Sometime after the age of 21, when things in my life became messier and messier, I began to see talk therapists on a regular basis. This theme of seeing a therapist has been a reoccurring one since that point. I couldn’t imagine pinpointing the number if I tried. Most therapy starts out in the exact same fashion – it starts out by a re-telling of your history. The story of your life is told to a stranger in order that this stranger may have a better perspective on what they are dealing with. Every time I told my story the assumption, or follow up question, was inevitably the same.
“Where you sexually abused as a child?”
I would respond, “No”
This would then bring about follow up questions which digged deeper into the same question. I always felt as though these therapists thought I was lying or possibly unaware of my abuse. This has happened with every therapist I have ever spoke with. The reason why, this response was the logical one to them, has become obvious to me as I have grown and learned more about the characteristics of an adult who was sexually abused as a child. Of the 27 listed characteristics on the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress (aaets.org) there is only one that doesn’t conform to my life.
I grew up in a loving, Christian home. I have a father and mother figure who displayed a marriage full of love, respect and faithfulness. I have loving siblings. I grew up with supportive teachers and coaches. I was involved with sports, church and friends. I had a few [not fantastic, but tolerable] boyfriends. So … who was it that ripped my innocence from me? Who tore my understanding of intimacy apart from my God given instinct of what it should be? I think, in part, we can find the answer in the very definition of childhood sexual abuse:
Childhood sexual abuse can be defined as any exposure to sexual acts imposed on children who inherently lack the emotional, maturational, and cognitive development to understand or to consent to such acts. These acts do not always involve sexual intercourse or physical force.
I believe the “person” responsible for sexually abusing me is simply stated … our society. I, along with most children, have been exposed to sexual acts that we were not emotionally, mature or cognitively developed enough to understand. If your eyes are open, you should know that examples are not necessary. The billboards … the magazines … the models … the movies … the tv shows.
I have been reworking this post for days and days and have concluded that I have far too much to say on this one topic than I can fit in one post. So for now, I would ask that you remove yourself from the norms of our society long enough that you can imagine the tragedy of the visions we (society), often unknowingly, inflict on our children. Visions that we are so over-exposed to we no longer see harm in.
If your child is playing in the living room, and SVU: Special Victims Unit happens to be the background noise, please know this is a form of rape. If your 13 year old daughter borrows a Cosmo magazine from a friend at school and reads a graphic description of a sexual position. And this position goes against everything she has ever intuitively thought of as intimate and loving – she is being sexually assaulted. If she is playing an age appropriate game on the computer or phone and an ad pops up along the top, with a 15 year old girl – bent over at the waist, displaying her backside, eyes gazing at the camera – this is contributing to the victimization of a whole generation.
As I said before, I don’t blame my parents. In fact, I think the truth of them doing all they could and still being helpless to long term societal effects is crucially important to my story. Society, media, advertisers, public relation specialists, politicians and corporations have placed greed above all else … and one of the many detrimental effects of this greed is this very frightening and very real …
Rape of a generation.
(After I first published this post, I wrote a few follow up clarifications, I would encourage you to read those as well. Thanks!)