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Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Trauma

02/15/2013

As an adult survivor of ritualized sexual abuse (abuse that contained repetitive, groomed behaviors, use of drugs to allow suggestions to placed in the head/brain (basically brain-washing or programming), promotions of unusual sexual behaviors outside the norm) I have continued to struggle with the ramifications of this in my daily life. In my case this was done by outsiders, people my parents trusted to care for me and appeared normal in every aspect of their lives. It started out small but in a very unusual manner, not one you would typically hear about when someone refers to sexual abuse in children.

I struggled very hard with these memories for years. I had a very difficult time accepting that I wasn’t the only one that this had happened to. Not the abuse itself, but the manner in which it played itself out over time. I found myself searching the internet trying to find cases where this had happened to other people. I have been abled to find numerous examples of the same type of abuse.

Skip this paragraph if you do not want to read graphic details especially if it may be a trigger for you. I will start with a row of astericks and end the same so you may continue reading this post.

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As a young child the first thing I remember is watching the man sit on the ground and remove his penis from his pants and peeing on the grass. I watched this with childhood fascination, I thought you only peed in a toilet unless camping. This was in town, in a backyard and later other places. I was told how good it would feel to pee outside. I eventually found it was a good and exciting feeling. I was then put in diapers to feel how good it felt to keep that warm pee next to my body. As strange as it sounds I grew to love peeing outdoors and wearing diapers whenever I could. This had now moved to inside, I learned/was taught to masturbate whild peeing. I was given drugs to relax me and allow me not to fight. I learned to do this by myself and with others watching and being filmed while tuning out everything that was going on around me and experience the pleasure it brought. Some would say at this point, how is it abuse if you felt so good and enjoyed it? The key here is that I was a child and Adults were drugging and programming my brain. Then came the other children, the pre-pubescent boys that would lay on the bed and they would masturbate or I would do it for them. Then the peeing games began. On each other, outside, in diapers for extended periods of time. I can remember telling the new kids to not eat any of the food except the ice cream. I had somehow figured out that this had no drugs in it. I didn’t want them to be trained as I had. I still remember the books, movies, magazines that would be out when all this was happening, and having to turn books around, change out movies and magazines when someone would come over. There was more to this, including intercourse, but you are probably getting the idea. The intercourse is mainly what people think about when hearing of sexual abuse.

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Freud (1920) suggested that individuals who survived traumatic events may develop what he termed traumatic neurosis. One consequence of traumatic neurosis is the survivors’ compulsion to repeat elements of the traumatic event. Similar to Freud’s concept, Miller (1994) postulated that adult survivors of childhood sexual trauma who engage in self-injurious behavior, engage in risk-taking behaviors such as promiscuity and substance abuse, and experience difficulties in interpersonal relationships, are actually reenacting behaviors symbolic of trauma suffered in childhood. Types of reenactment these individuals engage in may include (a) behavioral (i.e., inflicting harm to self or others), (b) self destructiveness (i.e., subconsciously sabotaging situations such that it leads to feelings of revictimization), and (c) reexeperiencing (flashbacks).”

One of my huge issues is during times of stress and high overload in stress I revert back to what I learned. Peeing and diapers are a tension and often sexual release. Drugs and/or alchohol is a hideout. Peeing outdoors is “fun”. Then as times return to normal, I hate myself for what I have done. Yet, the cycle returns no matter how hard I have worked to chip away at the probramming and insert virus’ to change the outcome. Research shows that this is a compulsion, that I am not weird, uncapable of normal habits, or enjoy living on the edge.

“Several theories exist which attempt to explain the etiology of these reenactment behaviors. One such theory was proposed by van der Kolk (1989). He posited that these individuals are addicted to the trauma and, therefore, may try to recreate it (i.e. a victim of childhood sexual abuse may become a prostitute). Such individuals have reported feeling bored, apprehensive, and anxious when not experiencing some form of activity reminiscent of their trauma. Miller (1994) suggested that this arousal need can be an impetus for reenactment behaviors. For children who experience trauma, these experiences became synonymous with relationships and the child is often in a constant state of arousal due to fear, rage, hyperalertness, or anxiety. This constant arousal impacts the biochemistry of the child and inhibits a return to a baseline. Thus, as an adult, the individual may be addicted to excitement which is painful, while also to them, pleasurable and comfortable. Further, van der Kolk (1989) reported that high levels of stress activate the physiological opioid systems. Just as heroin may activate this system and create a cycle of dependence and withdrawal, so might the hyperarousal that is created with trauma. Self-injurious behaviors perpetuate this cycle by producing the stress related opioid stimulation. To further substantiate this theory, van der Kolk highlighted the benefits of opioid receptor blockage medications in decreasing self-mutilative behaviors.”

