My mother did not survive systematic sexual abuse. I did not survive systematic sexual abuse. Though our bodies presented as externally intact, functioning, we were—as all victims of sexual brutality are—forever altered in secret, energetic ways. And in places too dark, too unacceptable to articulate in this superficial, impatient society. So, we are termed “survivors.” A description as one dimensional as a cartoon cutout. And as lifeless as an abuse victim with that ten-mile stare enduring yet another flashback. A flashback triggered decades after the active abuse.
To be clear, systematic sexual abuse and its catastrophic consequences decapitated my life. Severed my sense of beauty. My joy in my plump, emerging feminine body. Severed my freedom to move gracefully like a delighted ballerina through familiar surroundings that had become treacherous.
The I—the girl I once knew before the abuse—was not the girl who survived. The girl that survived was someone different, unrecognizable…a ghost. Furtive. Broken. Scared. A folded girl. A girl, whose body was permanently altered. A girl whose body was stinging with shame so raw it felt like acid boiling beneath my skin.
When a victim of sexual brutality clutches onto survivorship as a path to wholeness, they automatically and energetically limit their evolution and restrict possibilities of deeply understanding the living impact of the imposed trauma.
Sexual abuse trauma changes a person forever. The person that was, will never return. The ghost that survives, that emerges after the war, must begin anew. Find ways to breathe. Eventually, if they are to thrive, victims of abuse must accept the reality that trauma must be perpetually managed. We have to learn to wrap our hands around the ghost. Wrangle it. Corral it. Shift away from it. Curse it. Learn from it. Pull out its truth. Build inner light. Develop strength. Enough strength to endure the flashbacks when they rush to us involuntarily.
It does not help me to congratulate myself that I am a survivor of sexual abuse. Because that’s not true. I didn’t survive. My body survived. But that’s not enough. I had to become my own superior force. That was a lot of work. And it still is.