Submitted by rnbrucker
[Head of a puma on tessellated background that alternates between dark purple and dark blue. Top text “ Experience triggering material and take it in stride ” Bottom text “ Have nightmares later that night ”]
The other day, a friend posted something on Facebook about how I give the best hugs, and how he now gives other people hugs because of me. Someone else replied with “I agree. That man is pure sunshine”. It was…too much for me. There is this dissonance here, because although I put up this front of being happy and bright, the way I feel inside is usually the opposite. It is hard to explain to other people how abuse changes you. Yes, you can live in the moment and enjoy what’s going on around you, but there is still something hovering over you all the time. It’s always there.
This is why I don’t understand how people can see me as someone who is so happy and positive. It’s like they are seeing this part of me that doesn’t exist. Or maybe it does exist, but I can’t accept it. When happiness happens, it’s an abnormality— it’s not what is usually there.
“Survivors are innately more capable of enjoying life. It’s not that other people can’t. We just…see things differently. We have the biggest smiles because we had to pretend, sometimes for years, or just in that moment, that everything was okay. Maybe, as much as I hate being noticed, as much as I hate being loved, people see that in me. Maybe people see that in you, too.
It’s okay to have feelings now. They might not all be “appropriate”, but they’re you’re feelings, and so they are.
It’s okay to hurt. It’s okay to hurt a lot. But it’s also good to celebrate.”
and we just want sleep
but this night is hell
i’m sick and sunk and i blame myself
because i make things hard
and you’re just trying to help
i got no gas, i’m winding out my gears
this is one more day on the verge of tears
and now my head hurts and my health is a joke
now i’ve got to stop because the headphones broke
1. Fear of being alone in the dark, of sleeping alone; nightmares (especially of rape, pursuit, threat, entrapment, blood);
2. Swallowing and gagging sensitivity;
repugnance to water on face when bathing or swimming (suffocation feelings)
3. Poor or distorted body image; alienation from, not at home in, failure to heed signals or take care of body; manipulating body size to avoid sexual attention; compulsive cleanliness, incl. bathing in scalding water; or, total inattention to personal appearance or hygiene
4. Somatization, stress-related diseases: gastrointestinal problems, GYN disorders (including spontaneous vaginal infections); headaches;
arthritis/joint pain; fibromyalgia. Also internal scarring. Aversion to doctors (esp. gynecologists, dentists)
5. Wearing a lot of clothing, even in summer; baggy clothes;
failure to remove clothing even when appropriate to do so (while swimming, bathing, sleeping); extreme requirement for privacy when using bathroom
6. Addictions, eating disorders, drug/alcohol
overuse/abuse/or total abstinence; compulsive behaviors (including busyness)
7. Self-injury (cutting, burning, etc.) (physical pain is manageable) (this is an addictive pattern); self-destructiveness
8. Phobias, panic, anxiety
9. Need to be invisible, perfect,
or perfectly bad
10. Suicidal thoughts, attempts, obsession (including “passive suicide”)
11. Depression (sometimes paralyzing); seemingly baseless crying; sadness
12. Anger issues: inability to recognize, own or express anger; rage; fear of rage (actual or imagined);
constant anger; misdirected anger, intense hostility toward entire gender or ethnic group (“race”) of the perpetrator
13. PTSD symptoms, including shock or shutdown in crisis (stressful situation always = crisis); psychic numbing. “Hysterical” symptoms: physical pain, paralysis, numbness associated with particular memory, emotion (e.g. anger) or situation (e.g. sex). See also flashbacks in item 26.
