by Caden Ceirdris
When I was twelve, I watched the sexually graphic teen film, “Kids” with my siblings. I remember being surprised when my sister described what happened in the end scene as rape. That it was rape to have sex with someone who was passed out, asleep.
It seems obvious, but in some unconscious part of my mind, I winced. What had been done to me might have been wrong too. Perhaps I also deserved boundaries, both legal and personal over my own body, at least equal to what my sister was willing to give a fictional girl. Yet there was no one in my life at that point who would have even suggested that, let alone validated my experience; I was trained to passively accept whatever my family did to me, and was condescended to when it came to my emotions.
I wasn’t asleep when my older brother sexually abused me, and as I’ve had to face the reality of my past, I came to realize that the rest of the family wasn’t either. They were conscious, they knew what was happening. Often only thin walls separated them from the abuse, but they built up greater walls in their minds to avoid my suffering.
I know today that our parents taught my brother everything he knew when they sexually abused both of us from infancy. Yet I remember when I was little, my parents warned me of creepy old men lurking at the movie theatre who liked to touch little boys. They never warned me about themselves, about my grandmother, my cousins or siblings.
At that same age, I attended the New Years party at my uncle’s house where our entire extended family was present. His house was large and elegant; I may have lost myself in exploring as I went upstairs to use the bathroom when I felt an arm wrap over my chest and I was pushed, struggling into a dark room. I could only see a dark outline behind me in the bathroom mirror while he violently jerked my body back and forth, humping me through my clothes. When he finished and left me there, I stumbled to turn on the light switch and washed my face.
As the tears and water began to dry, I couldn’t see myself either; I just became numb. Despite the pain in my neck, and the rush of emotions that had come minutes earlier, I forgot. I went back down to the party as if nothing had happened. I had to leave it behind in the bathroom sink, and move on into the life they were imposing upon me; it wasn’t mine, it wasn’t based on my feelings and rights and individuality. In a second, the world had reset itself, the crime was gone. It could have been any of them.
I see now that in the beginning of my healing it was easy for me to understand the abstract notions of what was wrong, how children should be treated. But as long as I clung to those second-hand notions without relating them personally, I remained completely alienated from myself and my own feelings, my own history. Likewise, I could say many self-empowering things, but the current of my thought processes would still lead to that abusive place unless I really examined and worked through each feeling and what it was telling me.
To step forward and say that yes, that was me, I was the one being sexually abused by my family, was a massive step. It’s helped me learn that today if something happens, I can respond naturally; I don’t have to dissociate, to keep going or pretend it hasn’t happened for someone else’s benefit.
As a child, the idea that other people had boundaries confused me. To hear that it was illegal to vandalize mailboxes or trespass on “private property” when apparently nothing that was ever done to me fit into that category. Other people, somewhere out there (“adults”) had rights and could hurt me in pursuit of them, but there was no recourse for me. But today I don’t need my sister or a film to tell me that I have, have always had an absolute right to my body and my personhood that so many worked hard to invalidate back then. I set my own boundaries where I feel comfortable.
I remember the fantasies I used to have, only a short few years ago, that I would go through some terrible event—a car accident that would leave me paralyzed from the waist down. Then for the first time in my life, my pain would be real. And it would be validated. Who could deny a wheelchair so easily as they could the emotional scars of childhood sexual abuse? But my self-destructive impulses led nowhere, and these fantasies always ended in my desperately trying to find a cure—trying to learn to walk again. Because that’s really what I wanted all along, to look in the mirror and be able to see my life, see my authentic childhood pain and finally know that it was real, to be validated; to be able to walk into a new life.
I’ve noticed lately that for the first time that I can remember, I do feel that validation. I feel secure in myself, I don’t have fantasies of dying or being in an accident. I imagine myself, as me, starting from where I am now and making real progress. Because my imagination has lined up with my physical reality more then ever before.
Now that you’ve heard my experience and thoughts about this, I’d love to hear yours. Please comment below and don’t forget to subscribe to the comments so you can continue to participate in the discussion. If you would like to protect your privacy, you don’t have to use your real name. Email addresses are never made public.
The Lie of “Letting It Go”
Domestic Violence: Why Did I Stay?
What We Wish Our Parents Understood About Our Sexual Abuse
Why I Talk About My Childhood Abuse Over and Over
Male Childhood Sexual Abuse: Suffering in Silence
Caden Ceirdris a survivor of sexual, physical and emotional abuse, he blogs about his recovery at Proudly Sensitive. When he isn’t writing fiction and non-fiction, his other pursuits include photography, hiking, and tropical gardening.