Dissociated From Abuse

by James

I was sexually abused by my father from age 6 to 13, which stopped when I started talking about it during the day. The teenage brother of my best friend sexually abused me for several weeks when I stayed at their home aged 9. Months later the same brother carried out a more aggressive assault in the churchyard with the aid of some mates. I feel he did this to punish me for talking about the earlier abuse. This caused a stress reaction and my six-year-old self took over for a few days. Once I recognised an inconsistency in people and time, my 10-year-old personality regained control. I remembered the punishment itself only years later, but the psychological effects of it were felt immediately.

Age 11, my father would come by my bed after having bathed and wake me gently, telling me my mother would sleep since he had given her an extra pill and that I need not worry. I would look at my younger sister sleeping across the room and felt I had no option than to offer him some room. He would drop his dressing gown on the floor and get in my bed naked. I would notice how fresh he smelt, knowing he had done this for my benefit. I would start masturbating him, since he had not come for a cuddle and then it always seemed I fell asleep.

My therapist told me I may have used a psychological mechanism to avoid remembering the abuse and that may be why I seemed to fall asleep. In the morning I would wake and hear my father about. I would feel something bad should happen to him. He would say goodbye and order me not to tell my mother, since it would make her ill again and that would be my fault. I took that as a threat and later could not remember what the secret was.

I grew up feeling unsure of my sexual orientation and began having flashbacks of the abuse when I was 14. This usually occurred around male peers, including those I knew well. I was unable to attend same-sex school clubs, since I would become increasingly anxious with raised heart rate, abdominal cramps and excessive sweating. My best friend often tried to wrestle with me and I found this caused flashbacks and I was afraid I would hurt him.

The abuse stopped me from searching for paternal input in my development and I always rejected my father. When I was 15, I made friends with a man who lived a few miles away, and perhaps he could see I needed his support. I used to visit him frequently and stay with him and he visited me. I was aware of the possibility of a sexual motive on his part, but never saw anything that concerned me, so I grew to love him as I wish I could have loved my father.

Nowadays the internalization of the abusive teenager has lessened so much that I no longer feel fear nor have erections when I think about him. I can only wonder what he did to me, since I dissociated when I had been immobilised and knew I could not stop him. My next memory was of thinking about my father, since I desperately needed his help. Once he was finished, I would come round, crying on the floor and would hear him tell me to put on my clothes. He would threaten me, then let me out.

I used to blame myself for some of the abuse, and felt outside of my peer group. I wondered if I wanted to be raped and beaten by males. I was not thinking of my teenage abuser - that memory only surfaced when the teenager forced me to the floor during play with the other children. I find it difficult to engage in sex when I am on my back, even though my partner is female. I have nightmares through that night and keep us both awake.

When I was 17, my mother brought a 10-year-old boy to stay, and I found he was not in the least interested in either her or my sister. However, he would search me out and engage with me whenever possible. I was surprised at how relaxed and confident he was with me. At his age I would have become terrified if left alone with a 17-year-old male. My teenage abuser had done his work thoroughly and I felt that I should want to hurt the boy. I rejected this and accepted that he felt secure with me. This was a valuable learning experience for me and enabled me to engage easily with children in the future.

Only recently have I learned to see my inner child as an inquisitive and innocent boy, who was introduced to abusive sex and received inadequate parenting. I know he enjoyed sex with the teenager, since he missed that experience when he got home. He felt ashamed about that, but he was only reacting to something that the abuser had done and that he did not understand. I still do not know how I feel about my father's abuse, since I have the psychological and physical effects, but cannot remember most of it.

I remember when I was 8 and 9 my mother being in hospital. I would wake alone in my father's bed late morning, naked and feeling tired. I resented being used as substitute for my mother and would go and find my father and sister. When I was 18 my mother told me she found my father disgusting. I had known this already, but wonder who she thought he was having sex with over the years. My sister would not believe she did not know, and remembers my father having sex with me.

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