14. Rigid control of thought process;
humorlessness or extreme solemnity
15. Childhood hiding, hanging on, cowering in corners (security-seeking behaviors); adult nervousness over being watched or surprised; feeling watched; startle response; hypervigilance
16. Inability to trust (trust is not safe); absolute trust that turns to rage when disappointed;
High risk taking (“daring the fates”); inability to take risks
18. Control, power, territoriality issues; fear of losing control; obsessive/compulsive behaviors (attempts to control things that don’t matter, just to control something!); power/sex confusion (see also #27)
19. Guilt/ shame/ low self-esteem/ feeling worthless/ high appreciation of small favors by others
20. Pattern of being a victim (victimizing oneself after being victimized by others), especially sexually; no sense of own power or right to set limits or say “no;” pattern of relationships with much older or more powerful persons (onset in adolescence); OR
exaggerated sense of entitlement; revictimization by others (adult sexual violence, including sexual exploitation by bosses and “helping” professionals
21. Must “produce” to be loved; instinctively knowing, doing what the others need or want;
relationships = big tradeoffs
22. Disturbances in attachment;
abandonment issues; desire for relationships with no separateness; avoidance/fear of intimacy
23. Dissociation: blocking out some period of early years (esp. 1-12), specific person, place, event; creating fantasy worlds, identities (incl. women imagining self to be male, = not a victim);
Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) (was MPD)
24. Feeling of carrying an awful secret; urge to tell/ fear of its being revealed; certainty that no-one would listen. Being generally secretive. Feeling marked (the scarlet letter)
25. Feeling crazy; feeling different; feeling oneself to be unreal and everyone else to be real, or vice versa; cognitive problems
26. Denial (no awareness); repression of memories; pretending; minimizing (“it wasn’t that bad”); strong, deep, “inappropriate” negative reactions to a person, place or event; flashbacks, which may occur as dreams, or sensory flashes (a brief image or feeling) with no meaning; or memories of surrounding details but not event or identity of abuser. Memory often begins with least threatening event or abuser. Details of experience may never be fully or accurately known, but much recovery is possible without full recall. Your inner guide will release memories at the pace you can handle (see also #13, #23)
27. Sexual issues: sex feels “dirty;” aversion to being touched; strong aversion to (or need for) particular sex acts; feeling betrayed by one’s body; trouble integrating sexuality and emotionality;
confusion or overlapping of affection/ sex/dominance/ aggression/ violence; having to pursue power in sexual arena which is actually sexual acting out (self-abuse, manipulation [esp. women]; abuse of others [esp. men]); compulsively “seductive,” or compulsively asexual; must be sexual aggressor, or cannot be; impersonal, “promiscuous” sex with strangers concurrent with inability to have sex in intimate relationship (conflict between sex and caring); prostitute, stripper, “sex symbol” (Marilyn Monroe), porn actress; sexual ”acting out” to meet anger or revenge needs; sexual addiction; avoidance; shutdown; crying after orgasm; pursuit feels like violation; sexualizing of all meaningful relationships; erotic response to abuse or anger, sexual fantasies of dominance/ real rape (results in guilt and confusion); teenage pregnancy. Note: Homosexuality is not an aftereffect!
28. Pattern of ambivalent or intensely conflictual relationships (abuse is familiar; also, in true intimacy, issues are more likely to surface; in problem relationships, focus can be shifted from real issue of incest). Note: Partner of survivor often suffers consequences of Post-Incest Syndrome also (especially sex and relationship issues)
Avoidance of mirrors (connected with invisibility, shame/self-esteem issues; distorted perceptions of face or body, DID)
30. Desire to change one’s name (
to dis-associate from the perpetrator or take control through self-labeling)
31. Limited tolerance for happiness; active withdrawal from/ reluctance to trust happiness (ice = thin)
32. Aversion to noise-making (including during sex, crying, laughing, or other body functions); verbal hypervigilance (careful monitoring of one’s words); quiet-voiced, especially when needing to be heard
(adults); fire-starting (children)
34. Food sensitivities/avoidance based on texture
(mayonnaise) or appearance (hot dogs), which remind the survivor of abuse, [its sensory stuff] or smell/sound which remind survivor of perpetrator; aversion to meat, red foods
35. Compulsive honesty or compulsive dishonesty (lying)
36. Hypervigilance regarding child abuse,
or inability to see child abuse, or avoidance of any awareness or mention of child abuse; tendency to develop relationships with incest perpetrators
37. Personality disorders, characteristics; Psychiatric illness (NOTE: Post-Incest Syndrome is often misdiagnosed as these)
Let’s talk about privilege.
