Being sexually abused as a child, and I include teens here, has many many effects on the future adult life of the child. From massively increased risks of depression, anxiety disorders, self harm and even suicide. One area that is sometimes overlooked is the impact that it has on our self identity.
The question who am I is one we all ask, and usually answering it is fairly straightforward, at least on a superficial level. We are our memories, our likes and dislikes, our wishes for the future and relationships with others.
The issue with abuse survivors is that we often define ourselves in relation to the abusinve relationship we had with our abusers. This can be the relationship forged as part of a grooming process, the distortion of thoughts, feelings, sexuality, and understanding of what healthy relationships are as a consequence of the abuse itself or the destruction of trust, the imposition of eternal sense of fear and anxiety and the self blame and total lack of self believe engendered by the threats and emotional control used to keep us quiet after the abuse.
Part of the control the abuser undertakes is to weaken our knowledge of ourselves, our likes and dislikes our very personality. To make us more compliant he/she must erase what it was, is to be us to be the individual and make us an adjunct to their existence. A compliant shadow of themselves to be used, abused and controlled as you would a pet but with much less concern for our welfare.
Such is the impact of the abuse that it takes over our lives, our thoughts and feelings. Leaving no room for what might be left of us as individuals.
Part, I suspect, of the journey from being a victim of an abuser to becoming a functioning individual is to try and reclaim what it is to be us, what and who we really are under the layers of abuse, both the abuse we suffered as children and the self-abuse we inflicted on ourselves later.
But therein lies the problem, many of us were abused at a young age, memories are often suppressed and that can include memories of the pre-abuse life. We may not have any real memories of who we were before the abuse started. There is little or nothing left of the original self to form the core of a newly grown and free person. The seed needed, the childhood memories and experiences have been distorted, desecrated and erased.
This is of course why we can not simply get over it or move on. We lack the foundations needed to do that.
So what is left?
Well I refuse to let my abuser own what it is to be me. I will reclaim Steven and if the new me is a mix of half remembered memories, stories and wished the. That’s just fine.
The thing is I will decide what and who Steven is and not my abuser anymore. I will reclaim Steven with all the pain, confusion, suffering that will bring me. But also with the hope, faith and future that being me, the authentic me entitles me to. Even if that authenticity is one I have had to invent for myself.
So please say hello to Steven.