Tag Archives: disclosure of abuse secret

In the Wake of a Tiger

Facial markings on “Sultan” (T72), Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve, India, Author Dibyendhu Ash (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

“Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night…
What the hammer? What the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil, what the grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?”

The Tiger, William Blake

“How do you do? I’m an incest survivor.” You don’t hear that often. When should abuse victims first introduce the subject of abuse into conversation with friends and acquaintances [1]?

It is, of course, up to victims whether or not to disclose the fact of their abuse. We tend to err in one direction or the other – disclosing to strangers, before a sufficient degree of intimacy has been established to support discussion of such personal subject matter, while keeping the abuse entirely secret from friends (even spouses), sometimes for decades.

Victims can choose the setting, and establish parameters for this conversation. We can speak with one individual or several. “There’s something about me I’d like you to know.” “Let’s take a walk (or sit here for awhile, before the others get back).” “This is hard for me to talk about.” “It would be easier, if you asked specific questions (or didn’t ask questions, right now).”

But the topic of abuse makes people uncomfortable. No doubt about it. Few people unfamiliar with abuse – physical, emotional, sexual or neglect – will know how to respond to such information, at the outset.

Not that any sort of etiquette applies. Still, do they ask for more details? Or would questions be intrusive, insensitive? Should they hide their discomfort, move the conversation along to a less personal topic, as if abuse had not been mentioned? Or should they express shock, reach out to us – appalled that we would have suffered to such an extent?

Keeping silent allows some victims to ignore the painful reality of their abuse. A few will attempt to build a life on this fragile foundation. But the victims of a tiger attack will inevitably reveal their scars. We may as well enlist the aid of friends and relations in dealing with those scars…or, at any rate, attempt to do so. Continue reading

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

Intimacy and the Real Self

As abuse victims, the majority of us have trust issues.  Intimacy, in other words, is a challenge for us. Lovers are likely to be selected for their inability to permit intimacy (or might as well be). The closer they get to us, the greater the chance they will run.

In the agony of trying to hold onto someone unwilling to commit, we lose sight of one essential fact. The closer they get, the greater the chance we will run. The attraction evaporates.

Our trust issues may be such that we cannot even allow for friendships. If we have managed to form valued relationships, we may still keep friends at arm’s length. While we need not fear or distrust genuine friends, it can be difficult for us to believe friends would remain loyal, if they knew all our flaws.

Our “true” selves.

Safety Zone

Painful as it is, abuse victims often rely on distance – geographic and emotional. Intimacy can be so unfamiliar it makes us nervous. Distance provides us a “safety” zone within which our secret selves live.

There is no actual safety in such a zone. It is merely a no man’s land with which we surround ourselves. Isolation takes the place of barbed wire, keeping us in and others out.

The Secret Self

Secrets can flourish within that zone. We need not explain the myriad after-effects of abuse (after-effects for which we may have been rejected in the past, for which we may despise ourselves).

We need not explain our eating disorders or sexual difficulties.  We need not explain what has compelled us to sleep with “so many” – or “so few” – men (or women, for that matter). We need not explain our complex reasons for remaining in abusive relationships – reasons we may not fully understand ourselves.

The Hidden Self

None of these secret flaws – these “terrible” aspects of what we view as our true selves – is harmful to others [1].

Strangely, we take no notice of our many positive qualities. It is as if these qualities were invisible to us, hidden in the same way we hide the worst details of the abuse and its after-effects from others. Continue reading

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Filed under Child Abuse, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Prostitution, Sexual Abuse, Violence Against Women