In an ideal world, teen years should include dating, shopping for new clothes, slumber parties, school football games, making new friendships, striving for a 4.0 grade average, the prom and crushes on your Biology teacher. Unfortunately, this isn’t an ideal world. It never has been. For those of us who experienced sexual abuse, in particular, incest, in our teens, none of the above came into our lives
First, I want to reiterate the definition of incest, the one I included in my program/book REPAIR Your Life:
“Webster defines incest as "sexual intercourse between persons too closely related to marry legally." It is a simple, almost clinical description that does not in any way imply trauma or abuse. The all-encompassing and often unspoken reality is much broader. Anyone in a position of power who coerces a person of lesser power into any sort of boundary violation dealing with their sexuality, either emotionally, mentally, or physically, is a sexual abuse perpetrator. This includes a grandfather who pins his granddaughter down while he fondles her breasts; a father who insists on watching his daughter, against her wishes, while she bathes; an older brother who forces his sister to do oral sex; and any other such boundary violation from the most minor to actual forcible entry and rape. It does not have to be a family member to have the same resultant despair. That despair, whether by a family member or an outsider, can be a life sentence of pain.”
When the abuser is a family member, the aftermath goes much deeper. Not only was our physical person violated in a painful way, the repercussions of the betrayal are much harder to deal with. We find ourselves unable to trust. We become hyper-vigilant during family get gatherings. If we have confided in a family member regarding what happened and they either refuse to believe us or chastise us for even bringing it up our pain intensifies. Now, not only are we hyper-vigilant and unable to trust, we become terrified and no longer able to talk about what happened. Why should we? We begin to think that we were in some way responsible.
In our sorrow and our anguish we find ways to hide our true selves. Aside from depression, anxiety and low self-esteem, we find other ways to cope: cutting or self-injury, eating disorders, addictions, acting out, manic-depressive behavior, obsessive, compulsive behavior patterns or chronic illnesses.
We feel helpless as we wait in hope that someone will rescue us. We’re not even sure what we need rescuing from since most of us have taken the trauma and locked it into a room in our minds, a room we do not dare open. Teenagers by nature are already going through so many changes, intellectual changes, hormonal changes, emotional changes and physical changes. Having to add a secret trauma to all of this is overwhelming. And where do we go for help? Who can we talk to?
There are some choices here. We are not as helpless as we feel. Taking strong action can empower us and enlighten us as to the right path to follow. Do you have a minister or a priest that you are particularly fond of that you can speak with? Is there a counselor at your school that you can confide in? Do you have another family member whose wisdom and discretion you value? Start making a list of all of your possible choices. This will get you on the right path. See if there is a Twelve Step program near you. Find the one that most closely fits your situation. CoDependents Anonymous is often touted as the primary Twelve Step program from which all others flow. That may be true. It is for people working to end patterns of dysfunctional relationships and develop functional and healthy relationships. There are others: Overeaters Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous, Alanon, and Adult Children of Alcoholics. Wikipedia.org has a complete list. Once you find the one that fits you, Google that particular 12 step up and find out if there is one close to you.
All of these suggestions put you on the right path. But only you can start the journey. You must have courage, fortitude and persistence. REPAIR For Teens will be out in a few weeks. Keep an eye on my Home page at www.thelamplighters.org for an announcement. Then order a copy and begin working the program. I am trying to get Lamplighter Chapters in high schools. It will be an uphill battle but someday I hope they’ll be in all high schools.
Good luck and email me if you need to talk. I want to hear your story and I am here to help.