An area of sexual abuse that deserves particular attention and is not discussed often enough is abuse within families, also known as incest. In addition to the many well known effects that any child of abuse goes through, survivors of incest are forced to endure a very unique set of circumstances. Our heart are prayers are with those who have had to experience this tragedy.
The following article, written by a survivor of incest, articulates what some of the challenges someone who is abused by a family member may face.
While we realize that public exposure and the Wall of Shame is sometimes not effective in these instances, we strongly encourage anyone who has been subjected to this particular strain of abuse to reach out to us for help. Whether it is through connecting you to a support group or facilitating a confrontation, we are here to listen, help and support in any way we can.
Please be advised that some readers may find the following letter difficult to read due to the subject matter
“Why can’t you just let it go?”
I don’t remember the first time it happened, or the second. Together with my therapist, I’ve deduced that I was likely exposed to inappropriate sexual behavior long before the vivid memories that I still have today were formed. But I was so young, it’s hard to recall. When you’re too young to create long-term memories, you’re too young to be performing oral sex.
For the longest time, I didn’t think of myself as a victim of abuse. I considered myself an accomplice in a series of heinous and shameful acts. And instead of blaming the perpetrator, I blamed myself.
It’s hard, you see, when the person who took everything from you is the same person with whom you used to build tents, collect Pokemon cards, set up lemonade stands. In my mind, the five year gap between him and me was not enough to make him the “responsible” one who “should have known better.” No, I told myself we were equals, that we had both made the decision to cross a line that brothers and sisters never should.
It didn’t matter that I was only eleven years old and that he was sixteen. It didn’t matter that he would press me and press me until I’d finally agree to give him what he wanted. It didn’t matter that I would repeatedly pull up my Cinderella underpants only to have him pull them back down. We were accomplices, partners in crime, and I couldn’t stand my own reflection.
Self-loathing is a difficult burden to bear for an adult. Imagine being a sixth grader who could no longer find the energy or confidence to be the student and leader she’d always been. Imagine being reprimanded by your teachers, bullied by your classmates only to return home to be used by your older brother. I was isolated and afraid, too ashamed to tell a soul.
And that’s when the other boy stepped in. It’s like victims have a smell that abusers can sense. It’s like we wear a sign that says, “Hurt me. I’m vulnerable.” He was a friend of my brother’s. We were watching a movie when he discreetly slipped his hand up my skirt. And his touch, it sent a very loud and clear message to my impressionable young mind. It said, “You are an object for boys to play with.”
And though years and aging and growth have confirmed in the rational portion of my brain that I was a victim, that these teenagers were selfish and wrong, that I share no blame in what happened, the messages I was sent as a child and the negative feelings I associated with sex are still an undeniably monumental part of my life.
I feel them when I look into my husbands eyes and wonder what he sees in me.
I notice them when I stand in a room full of people and feel completely alone, abnormal, dirty.
I sense them when I close my eyes and remember the college years I spent drowning in alcohol and throwing myself at unworthy guys.
I see them when I look into the mirror, at my naked body and detest the reflection staring back at me.
So to all those who ask me (and believe me, they ask) why I can’t just get over something that happened so long ago, why I can’t just move on, here’s what I have to say. I am “over” the abuse… I don’t think about it constantly or fill with anxiety every time I pass a dark alleyway. But I still struggle every single day to overcome the lies it told me about myself. Because I can try to shout above the voices in my head that tell me I’m worthless, that say that I’m tainted and damaged and can never be cleansed, that insist that my needs are unimportant, but they are so loud it’s almost deafening.
It’s a little bit sick, but I’m sometimes jealous of the girls and boys who were abused by strangers, rabbis, teachers, coaches…at least they get to hate them. At least they can stand at a podium and point a trembling finger at the individuals who broke them, even if it does take every bit of strength they possess. If I did that, I’d be pointing at him – my best friend, my “protector,” my flesh and blood…my brother.
The same parents who love me, love him.
The same little boy who calls me “Auntie,” calls him “Daddy.”
And, as it turns out, the same atrocities that he did to me…were done to him.
I don’t, I won’t – I can’t hate him.
So I just take that trembling finger and point it at myself.