You have probably heard about the Rolling Stone article discussing the prevalence and denial of sexual violence at the University of Virginia. Or maybe you haven’t heard because unlike me, you are not an alumnus of that University and do not follow hundreds of Facebook pages devoted to sexual violence. Needless to say, I have been inundated with the article and comments from others. And my reaction has been strong.
My strong reaction is not because I am opposed to violence. It is not because UVA is my alma mater and I am concerned about its future as a school. It is not because this happens at every school with almost the same response from administration. My reaction is much more personal.
When I was growing up, I suffered all types of abuse, but I find the most difficult to overcome was the abandonment and neglect. While my abusers stayed in my life (to my dismay), they emotionally left me before I was born. They neglected me in my early life by not meeting my basic needs. So while they were still around, they were not, unless of course, they needed something from me. This feeling of abandonment was exacerbated by the bystanders who walked out of my life while I hoped they would help me.
In my adult life, I struggle to find gratitude and appreciate what I have. It seems as though the people, animals and things that matter to me the most are appreciated the least. It seems that way, but it isn’t the case. As a child, I “learned” that what mattered to me most would be taken away. In some cases, this was a result of manipulative parents who would use my favorite things against me so they could break me. They would also remove my favorite people from my life because they were dangerously close to exposing the family secrets. And their methods certainly worked. So, I developed a defense mechanism. Continue reading →
You’ve been through so much and I am not sure how you coped. Your strength inspires me with every memory I recover. I know you are the reason we are alive today. And I thank you for all you did to keep going. Sometimes, others ask me how I lived through it and I don’t know the answer. You carried that burden. And to some extent, you still do.
Unfortunately, some of those approaches you used to stay alive might be setting us back these days. The dissociation, the isolation and the anxiety were perfect coping strategies in an environment of prolonged and inescapable trauma. But we aren’t there anymore. We live in a different world, a more benign world. Sure, there are still plenty of people who need an attitude adjustment (or much more). And the days when the kids just don’t care about boundaries can be a little rough. But in the current reality, there is safety, the kind you never knew as a child. Continue reading →