Monthly Archives: February 2017

Red Carpet

Kim Kardashian on the red carpet, Sydney Australia, Author Eva Rinaldi, Source flickr.com (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)

Kim Kardashian on the red carpet, Sydney Australia, Author Eva Rinaldi, Source flickr.com (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)

Watch Kim Kardashian on the red carpet sometime.  She smiles.  She preens for the cameras, turning this way and that.  She eats up the attention.

Many abuse victims are just the opposite.  We shun the limelight, feel awkward and uncomfortable if the spotlight is turned on us.  Instead, we prefer to go unnoticed, to fade into the background – wallflowers by choice.

Why is this?  Why is the very thought of attending a children’s play, a PTA meeting, or church service daunting?  Why is it difficult for us simply to enter a room full of strangers?

Staying at home seems so much safer.

Rejection

If pressed, we are likely to say that we fear rejection.  Often, this centers around our looks.  Some feature of ours seems less than perfect to us.  Our nose is too large or our hips too wide.  We’ve been trying for the past 20 years to lose the baby weight.

If not that, perhaps something about the way we dress is inadequate, in our estimation – deficient enough so that the entire audience may gasp, and draw back from us in horror.

We do not actually believe that will happen.  But we fear it, all the same.  Fear does not require a rational basis.  Ask any child whether there is a monster in the closet.

Monsters

Still, there is a clue here.  We’ve known monsters.  Been criticized by monsters for “flaws” we did not have.  Been assaulted by monsters, beaten black and blue, for our supposed defects.  Been violated by monsters, in ways we were too young to understand, then blamed for the violation. Continue reading

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Filed under Child Abuse, Child Molestation, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Sexual Abuse

Lovelorn, Part 2

A single red tea rose, Author Brandy Cross (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

A single red tea rose, Author Brandy Cross (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

No child is morally culpable for having been sexually violated.

Tragically, child abuse can have a significant impact on sexual identity (the gender with which victims identify), sexual orientation (the gender to which victims are attracted), and sexuality (victims’ capacity for sexual feelings).

Unfortunately, whether out of modesty or embarrassment, Christians may find it difficult to discuss sex.  This difficulty is compounded for abuse victims.

Sexual Identity/Sexual Orientation

That the trauma of child molestation can impact sexual identity and sexual orientation makes intuitive sense.

As children, we can do little to vent the confusion, fear, shame, and rage abuse causes us.  At a deep level, we either adopt the manner and attitudes of our abuser or reject them.  The decision is not an intellectual one.  It is a matter of survival [1].

This is not to suggest that all victims of childhood sexual abuse are impacted sexually.  Nor is it to suggest that child molestation is the only factor impacting sex and sexuality.

Sexual Addiction (Pornography)

The victims of childhood sexual abuse tend to take one of two paths:  sexual addiction or sexual aversion.  Again, this is a generalization only.  Each individual is unique.

An interest in sex is, by itself, normal and healthy.  Sexual addiction is, by contrast, a compulsion to engage in sex.

In the context of abuse, sexual addiction is a desperate search for love and value, often confused with lax morals.  It is the futile attempt to fill a gaping emptiness inside with substitutes for intimacy.

However – and this is important – sexual addiction can, also, result from bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or borderline personality disorder.

There is a distinction between sexual addiction and pornography addiction [2].  Sex addicts crave partners; pornography addicts can satisfy their urges without a partner (for example, by using an x-rated video).  Sex addicts are more likely to be social; pornography addicts, more likely to be reclusive.

Pornography addicts may prefer the glossy perfection of an unresponsive image to the reality of a responsive partner.  Live partners require time and attention.  Centerfolds do not.  Live partners are flawed, and likely to discover the flaws in the addict.  With a video or magazine, the pornography addict is not confronted by his/her own shortcomings.  Continue reading

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Filed under Child Abuse, Child Molestation, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse

Lovelorn, Part 1

Chocolate box (

Chocolate box (“OK, not exactly the gift…”), Author Chrys Omori (CC BY-2.0 Generic)

Society glorifies romantic love, but is rather harsh toward those who do not succeed at it.  The lonely.  The heartbroken.  Unfortunately, many abuse victims fall into this category.  Strangers to real love, we tend to stumble in our pursuit of it.

There used to be advice columns for the lovelorn.  Miss Lonelyhearts – a Depression era novel by Nathanael West about such a column – has been the basis for several movies, an opera, and a Broadway play.

There is still a great deal of poetry written about lost love.  Just Google the topic.

These days, anonymous sex and hard core pornography are readily available.  Craigslist has discontinued its infamous “adult” section.  But ads for prostitution (included among them ads trafficking children) can easily be found online [1].

While pornography and anonymous sex reflect on the decadence and dehumanization of our society, they offer no real solution for problems of the heart.

Relationships – challenging enough for non-victims – can be a minefield for abuse victims.  This is an overview of the problems victims may encounter with relationships and intimacy.

Boundaries

Having been repeatedly violated, we are likely to have difficulty with boundaries.  We are either wholly without defenses or guarded by high walls.

The first (a total absence of screening, since our childhood boundaries were so often ignored) allows others to take advantage of us easily.  The second (over-compensation, in an effort to protect ourselves from further violation) makes it hard for anyone to approach us.

Trust Issues

Consistency and faithfulness were not modeled for us.  We, therefore, expect betrayal; see enemies where there are none.  This can result in needless insecurity, jealousy where there is no cause.

Even the most loving partner will tire of proving his/her devotion in the face of repeated, groundless accusations.

But accusations need not be limited to infidelity.  We may experience innocent statements as hurtful or insulting; may strike out at a partner who is at a loss to understand what s/he has done wrong.  We, in turn, may be at a loss to explain.

Control Issues/Violence

Of course, there are individuals who are genuinely controlling.  Abuse victims may, unconsciously, select for partners like this – responding to what is familiar to us from our families of origin. Continue reading

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Filed under Child Abuse, Child Molestation, Christianity, domestic abuse, domestic violence, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Prostitution, Rape, Religion, Sexual Abuse, Sexual Assault, Violence Against Women

Fighting Demons

Pittsburgh Steelers v. New England Patriots (2005) (CC BY-SA 3.0 Gen)

Pittsburgh Steelers v. New England Patriots at Heinz Field (2005), Author Bernard Gagnon (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

Fighting the demons of anxiety, depression, and PTSD is a little like playing football [1][2].  We make headway then lose ground.  But the fight never really ends, not the way a game of football does.  There is no score.

We win by surviving another day.

Across Decades

It can be enormously discouraging to wrestle with the scars of abuse, decade in and decade out.  Surely, we must after all this time have made progress.

But progress is not linear.  Despite the passage of time, and an extensive list of medications – not to mention therapy – familiar demons can resurface.

Factors Impacting Our Success

So, are anxiety, depression, and PTSD ever really “conquered”?  Can they, at least, be fought to a standstill?  The answer depends.

The factors include the length and severity of the trauma we sustained; our particular genetics; the quality and extent of our medical treatment; our psychological and spiritual resources; the emotional support we have available; and the other stressors to which we are subjected.

None of these can be quantified.  Most can and do vary over the course of a lifetime.

The Struggle

Why not just throw in the towel (to mix sports metaphors)?  After all, the struggle is exhausting.  The struggle, however, is life. Continue reading

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Filed under Child Abuse, Child Molestation, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Justice, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Poverty, Rape, Religion, Sexual Abuse, Sexual Assault, Sports, Violence Against Women