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Fear

 You wouldn’t think a small word like “fear” could create such turbulent feelings in the life of a child sexual abuse victim.  You had to have been there to know why. Picture  it: An innocent child born in to a world where they have every expectation of a joyful life. After all, they’ve done nothing to engage anyone’s wrath; they are an innocent bystander in any wrongdoing. They didn’t choose their parents; they assumed God had chosen some good ones for them. It didn’t turn out that way.

Perhaps their father is an alcoholic and from a young age, they are snarled at, howled at, clipped across the head. They don’t know why. They don’t know what they have done wrong. A child is ego centered; therefore, they see everything as if they created it. They see their mother cry a lot and don’t know why that is happening. Fear settles into their tiny gut. They are living in an unstable world. Why is mom crying so much? Why does Daddy come home in a bad mood, stumbling into everything. The child becomes hyper-vigilant. They modify their behavior to stay out of dad’s way when he comes home drunk. Mom becomes both an enabler and a co-dependent. It’s the only way she can survive. The child too learns co-dependent ways to survive. They become a people pleaser. Does dad want them to make him a sandwich, open a beer, get him a jacket? They develop low self-esteem and have trouble setting boundaries. They feel responsible for their world but don’t comprehend the reason why. When they start school, they allow others to bully them. They are afraid to fight back, to stand up for themselves. They are fearful of everything. One day Dad entices them into his bedroom when he is drunk. There they learn the deepest of fears as they experience sexual abuse. If they thought their world was a nightmare before, they have now begun the granddaddy of all nightmares.

As they grow up, they learn more ways to cope. They become mom’s caretaker. Their world is filled with stress, with painful emotions and especially with fear. Fear consumes them. It becomes their life. They become hyper-vigilant. They start drinking at an early age; they begin smoking at the age of fifteen. They learn to deny the truth to themselves. That denial rules their life. Having indiscriminate sex is another way of blocking out the reality of what is happening. If Dad wants them for sex, it must be something good.  They can manipulate others into wanting it from them as well. A pattern emerges, one that follows their days. The underlying emotion is fear.

As they approach adulthood, they obsess on relationships, they learn to lie, they dabble with drugs, becoming dependent on them as well. Their world is more than a nightmare. It becomes the norm for them. Where is the motivation to change their life when they don’t see the truth of what has happened; they have been set up. Instead of the joyful life they anticipated while waiting in their mother’s womb, they live in a world filled with dread and fear. They might not realize that fear rules their life. They don’t know anything else. They have no idea how a healthy and self- assured person acts or feels. All they know is what they have learned from a mother and a father who were also set up. In time, they will duplicate their parent’s lives. A child learns from what he sees.  It’s not a fair world. Fear rules most of it.

Whatever you put your attention on grows. If you are a child sexual abuse victim, don’t let fear get the best of you. You are in charge of your mind. You can take your attention away from any fearful memories or feelings and put it in a place of peace, a place of joy. We all have some of those. Put your attention on something good and it will grow.