Usually when we think of privilege, it’s simple things like your parents giving the privilege to drive their car, or having the privilege to go to school or not go hungry. But privilege is much more than that— it’s about the everyday, ordinary things in our lives that we take for granted. A black person, for example, cannot go to the mall without being followed by security (because all black people are shoplifters, or course). A white person doesn’t have to worry about that— they can go to the mall and be perfectly fine. Similarly, many women cannot walk down the street without having people yell sexist things out of passing cars. A man can walk down the street and think about puppies and kittens. That’s what privilege is— you can do ordinary things without harassment or without feeling self-conscious or unsafe, and you won’t even notice it as something extraordinary.
The other day, a friend told me about how she was hanging out with some friends when they suddenly started telling jokes— jokes about sexually abused children. The thing about privilege is, you can do or say things about other people under the assumption that those people are not present. Or, if they were present, their opinion and their feelings wouldn’t matter anyway. This is all, of course, in spite of those very inconvenient statistics that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men have been raped, molested, or sexually abused.
Privilege is also about convenience; the conscious and sometimes subconscious desire to ignore issues or problems. A white person can say things like “hey, let’s all just be color-blind. People are just people” because they’ve never been made to feel like less than a person because of the way they look. A person who hasn’t been sexually abused can say “Why is the internet signal in here so retarded and gay?” (answer: because it was abused as a child), all without even realizing that if there are at least six people in the room, it’s pretty likely that someone is going to be hurt by what you say. For you, it’s a joke— but for that person, it’s an experience or multiple experiences that are so horrible that they’d rather die than have to relive them.
The fact is that you probably know a friend or a family member who has been sexually abused. Maybe they’ve even considered telling you about their experience before— at least, they did until you shut them out with your rape jokes. How many people in your life will never be able completely trust you, will never feel safe around you because of that? 10? 20? 30? It could be your mother, your brother, your daughter, or your best friend.
You might never know.
Following in the steps of Peggy McIntosh, I am going to generate a list of “I-wasn’t-sexually-abused” privileges. When we think about privilege, we should ask ourselves these questions:
- What can I do, say, or feel safely that others cannot? Would people of other groups be able to do these safely?
- If I speak out about how I feel or voice my opinion, will others take me seriously? What if I was in X group or minority?
- Are people of my group equally represented in popular media?
- Do I ever feel like I have to “prove myself” to other people because I am different?
- Do I ever look at other people and envy what they have or can do?
- Are my needs being met when I express them?
You might notice that the majority of the following privileges are about safety, sexuality, love, and power—it makes sense when sexual abuse is so much about powerlessness and violation of private/personal space, and so much of it takes place under the pretense of love.
Just as a disclaimer: this list is not meant to completely represent anyone. We all have different experiences with sexual abuse, and I am sure that no one fits everything on this list. It’s not meant to be an explicitly universal thing— it’s just meant to point out the things that people who are not sexually abused may take for granted. In terms of other intersectionality, I am aware that some of these problems (such as the ones related to bodies, for example) may also be shared by people who experience different forms of oppression. These are not meant to be exclusive or to imply any one experience of sexual abuse.
“I wasn’t-sexually-abused” privileges:
When I am on a school trip, at a conference, on the road, or in similar situations, I rarely feel unsafe if I have to stay at a friend or even a stranger’s house.
I am comfortable watching popular media portrayals of abuse, kidnapping, sexual assault, rape, molestation, or murder; if these things do bother me, it is because of my moral beliefs, not because it is personal.
I can easily trust people.
If I am in a public place and a person stands behind or near me, it does not make me feel unsafe.
I can make crude jokes about sexual abuse or rape with my friends.
I feel safe around other people when I am in a crowded space, such as an elevator, stairwell, or train.
I am not regularly scared or shaken by shouts, bangs, sirens, thunder, or other loud noises. If this does happen, I can easily laugh it off.
- People can trust me to take care of their children without worrying about whether or not I will abuse them.
If I have children, I can easily trust family members, friends, teachers, or babysitters to take care of them.
- I can take care of children without worrying about potentially abusing them.
If I am gay, people do not ask me if it is because I was sexually abused.
I can rely on and trust every person in my family.
Family reunions, the holiday season, and other family gatherings are happy occasions for me.
I believe that I am a good person and that I deserve to be loved.
If I am in the bathroom, my room, or another small, private space, I feel safe enough to leave the door unlocked.
I do not regularly have unexplained bouts of anger, depression, or fear.
