Many people these days really struggle with accepting their bodies - women in particular.
Accepting our different shapes and sizes, accepting the aging process, accepting our mummy-tummies, accepting our hair, skin, features can all be a challenge in a world where media portrayals of people tend to focus on the young, slim and 'perfect'.
But for those of us who have survived child sexual abuse there is a greater challenge to deal with - a deep layer of self-loathing that has come about because of the particular issues that arise with early sexual abuse.
Like many others, I was very young when the abuse first started. I didn’t really understand what was going on and I was repeatedly told it was a game, a secret game. And so that was the context in which I tried to deal with the feelings it evoked.
But later, as a young teenager, when the abuse continued, everything changed. I understood that this was sex. My friends at school were talking about their experimentation with their boyfriends and the context of the abuse was suddenly completely different. I was no longer a child trying to find a way to avoid a game. I was an adolescent trying to process the changes taking place in my body against the backdrop of relentless abuse.
In recovery one of the things I struggled the most with was working out where my self-loathing began. Why did I hate my body so much?
It was coming to grips with this that I believe allowed me to finally deal with not just my self-hate but also my inability (up until then) to enjoy a healthy sexual relationship.
The thing is, as a young girl the abuse was just something that he did to me. It hurt and was uncomfortable and weird and confusing and I didn’t like it but that was all. When my body started to change in puberty everything went haywire. My body started to respond to his touch in a way that repulsed me. I would be frustrated that he had cornered me and I was unable to escape his groping fingers one minute and the next feeling a pulse of enjoyment that horrified me.
I felt betrayed by my own body and so utterly wretched.
I grew up hating what he did to me and hating myself for those moments when what he did felt nice.
Fast forward to a few years later when I was finally free and able to actually begin my life and what I felt was so very very hateful towards my own body for ever finding even the smallest pleasure amidst the abuse and hating my sexuality with a passion.
I was so ashamed and so unable to deal with any of it.
And then I got married! Oh gosh – to say we had the honeymoon from hell would be the huge-est understatement! It took that marriage and then some years in recovery for me to begin to work through the struggles I had avoided for so long and find the answers to my issues.
What we have to understand is that we were children. We were children abused by adults. We didn’t know what was happening to us at first and then later when our bodies began to change we were still children. We had no power. We were not equals in a consensual relationship. We were not partners. We did not have choices or freedom. Even as adolescents when our bodies started to respond differently. Even then, we were still children and still had no power.
This is a difficult issue to talk about, I know, and it is certainly one that is mired in shame and pain but how important it is to bring this out from the shadows and let it be seen in the light.
Many of us can trace our self-loathing to this experience.
We came to hate our bodies because we felt betrayed by them. But it was not their fault.
I came to understand that our bodies respond because they are wired that way. It was simply a fact. It was not my body turning against me and suddenly liking to be abused. It was not my fault and it was not my shame.
Coming to understand this has been the single most significant factor in turning myself from a self-loather into a self-lover. I have come to see that my sexuality is a gift that was manipulated and abused as much as my body was.
What a travesty.
And now, instead of feeling angry with my flesh, with myself, with my body for betraying me, I direct that anger towards my abuser for taking that innocence and that God-given gift from me during those tender years.
Were you sexually abused? Do you struggle with self-loathing?
Right now, make it your goal to put this matter to rest. Once and for all. Find some time and a space where you can let yourself remember those years and what you went though. Are you holding yourself responsible for someone else’s choices? Have you come to hate your body because you felt it betrayed you?
It’s time to look at this afresh and re-examine what you have always told yourself about it.
This is the truth - you were a child. Full stop. End of subject.
Do not keep holding on to a hatred of your body because of someone else’s bad choices.
♥ ~ Sue
Sue Parry-Jones is a trained counsellor, a social worker and survivor of abuse. The content of the blog is both personal and sound. The words are relate-able and widely appealing to those struggling with survival from abuse in their own lives. More and more we are appreciating in our society that abuse affects a number of people’s lives and as more people are beginning to openly discuss what they have endured, so there is a huge need for encouragement and hope in the form of texts that deliver clear and concise yet real input. THe words shared here are honest, real and heart-felt.