Today I glanced through a book to help young victims of sexual abuse and incest. The title had captured my attention - When does the hurting stop, or something like that. It needed one more chapter - on religion. More on that later.
I am a victim/survivor of sexual abuse. The abuse started when I was very little, but it never was the same person. It was more like I was extremely available; I'm betting I was so lonely that I did anything to please people, and some people took advantage of that. Because I loved to read fantasy and scifi, I figured out that I must be a succubus - a demon of sex - because no human I knew suffered this. I learned differently at 15. But even past that, I suspected that the reality was that I was a succubus.
It didn't put me off sex; in fact, one of the psychological scars is a sort of nymphomania - this is the reason people like me, so I'll do it alot and enjoy it. Which I do. I joke that I have a male libido. I know what boys (and men) like. I learned early. Scars on scars that shaped a personality. I know what girls like, too - the abuse was not limited to male predators.
I look back at myself, and at pictures of myself, and wonder. Predators like easy prey; I was not so much timid as very beaten, and easily manipulated. I feared loud voices and blame and would never tell on anyone if I had to back it up with proof. I had a lousy memory of events even as a child - but the memories of episodes of abuse are clear. They are vividly marked with shame and confusion and a sense of wanting to belong and wanting to be free of my family life. they shaped the way I communicated, it seems.
Emotion and the brain works together oddly. I won't remember posing for a picture in my little white indian dress, but I remember playing with the scab on my forehead while someone touched me; I distanced myself but knew what was going on.
The reason the book needed a chapter, however small, on religion is this: abusers either are in positions of authority in any given faith, or hide behind the faith to avoid repercussions. In my case, one of the abusers returned constantly to the faith of my parents and claimed his innocence or his contrition and was allowed access to children - including my own. One day, at a religious gathering, his wife spoke of how loving he was to her niece and how his son was a scumbag because he had been accused of fondling a little girl. I walked out shaking, in tears, furious. She carried on about how her niece spends hours with him in his bedroom and with the same breath, cursing his son (who was frankly just another victim of this man). My parents were aghast at my rudeness, and it was all I could do NOT to strangle that stupid bitch who defended this monster. I made it a point to never speak to her again. The religion defended this man, over me; I had to forgive, and this man had access to more children. Needless to say, I have never return to this religion. I hate all organized religion; nary a one has proven to defend a child against sexual abuse, or back a woman in her time of need against an abuser. I was left out in the cold, figuratively. And what kept me warm? That, yes, I was a succubus and I was happy in seducing men (and sometimes women). I embraced it, as a reaction to this horrifying hypocrisy my parents and their faith displayed.
But the scars remain, and in answer to the title of the book, the hurting never ends. You just learn to live with it, past it, and watch carefully how it shapes your thoughts, your personality and your life.