Miller (1994) suggested that the process of trauma reenactment is cyclical and includes thoughts, feelings, and behavior that can be interpreted at any point in the cycle. At one point, the cycle could be interpreted as feelings of rage, shame, or fear causing an individual to inflict self-harm. At another juncture, it could be interpreted that self-harming causes disgust that results in further punishment, or finally, it could be interpreted that when an interpersonal relationship becomes too intimate the individual feels compelled to detatch through self-harming behaviors. The self-abuse cycle serves to protect the trauma survivor as it keeps others at a distance. The self-protective function of self-harming behaviors is necessary as survivors are often unable to self-protect and typically maintain diffuse boundaries in interpersonal relationships. Paradoxically, these individuals also want to be rescued and protected. Together these tendencies create relational instability.

In times of good and stable life I can see that these coping mechanisms are not safe, yet I feel shame for when I do act on them.

“It has been postulated that cognitive distortions result from childhood sexual trauma (Solomon & Heide, 2005). Owens and Chard (2001) suggested that these cognitive distortions impact five areas: safety, trust, power, esteem, and intimacy. The culminating effect of such distortions may result in anxiety, avoidant behavior, fear of betrayal, anger, passivity, feelings of powerlessness (Owens & Chard, 2001), and an exaggerated potential for danger (Briere & Runtz, 1993). Further, Bleiberg (1994) suggested that sexual abuse becomes part of the struggle and conflict characteristic of the developmental process and may fuel fears of abandonment or feelings of estrangement from self and disconnection from others.”

Oh, do I see my life here!!!!

As an adult I should be able to think things through and find positive outlook and healthy outlets to my feelings, yet, I continue to use unhealthy outlets as they seem to be more rewarding than other options.

“In adult survivors of sexual abuse, hyperarousal often interferes with their ability to be calm and rational and prevents the assimilation of traumatic material. The adult survivor then responds to threats as emergencies requiring action rather than thought (van der Kolk, 1989)”

There is a scripture I have been told to think about–Be still and know that I am God. Oh, how hard it is to be still and let the feelings pass rather than act on them. How hard to allow my Heavenly Father to get me through these times safely.

Once an individual has been abused, he or she can never view the self and the world in the same manner as before the abuse as all future experiences are reconstructed through the filter of abuse (van der Kolk, 1989). This filter is connected to the cognitive processes of assimilation and accommodation identified by Piaget.

Because the developmental process of assimilation and accomodation have such a significant impact on cognitive schemas, adults are likely to continue behaving or thinking in accordance with these schemas. For example, victims of past trauma may respond to contemporary events as though the trauma has returned and re-experience the hyperarousal that accompanied the initial trauma, van der Kolk (1989) suggested that the adult survivor of trauma seeks to undo the past through exemplary behaviors, love, and competency. When the individual fails to resolve the trauma, self-blame occurs along with a return to earlier, self-destructive coping mechanisms.”

Although I may never be able to view the world without looking through the filter of abuse, I can work to lessen what I see through that filter. It isn’t easy, It hasn’t been easy and will require effort on my part for the rest of my life. I have to learn with time to cope better and better with the feelings of hyperarousal and feelings that I must be perfect. I must learn to let the shame and blame go. This is the key to reducing the pattern that was ingrained in me. I must create a new pattern.

On a positive note–I am increasing the time between the need to respond to hyperarousal with prior learned behavior. Maybe at some point it will go away. Right now I can just keep doing my best to replace the negative learned behavior with positive learned behavior. I need to recognize in my life and remember when I use the positive responses. I have not yet learned to recognize it.

All quotes obtained from

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_hb1416/is_2_28/ai_n29257913/?tag=mantle_skin;content

Bold and Italics added by me.

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