Friday, April 8, 2011

CSAAM April 2011 - In the Mind of Pain and Shame

[ This is my contribution in the month long campaign against Child Sexual Abuse. To read and know more about it, the views and tips shared by many others throughout this month, hop onto the CSAA blog. ]

Sex, abuse, children, pain, shame, fear, life-long mental agony. These are the things that come to mind when I hear, Child Sexual Abuse.These are my perceptions, my ideas. And I doubt they are very different from anyone else's, besides the perpetrators of such heinous acts. Has it been happening for generations, possibly, I don't know. But I know that it definitely exists. The point is, what do we do about it, and how do we deal with it. A lot of rather, stellar, and informative posts have already come your way about this. So what does a person like me, who has fortunately neither experienced it, nor do I personally know anyone who has been abused say? I tell you what I think about it,  and how the very thought wrings my very insides.

A child, is in a state of growth, mentally and physically, it is the stage, where they learn, observe, understand, try to make sense of the world around them. And while no one has a perfect childhood, we make do with the normal. And then there are some unfortunate ones, who are dealt with a blow, that renders them helpless to go on normally. Sexual Abuse is physically discomforting, even painful, depending on the level of abuse, but the mental trauma it causes is what does not heal even when the scars go away. There are few who have access to counselling, or can share the pain with friends and family and lighten their pain, but there are many who live on with a sense of shame for life. The one time I remember witnessing CSA was in the movie Water by Deepa Mehta, and it shook me to my core. It was on the television late one night, and I remember going to the bedroom and tightly hugging my little boy, while he slept blissfully unaware. And while I knew it was just a movie, I could not calm down, and remained disturbed for days about what I had seen. And this is just me, a passive, distant observer. What happens then to a child who actually experiences this?

I can only imagine. The shock, the fear, the shame. Often the perpetrators, use their power(being older) to intimidate the victim, to scare them into silence. And the poor child is left all alone, to deal with the situation, possibly leading to repeated assaults.The initial shock, soon paves way for a sense of tremendous shame, often laced with a guilt, a feeling of having something to do with the occurrence of the assault. What then? I remember watching a show, which had various women, who had been victims of CSA in their teenage years, talk about it. And they all had the opinion, that being teenagers, their body experienced pleasure, and that made them feel even more ashamed of themselves, because that confused their emotions. While even a single tiny incident leaves a scar on the mind of a child, repeated assaults can and most likely will completely alter a person. Almost every woman who has grown up in India, has at some point or the other been groped, or touched in public during adolescence. I personally was always infuriated, and the inability to retaliate, in a crowd of a hundred unknown faces, is what always got to me. For me it was always fury, but then I was a teenager, with some understanding of life. But, what about a child?

The hurt, the pain, and sometimes, when they dare and tell parents about it, the parents shun the notion right away. What does the child do? If the emotional consequences of the incident are not dealt with properly, it can lead to many abnormalities in the growing personality. Since each person is unique, we cannot generalise the outcome, and hence it can have many variants. Some may become aggressive, and distrusting of people, esp of the sex of the perpetrator.Others can completely go into a shell, and grow up a loner, some have even experienced a change of sexuality after being abused. There are others who grow up and become perpetrators themselves, to either pretend that what happened to them was normal, or as a form of revenge. And then in extreme cases, of highly sensitive individuals, some form of mental disturbance may set in. An act like CSA, not only harms the physical body of the child, but also scars their mind, their very soul. Its one of the worst things that can happen to a child.

I am not an expert, but I believe one of the best ways to help a victim would be acceptance, and believing their story. During my training, as a phone counselor, we were told, that it is very important to believe the story of the victim, because even if they sense a slight doubt, they are unlikely to share any more. And so yes, it is very important to believe. Often new facets of the incident may turn up, as the victim talks, because often the little things come to light , when they think about it. The next step is to reassure them about them being the victim, and having nothing to do with the crime they were subjected to. This is the most important step, for the healing process to begin. To always let them know, they were right, and did nothing wrong, and it was never their fault. From then on, I believe the help has to be tailored to suit the personal needs and mindset of the child, but these are the first and most basic steps. For friends, and family, it is very important to show support, and yes, in such cases, you have to pick sides, one cannot be friends with the both the victim and the perpetrator. It is the unconditional support of loved ones, which is the strongest healing potion for the wounded soul of the child, and from there the healing will begin.


Mamma Mia! Me a Mamma?!? said...

This line is the most important one: " It is the unconditional support of loved ones, which is the strongest healing potion for the wounded soul of the child, and from there the healing will begin."

The scars are forever. What is important is that the feelings of shame, guilt and anger at oneself, are not. It's a tough battle, but hopefully one that can and should be won.

Roop Rai said...

Very well written, goofness. I esp love the last para and when you say that you can't be friends with both the perpetrator and the victim. Amen.

And yea, I remember that scene from Water. I remember it as the worst scene I've ever seen too. Second to none. Equally gruesome was this Mexican movie where a gangster chops toes of a child of a man who owes him money. But yes, that's off the topic. In short, CSA is gruesome and like you, not having experienced it, I fail to imagine the torture someone must have gone through who experienced. May they be strong and continue to be the survivors that they are.

dr.antony said...

I had written on this topic sometime back.

Apart from the legal dimension, child sexual abuse has serious psychological and emotional elements. Worldwide surveys point out that such abuse negatively impacts a child’s physical, emotional and mental well-being, leading to severe behavioral and psychiatric disorders. Suicidal tendencies and drug abuse are common long-term effects.

dipali said...

one cannot be friends with the both the victim and the perpetrator

Once the parent/parents know, they have to ensure that the perpetrator never has access to the victim again. It may mean the severing of any kind of relationship. it may have huge repercussions in the family, but once the parent(s) know, they must make it clear to the perpetrator that he no longer has a place in their homes or their hearts.

Passionate Goof said...

M4 - We are capable of doing everything and anything, I believe, just need to want it enough and believe in ourselves.

Roop - It was a heart wrenching depiction! And its impossible to imagine how someone can do it to a child, an innocent little child.

Dr. Antony - That is true, and it is in a way expected if someone endures such a trauma as a child.

Dipali - Very true. This is one case, where there can simply be no diplomacy, right or wrong, that is the only way to look at it.

CSA Awareness said...

Thanks for sharing insights from your own training and thank you for this post. :)

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