In this society Child Sexual Abuse is not something people want to talk about so it can be very difficult to find reading material discussing it that is trustworthy and balanced. There are of course books written by survivors but in the phase I’m in right now it’s like I need a second opinion from a professional therapist or a third or fourth opinion for that matter.
It’s not about my trust in my therapist, it’s about my own questioning nature and operating in a kind of vacuum in my real life. I often think to myself that my therapist only believes me because she’s known me for 12 years and I often wonder what another therapist would think of my “story”. I wonder how normal my particular issues with abuse are and I wonder if I’m a freak from time-to-time. My therapist would of course say that I’m not but I need secondary validation.
So, I was searching the internet for information linking child sexual abuse to compulsive masturbation (yes I’m jumping right in here) and a book came up with a few references. I was able to view some excerpts online and they were enough to get my attention. Again, there are things that people are not comfortable talking about so when I find something that does discuss it, I pay attention.
I was very skeptical as I always am with books about CSA (I will be referring to Child Sexual Abuse as CSA in this post). You never know what ideas a person might have or on which end of the spectrum an author will fall. The last book I tried to read on the subject was so full of hatred for men that I couldn’t take the book seriously. But I also don’t want a book where the author believes all that crap about false memory. I also need a book that a layperson can understand. So, it can be complicated.
I was able to check the book out so I could test it instead of buying it not knowing if it was any good and I have to say that so far the book has blown my mind. It’s a third edition textbook specifically written for therapists and that’s good because it’s in understandable language and it’s based on decades of experience of someone who treats survivors of CSA.
I wanted to share some of the things that I’ve found interesting, things that made me feel less freakish and things that gave me something to think about. I don’t know if I’ll write all of it one post or not but I haven’t finished the book yet so we’ll see.
I have a very strange fantasy life that I find embarrassing to discuss even with my therapist. She actually knows very little of this life because I feel so weird about it, but when I read part of this book it discussed magical thinking and it was the very first time someone talked about what I do. I’ll share it here:
“Some adult survivors of CSA elaborate such magical thinking into fantasies of imaginary friends and family. Imaginary friends are not uncommon in young children, but they tend to become less usual in adulthood. The survivor may develop an imaginary friend as an alter ego, a representation of the person he wishes to be and yet feels he can never become…Survivors may embellish such imaginary companions into imaginary families, including children, which allow them to have quasi-relationships without having to engage in them in reality.”
One of the important aspects of this excerpt is that it talks about an alter ego, not an alter in the sense of DID. Yes I have DID but I also do exactly what is mentioned in that paragraph (minus the imaginary children)! I had to read that paragraph twice because I couldn’t believe someone had heard of other people doing that! I can’t tell you how that felt!
The incident that led to my initial internet search had to do with my attempt to jog some memories loose by seeing if the stories of other survivors spoke to me at all. I asked my therapist if she thought that was okay and she did because I wasn’t trying to trigger myself, only see if anything that happened to others rang some sort of bell. It’s happened before when reading a news story about an abuser blowing on a child’s stomach, so that was my basis for trying it.
However, reading the stories of other survivors ended with me drenched in guilt and shame and confusion. My reaction was so disturbing that I haven’t even told my therapist about it. But…then I read this:
“A particularly disturbing feature for some survivors is becoming aroused when thinking about or re-experiencing their own sexual abuse or when hearing stories or seeing pictures of other children being sexually abused…Such inappropriate arousal may lead to compulsive masturbation or inappropriate sexual behavior. Survivors are often deeply disturbed by such sexual arousal, as it evokes old feelings of shame, guilt and self-blame.”
Again, this is something that no one wants to talk about so I was relieved to see it in print and respected the author for not flinching from it.
For myself, this is what happens when I try to to read stories from other survivors when there are aspects of their story that are along the lines of what may have happened to me. I don’t feel that way about all stories, only specific details that seem to resonate with me and the feeling has nothing to do with the victim I’m reading about, instead it’s more like I become a victim in my head and my body reacts to those specific details.
I can’t tell you how awful and sick I felt feeling that way when someone else had suffered! I was horrified at myself. But reading that made me feel a little less freakish…not completely but a little.
There are a couple of more points I’d like to share so I will break this up into two posts…