating sexual abuse by clerics).
All are New York Times headlines revealing Vatican efforts to shield pedophile priests – and itself. I could go on.
Odd that the Church, which incessantly preaches morality to the masses, is so unconcerned with its own.
In stark contrast, a Catholic nun was immediately excommunicated for saving a woman’s life. Sister Margaret was senior administrator of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix when a 27-year-old mother of four arrived, suffering from pulmonary hypertension. Doctors determined the condition would likely kill her. So Sister Margaret okayed an abortion in the eleventh month of pregnancy to save her life.
Even when priests are defrocked for pedophilia they are not normally excommunicated, remaining able to take the sacrament.
The Vatican shielding pedophile priests while excommunicating life-saving nuns seems nonsensical. Confusing.
Yet one thing ties it all together: a rabid support of patriarchy. Really, patriarchy in its old sense: “rule of the fathers.” Or in this case, church fathers.
In patriarchy’s origins, old men ruled young men and women. Such is the case here. Old men are free to do as they will, while young boys must take what they get. Women are not allowed to control their bodies, or let their lives be saved. Old men control all.
Even Mel Gibson’s staunch rejection of birth control and Vatican II liberalization had seemed odd to me, given the many movies he appeared in promoting sex and violence. Not to mention real-life adultery and battering. Until I realized that the consistency in his life is patriarchy, as well. Men doing as they please, sleeping with whomever they wish (despite church prohibitions). But not allowing a wife to control he own womb (suddenly he cares that the church prohibits birth control). And feeling entitled to lash out and “discipline” women at will.
Vatican patriarchy has certainly not been good for women or children, inflicting suffering upon the “minions.”