Lists of symptoms will never give us the depth of information we need to recognize the people around us who have hidden wounds from childhood sexual abuse. I think about this when I hear survivors describe themselves when they were in school
D was an organizer. An average student, she was full of charisma, part of every group, and always, always busy.
M was exceptionally aware of others. He got good grades and would do anything to help things run smoothly in class and on the playground.
F was a care-taker. She got high grades and was always helping those who were timid or seemed to be getting left behind.
R was active in nearly every school program or activity. He got high grades, but he didn’t have any close friends.
I was the student who jumped into every assignment and did everything I could to make it perfect. School gave me structure, routine, and rules that helped me thrive. I didn’t know it then – and neither did my teachers – but school was my safe place. Assignments kept my mind busy. Making a list of things to do and then checking them off made me feel in control.
All of us were abused. Our behavior was inflexible. Logic, punishment, rewards, grades, and our classmates’ responses wouldn’t have changed our responses. They came from a place much deeper than that… as though our life depended on it.
And that is how it felt even though none of us connected our responses and actions to our abuse. To us it felt like: this is who I am.
We seemed to be fulfilling our potential, but abuse creates blocks. It pours us into a mold of reaction rather than inner guidance.I didn’t recognize that until I opened the door to my healing. Then I got to embrace my authentic self instead of who I had become to survive my abuse.