Although I occasionally might want to be more healthy, I generally believe that my body is okay and that there isn’t anything wrong with it.
I can trust my body to behave the way that I want it to.
I feel safe and comfortable drinking alcohol, taking mind-altering drugs, or undergoing medical procedures where i may be anesthetized. If I am uncomfortable with these, it is because of a fear of uncertainty— not because I am afraid of losing control of my body.
I can trust my mind to remember things accurately.
I do not have gaps in my memory where I’ve lost time or can’t remember anything.
I have never felt or rarely feel as if there is something terrible, evil, or wrong with who I am as a person.
- If I have had an abortion, it was because of economic, social, or other personal reasons— not because I felt as if something terrible, evil, or wrong was growing inside of me, or because I did not want to be reminded of someone on a daily basis.
I can have a healthy sex life.
When I do have sex, I never have to suddenly stop or ask my partner to stop because it has brought up bad feelings or memories.
I can go to parties and kiss, make out with, or engage in sexual acts with strangers and not feel violated.
I am comfortable and confident enough to have one-night stands.
I feel safe enough for sexual experimentation with my partner, even in situations which could reduce my control, such as BDSM.
I believe that I will someday find the “right person” for me. In fact, I even look forward to it.
- I believe that relationships can be loving and kind.
- I believe in “true love”.
I have lost or will lose my “virginity” under the circumstances of my choosing, with the person I want(ed) to be with.
When I date someone, I don’t try to “buy” their love with lots of gifts and presents because I am afraid of losing them.
- I have good memories of and feelings about my childhood.
I feel like I had a childhood.
I can live and sleep alone and not feel unsafe.
I can sleep in the same bed as someone else and not feel unsafe.
- I am not afraid of falling asleep for fear of having bad dreams or nightmares.
I feel safe sleeping in the dark.
I can watch heterosexual couples and not be afraid for the woman in the relationship.
I can watch children playing with adults and not be afraid for them.
I feel safe and comfortable speaking with adults, teachers, priests, pastors, professors, police, and other authority figures, even when I am alone with them. I trust these authority figures and never feel as if they have ulterior motives or bad intentions.
I do not have moments when a sound, a word, a thing, a smell, a taste, a place, a movie, an act, or a person brings back unpleasant memories.
I can wear exposed clothing and feel comfortable doing so. I rarely feel like I need to cover myself up, or feel ashamed for looking “sexy”.
I do not cope with stress through an eating disorder, drugs, compulsive buying, or other bad habits.
Believing in God or a higher power is easy for me.
I like telling others about myself, my family, and my childhood.
I can hug, touch, kiss, shake hands with, or hold other people without feeling unsafe or awkward.
Bugs or other creepy crawlies creep me out, but they certainly don’t make me feel powerless.
When I make a mistake, I don’t expect violent consequences for it.
When people yell at me, I do not have panic attacks or freeze up in “fight or flight” mode.
I can ride roller coasters and watch scary movies. If I am afraid of these things, it is not because they put me back in a terrible place in my life.
I can go out alone at night and feel safe.
When I am sitting in a public place, such a restaurant, it doesn’t bother me if my seat leaves my back exposed.
I see medical procedures which involve touching my body, such as a dental exam, going to the gynecologist, or having a prostate exam, as normal and not something to be afraid of.
I am sure that there are more out there. Please feel free to add your own.
Edited: I made this list a lot less binary to reflect what I’ve learned about gender fluidity and Trans experience. I am still new to this— I’m trying my best! Please tell me if you see something problematic and I’ll try to fix it.
I also added a few things.
Edit 2: I made a small change to reflect a better understand of BDSM not as in a negative way “powerlessness”, but as empowerment through “simulated powerlessness” (thank you, delalyra). Also added something about drugs/loss of control (thanks for mentioning this, meeca).
Feeling like a huge drain on the people you love.
(for those that suffer from PTSD)
Some days you can tell right when you wake up that your PTSD will be bugging you all day. Other days it takes you by surprise.
submitted by mentalscubadiving
Needing a recovery day and everyone expecting you to fake happy and “normal” for their sake.
submitted by toranseisstrong
When people think that “triggered” means “offended” so they feel like they’re being “edgy” when really they’re pushing you over the “edge.”