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Because this blog features stories of interpersonal and sexual violence, we offer this *content warning* as a way of caution. We also ask that you do not reproduce any of the content below, as the authors of these personal stories are anonymous, and cannot give consent for their stories to appear anywhere other than this blog or at a Project Dinah-led SpeakOut event.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

I tried for a long time to twist my emotional reaction to my being sexually abused as a child into something positive, thinking, "I would never hurt anybody the way that I was hurt", "I am sexually experienced/desired/desirable" (eventhough, in the past I have typically avoided or felt conflicted about situations involving touch), "I won't put myself in a situation where I can get hurt--I'll just be really responsible" (aka--not drink/do drugs, not get too attached in relationships).

In my family, my siblings and I were encouraged to see the bright side of any situation. We didn't have a vocabulary to talk about negative feelings, and for me that meant the inability to deal with these feelings.

I am working with a counselor to help me as I try to identify, understand, and overcome the obstacles that I have faced in the past, and to some extent in the present. It has been difficult and necessary for me. It is difficult to identify needs that I feel have not been met, like support from my family (who didn't know that the abuse had occurred--but who I told over the past summer), like the need to experience physical touch, and the need to believe in myself and actions. It is painful to think that I haven't had these things for so long and have had to cope on my own. I feel that this process is simultaneously necessary because in the present and future I want to have these needs honored and met.

I'm also trying to reconnect with my body. I've had a good share of digestive issues in college, which are probably related to stress in school and in relationships. I have had a lot of internal conflict over the years--it's hard to believe that it has been over 16 years since I was abused--and I think that my body has been affected by all of my struggles. I have been doing some yoga and deep breathing which is helping me feel relaxed. I'm also trying to pay attention to how my body reacts in certain situations, like when I have doubts about a course of action that I plan on taking (like post-graduation plans). My counselor is encouraging me as I do this work, and has helped me reach out to my parents and other sources of support.

I'm putting a lot of energy and effort into myself at this stage of my life. I think that I should feel selfish for doing that. But the truth is, that I don't feel selfish and I don't feel that I'm some sort of evil unloving woman (like I once thought I was). To my surprise, my family and friends have been supportive of me and even re-affirm my needs to focus on myself and what I want to do. It's bizarre to me, because for so long I thought that the only way to "fix" myself was through service to others. Somedays I still find myself being attentive to the needs of those who I care about, and somedays I focus exclusively on myself.

I have a lot of work to do still, and it is the kind of work that I want to do for my own sake, primarily, and secondarily for those who care for me in the present and future (a grouping that also includes myself).

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