Do a search on variations of the title to this piece, and you will be directed to instructions on how to breach the defenses of various video games, and a few posts on breach of contract. Those are not what concern abuse survivors.
Oh, our defenses were most definitely breached. Whatever meager defenses we had as children – whatever protests we made or attempted to make or wanted to make but were too confused and frightened or too young to make – were ignored and overridden as if our bodies, our souls, were the property of someone else.
That is, in fact, how our voices were silenced. Protest was so clearly useless, what would have been the point?
But breach is one of those wounds that keep on giving. Years later, we may tolerate the unexpected groping by an older boy at the beach, the fumblings of a middle-aged optician in a darkened exam room, and despise ourselves for it, when the fault is not ours. Was never ours.
Boundaries are meant to protect us. When they have been violated physically, sexually or emotionally, we become vulnerable to further violation.
This is not an indictment against us, not a sign of weakness on our part. The fact that wounds leave scars is simply proof that we are human. And we were, after all, children. We never had a real choice; were forced to submit to violation of the most profound kind.
The searing experience of abuse “trains” us to disregard our own judgment. Repeated penetration, and the hymen is torn asunder (literally and figuratively). This has widespread consequences.
Ignoring the red flags we have, in effect, been taught by abuse to ignore, we now hand control of our money over to boyfriends/girlfriends, spouses, and money managers unworthy of our trust. We return, again and again, to auto repair shops that have cheated us. We allow bosses to impose on us beyond all reasonable limits; allow legislators and physicians to treat us as if we were incapable of making decisions about our own bodies.
In short, we relive the abuse, if not in visual then emotional flashbacks.
We experience these boundary violations not only as painful and costly, but acutely shameful. Not only do they, at some level, remind us of the original violation. We take mistaken responsibility for the wound inflicted on us by the predator. The abusive boyfriend/girlfriend, spouse, banker, etc. are merely the predator’s successors.
All human beings are bound by natural law to care for and protect children. That predators breach the social contract does not invalidate it.
Breached defenses can be rebuilt. We can relearn to trust ourselves, but this takes time. Meanwhile, we must not castigate ourselves when a new violation occurs. Each instance is another fencing lesson, a reminder to put on our armor and keep our guard up.
This does not mean we must forego love and trust, shut everyone out. To the contrary, it means that we should open our hearts…but only to those who will do the same, in turn. We must be wise and cautious.
Love and friendship are worth finding. They need not be “purchased” at the expense of safety and self-respect. That price is too high.
“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6: 11).
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