I heard a man who was abused as a child refer to his body’s natural response to sexual stimuli as his “body betrayed [him]” and this breaks my heart. As a survivor of years of abuse from my father, I am well aware of the guilt and shame that come with growing to enjoy, crave and take an odd sense of pride in the misbehavior of my abuser. I used to really hate myself for letting those counselors tell me it wasn’t my fault over and over again and never admitting to them that once my body started responding to the attention, I had a few occasions of instigating an assault. ‘Assault’ is an important distinction that I did not make until decades after the abuse ended. You see, only in recent years have I come to recognize that no amount of enticing behavior or physical responsiveness from a minor would ever lead to sexual abuse from a non-abusive person.
My abuse began when I was almost 8 years old and my body did not respond to his fingers or tongue for 4 years. Despite the lack of response, my father continued his abuse. I grew used to it without enjoying it and while really disliking being coerced to touch, stroke and kiss his genitalia in return for the ineffective attentions he paid to mine. I did it though. Childhood victims usually do what the abuser they see as an authority figure wants them to do. We hear things like “not everybody does this. It is special between you and me” and “I am teaching you important things the others won’t understand.” We want to be special even if we don’t want the kind of attention we are getting. Sexual abuse usually starts before victims even know what any of it means and once we do know, our bodies have matured and we feel instantly guilty for enjoying it.
This is so wrong!
There is a huge, malignant cavity of an error in this perception.
Regardless of your age when you read this, do the math on your situation. How old were you or the victim when it started? Imagine yourself at the abuser’s age at that time. Would you ever be inclined to treat a child the age you/they were the way the abuser treated you/them? Notice that I said “treat a child” because there is a distinct difference in fantasy and action when it comes to pedophilia or anything else. I fantasize about ramming the oblivious sphincter riding his brakes in the fast lane, but I don’t act on it. Fantasy is fantasy and I heartily encourage all forms because they do not endanger or damage anyone. Actions, on the other hand, that result in the abuse of a minor are what I am referencing. So, let’s say puberty HAD actually kicked in. What if that child pursued and wanted you? The healthy response is, “No, acting in a sexual manner toward that attention seeking child is sick.” Process that for a few minutes. It is sick to perform sexually with a child. Nothing about a child’s behavior or appearance warrants, justifies or excuses pedophiliac behavior. Who is sick in a scenario where an adult who knows better stimulates a biological response in a minor who does not? The person whose body is doing what is was made to do in a sexual situation? Or the immoral succubus that betrays their position in the victim’s life and does things they have no right or business doing?
You know who else is abusing the abused children in their lives? The people who say shit like A.“you should not have done/worn/said ______” or B. “you must have wanted it” or C. “I bet the little pervert enjoys it.” Perhaps you do not know any better but your comments and associated behavior are damagingly wrong. Let’s get this straight once and for all. A- there is no such thing as a behavior/outfit/comment that warrants, justifies or excuses pedophilia. Nothing. Period. B- Children naturally crave attention and affirmation. We are coming into ourselves and look to adults for these things. Sexual assault is a far cry from acknowledging a child’s attributes in a positive healthy way. And C- There is nothing perverse about having a natural response to sexual stimuli. This is especially true when it is instigated by someone of trust before the victim knows what is happening in their bodies much less the appropriate boundaries for such behavior. We are battling our respect for the person based on how others view them, our discomfort at having to hide something for them and our bodies sudden changes. Puberty is difficult without sexual abuse. Teenagers in otherwise normal situations go through emotional roller coasters once their hormones kick in. How insensitive are you to assign guilt to these children for the actions of an adult? Do you go to hospitals and chastise victims of drunk drivers or war veterans for their wounds?
Let me give you an idea of what happened to me as a result of the guilt I lived with from my own conscience and the comments I heard from relatives. I grew to think myself naughty. My body gaining curves was something I wanted to keep up with classmates but worried about because it garnered attention from my abuser. I had the message from him that my responses were a good thing and the physical affirmation that it felt good. AND I had the clear disgust from everyone else towards my abuse. So, of course I was completely conflicted and translated it all together to mean – sexual stimuli feels good to me so I’m disgusting. I also took the lessons and descriptions about parents loving their children and doing anything to protect them and decided that the lack of protection I received from them couldn’t mean they loved me less. They are my parents, of course they love me! Instead, I proceeded to let others disrespect and hurt me and still credit them with loving me as much as I wanted them to. I often said things like, “I know they are not good at showing it, but I also know they must love me as much as I love them.” Sound familiar to you or about someone you know?
As a victim of sexual abuse from the ages of 8 – 12 I would like to scream from the mountain tops that we are great people who should love and respect ourselves, our natures and our bodies. We must demand the same from everyone in our lives. I’d like therapists to grasp the turmoil and not patronize their clients. I want family members to join forces to help victims separate the wrongness of the abusive situations and the absolute healthiness of the human body’s response to sexual stimulus.
What else can I say or do? I would like you to share this with anyone you know because abuse is pervasive in society and you never know who is battling their own childhood scars.
Thanks for reading. I’d love to know your thoughts.
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