Thursday, 13 March 2008

How it feels to be a victim of child abuse

I just want to explain, if I can, how it feels to be a victim of child abuse. I was a victim of incest, and also of institutional abuse. I think, although both left terrible emotional scars, the institutional abuse has left the deepest scars.

First of all, to have someone do things to your body which feel uncomfortable or wrong is very upsetting. I can remember as a child feeling very shy of other people seeing my naked body. This personal modesty is a natural feeling, quite normal, as far as I can tell, and a normal part of growing up. Very small children do not feel this, it comes as the child grows.

To have your own personal space violated against your will, to have someone touch you where you do not want to be touched, it is very distressing. I remember when I was violated, feeling shame and humiliation. I was violated in this way over a two year period. I felt dread and sick to think of what was to come. I tried to block it out of my mind. I felt guilty for not telling my parents. I felt too frightened to tell my parents. I wanted to hide under the blankets, I used to pretend to be asleep when he came to get me. That didn't work, he used to poke me until I moved. He would tell me to come to his room in five minutes. If I did not go, he would come back and poke me, if I was pretending to be asleep, until I gave in. This made me feel that I was complicit in the arrangement, because I was walking to his room by myself, of my own accord. But I was frightened that my parents would wake up, and find out what was going on. I did not want him to get into trouble, because he was my brother. I did not like what he was doing, but I did not know how to make it stop without him being in serious trouble. It was a terrible situation, and one which an eleven year old does not have the mental capability of dealing with.

I blamed myself for what happened to me for over 20 years. That seems incredible to me now, but apparently it is a pretty normal reaction in incest victims. I didn't know any other incest victims until pretty recently, so I felt like some kind of wierd alein creature.

The institutional abuse was more terrifying. I never feared that my brother would kill me, but I certainly feared for my life in the Pindown children's home. I did feel that I was in the power of evil, and that anyone could do anything to me. I had been subjected to a forced internal examination at Stafford police station. That was a dreadful ordeal, made even worse by the fact that I had never had one of those internal examinations before, so I thought that the clanking noises that I heard was the doctor inserting sharp knives into my vagina. There were four uniformed policemen present at this examination, they were there because I had refused to have this examination, and they told me that they would hold me down on the table if I did not comply. They were by the open door, I could hear them laughing and joking as the doctor performed the internal. A policewoman was also present, she stood at my side, I could see her face, I remember her pretty face, she was not smiling. I will never forget that day. It was the most humiliating and frightening thing I have ever experienced. Because I had no idea what an internal examination was, I was shocked when I heard the sound of metal inside me, no-one explained the proceedure to me, and I was terrified that if I moved the doctor might stab me inside of me. We had covered the history of England at school, and in my school text books I had seen graphic images of the guillotine and hanging, drawing and quartering, so what was going through my mind at the time was so horrific, because I was a child, and had a child's mind and imagination.

When I was locked in a cell at the Pindown home, I was with strangers. I did not know a single person at that place. I was terrified. I found a suicide letter from another girl, she told me that the people in the home were having sex with her, that her own father had done disgusting things to her and that the people in the home were also doing things. It was terrible finding that letter, I felt trapped. I just knew I had to get out of that place. I attacked everyone who tried to get into the cell, and I soiled the cell. In the end, they called in the psychiatric hospital, who took me away. There were also abusers at the hospital, but there were also people who were not abusers, so it was relativly safe, but like a haven compared to the hellhole I had escaped from. I remember the relief and joy I felt when I saw my social worker, come with the psychiatric hospital people, to take me out of that place. She was a familiar face, it was a relief to have someone who at least knew my parents.

To be put into a psychiatric hospital at the age of 13 is very humiliating. I have felt like a total loser for a good deal of my life. It prevented me from getting a decent job, I have only been able to get very low paid work, no matter how hard I work, no matter how much I give. I have felt like a dreg, a useless, stupid person. My parents were also ashamed of me, because of the stigma of having a daughter who was in a mental institution at the age of 13. They were once so proud of me, I passed my 11 plus and went to Grammer school, I had a promising future ahead of me. But because of the abuse, I turned into the black sheep of our family. I felt I was bad, but could never really work out what I had done wrong. To condemn myself meant that I had to condemn everyone else! So I suffered terrible depression for years. I still have panic attacks, there are times when I have such a vivid memory of the past that it shuts me down, I will burst into tears for no apparent reason, or pass out, or feel nausia, or vomit.

This is my personal account of how it feels to be a victim of child abuse.


Geoff Brown said...

Thank you for your bravery in sharing this painful history. One theme I notice is the secrecy and shame. Many people forget that abused kids are often very hesitant to tell what's really happening to them. Teachers, who are supposed to watch for signs of child abuse in their students, also forget this. So they make serious blunders when they talk to students who may be abused. For this reason we worked with a former Minnesota police detective to write an online role-playing course which lets teachers rehearse a conversation with a possible child abuse victim. I would be very interested in your feedback -- as well as comments from others in your situation. There's a free version as well as a paid CEU-credit version for teachers. Again, thank you for sharing your story. This only deepens my commitment to stopping child abuse in our communities.

Anonymous said...

This is an amazing blog.

You can related to these children, but also can express to us, what it feels like to be an abused child.

This is a priceless gift.

norman said...

What a truly harrowing story and I am eager to know what happened to your abusive brother if he went on to abuse others as this is quite often the case with incestuous abusers. I too have a similar story to tell but my abuser was my brother and may also explain why I am gay.

Zoompad said...

Yes, my brother did go on to abuse other people. He abused his wife and children. She left him, and his son had to have psychiatric help. He told me that himself, they got in touch with me recently. I felt really guilty when I found out what his son had gone through, I felt that somehow it was my fault, of course thats nonsense. I blamed myself for the abuse and that doesnt make sense but thats how I felt. I think it woulkd have been too painful to blame him, because, in spite of what he did to me, I loved him, because he was my brother.