This article is the beginning of a series of reflections on this scourge that torments us and at the same time a tribute and a dignity for all those people who have suffered in their flesh the pain, confusion and silence that surround this phenomenon so abundant in our society, as unknown.
Indeed an estimated one in five boys (much more common among girls) has been sexually abused as a child, Domestic violence is clearly predominant. According to data from the ANAR foundation, the figure of the father still predominates among the aggressors, reaching 32% of the number of cases where the aggressor is the male parent.
We reiterate that we do not want to refer to theoretical studies on the causes and consequences of childhood sexual abuse, but we want to put ourselves in the role of the victim and think from their own skin. This series of articles is the result of years of therapy with abused people of all ages who want to make their voices heard and their experience and pain felt.
This is why we will start by thinking about what I call “the fog”, inspired by the title of the book by Joan Montané and his collaborators, “When we were dead”. Like so many other childhood abuses, the victim remembers what happened in a confused, hazy way or does not directly remember.
The “fog” of child abuse
The first act of respect for someone who was sexually abused as a child is to understand, to understand that the first thing they don’t understand or understand is the victim themselves. And what “grown-up” and scholarly phrases like, “she’s not even sure what happened!”, “Why hasn’t she explained it before?” … they are the last stone of the psychological and moral coffin in which the victims of violence live.
The first person who doubts, who blames himself for not defending himself, for not explaining it, is the victim himself.. The memory, if there is one, I repeat, is hazy, where often only the feeling is memorized, not so much the facts, and many others quite simply nothing is remembered.
As with other types of trauma, the person may forget and in fact forget about the abuse. The brain, thanks to an effective defense system, “dissociates”, “disconnects” from what has happened in different ways.
On many occasions, they may remember the smell, atmosphere or sounds of the moment the violence took place and be unable to remember the images of it, or vice versa, be able to recognize the feelings being felt at the time, but not the exact one. events that caused them. We can also find instances where there is a clear memory of telling a loved one what the abuser was doing to them, and instead not having a direct memory of living with them.
Child’s brain is disconnected to avoid pain. In the face of prolonged impotence, the dorsal wave system is activated, which triggers the process of immobilization, freezing, leading to an experience where the behavior of the emotion dissociates. This dissociative mechanism allows you to continue to survive contact with the aggressor.
The child, depending on the age, with more or less intensity and with more or less confusion, is born during a sexual or genital activation, at an age when either he has not developed sufficiently biologically, or he does not have the certainty of what is happening. Keep in mind that the abuser is almost always a parentage, often emotional, to the child.
The problematic management of discomfort
Affection, bond, affection, sexual activation, sensory overflow … everything is intertwined, it is all very difficult to organize, especially when it seems not to happen and no one is talking about it.
This person, the abuser, is meant to be protective and actually believes in loving the boy or the girlIt is therefore understandable that this child does not want to lose this affection, this affection, this bond; so that what is happening “is not bad” even though there are times when the victim comes to feel it as bad. Or, to put it another way, if it is a bad, inappropriate thing, the “bad” or the “terrible” cannot be the adult figure. In other words, the only plausible explanation for the child’s mind is that the “bad” or “the one who causes this evil” is himself.
In our vast experience, in the vast majority of child abuse cases, the victim, when she glimpses the lived experience, is perceived as guilty, as responsible.
To this must be added the answers, often very disappointing for the mother, or for the father or the grandfather when the child explains what makes him a member of the same family or an emotional close friend. He usually ignores, ignores the received message, forgets the crime heard. Either because it is intolerable to assume the illness of the child, to look at oneself and to assume the lack of vision, or because the good of the family institution predominates, and finally, the “thing of the children” is used. Impossible “… while the victim internalizes the fact that explaining what is happening endangers the family structure or destroys a family member in the immediate social environment.
Mr. J. Horowitz goes so far as to say that one of the reasons for unconsciously forgetting memories of abuse has nothing to do with nothing more and nothing less than “preserving the love of others”, namely of the person to whom it is said. or of the person who committed the abuse.
Imagine the “fog” of confusion in which the child lives and which will continue to add magical and dysfunctional explanations. and always canceling out and underestimating for the rest of his life. We will continue to reflect and delve into this question in future articles.
Author: Javier Elcarte, psychologist specializing in trauma. Founder and director of Vitalitza.