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A lot of my memories are very physical in nature. I remember a lot more of what happened in the abuse via sensations/ emotions/ just knowing than I do via visual memories.

One of the memories that I have been struggling with lately is the sensation of wishing for my father to do good feeling things to me. Needless to say, this has brought up intense feelings of shame, horror, disgust, and self loathing. It took me a few weeks, but I finally managed to talk about it in session with Mama Bear last week and she brought up several good points that I will talk about in a bit, but she missed the most obvious one: I knew that the abuse could feel just bad or a mixture of good and bad, so when I knew that something was going to happen, I would hope that it would be something that mixed the good and bad sensations.

There were things that my father would do that were pleasurable for my body, sometimes very much so. Bodies, including children’s bodies, are set up to have defined physical responses when they are stimulated in particular ways at certain locations. Even some young children can be stimulated to orgasm some of the time. It isn’t a case of anything being wrong with the child, it is a case of the child’s body being used against her.

It is extremely confusing to experience physical and/or emotional pain in combination with sexual pleasure. In some ways it adds another layer of pain to what is happening. At the same time, for me, having some pleasure was easier for me than not only just feeling negative physical sensations, but also experiencing the loneliness of feeling like an object that was being used and thrown aside. If he cared enough to make me feel good, then in my mind that meant that he cared about me and he remembered that I was there and I was a person who felt things.

Being sexually abused is extremely objectifying and dehumanizing. It was more so with my grandfather who set out to make me feel like a ‘thing’, but even with my father, who had different goals, it was the case. After all, my father could not have really been looking at me and fully seen me, his daughter, in all of my individuality and personhood. If he had, he could never have done what he did. He had to have seen me as an object for him to use to deal with his demons. I could never have articulated this at the time, but I certainly sensed it.

However, there was no way that I could have understand the complexities of the situation that I was in as a child or even early teen. All I knew was that I was in an impossibly painful situation. My mind had to deal with what I had been dealt the best that it could; it seems that part of the way that I dealt- some of the time, at least- was by feeling like I wanted to be with him and feel pleasure. As Mama Bear pointed out, I had very little physical contact or even concentrated attention from my father other than through the abuse. I yearned for his love. Given that set up, it shouldn’t be a surprise that some parts of me value that interaction with him. When he intensely paid attention to me and did things that made me feel good, I felt closer to him than at any other time. But other parts of me loathed what was happening and are furious at me for trusting him and want to tear my skin off for physically feeling anything.

So I am left with these strongly conflicting feelings that I need to accept were all valid. It would be so much easier if I could only remember hating and rejecting the abuse by my father, but that wasn’t my reality. It was with my grandfather- there wasn’t the slightest bit of connection with him, because he was purely a monster with me. My father was much more confusing for me to deal with. He hurt me, physically and emotionally, but he could also make me feel loved and physical pleasure. I didn’t want what was going on and wanted for it to stop, but if it was going to happen, I wanted for it to happen in the “good” way. Worst of all, though, he threatened my relationship with my mother. This was something that I couldn’t tell her, because I was so convinced that she would pick him over me. Actually, I am convinced that I tried to tell her that something was wrong. I wouldn’t have said just what was wrong, but even crying after school every day for months at a time I only got sympathy, not her trying to find out what was so terribly wrong.

I couldn’t get her understanding and support for the terrible bind that I was in back then. I had no one to help me deal with the adaptations that I had to make in order to survive the situation as intact as possible. As Mama Bear keeps on reminding me, things in the now are very different. I have external support, but, even more importantly, I now have the internal resources to start to give myself what I so desperately needed then. Today, I need to set aside my repulsion for what I did and look at it with compassion as ‘what I had to do’. I did what I had to do. I would never have chosen to have sexual interactions with my father, if I hadn’t been forced into the situation. I simply found the ways to deal with it that made it all as tolerable for me as possible. Sometimes these options weren’t open to me and what I experienced was purely awful. Comparing the two, I am glad that I had something available that was able to soften the edge of the abuse, some of the time.

It swirls through my mind: it doesn’t matter what I did to get through what happened. I didn’t hurt anyone, after all, I just tried to find the molds to put myself into that would make me someone who could survive an untenable situation as well as possible.

——-

I felt stronger while I was writing this, but now I am feeling more vulnerable. This more compassionate understanding of myself is all too tenuous. We will see whether I can tolerate leaving this post up or whether the shame and fear of being judged wins out.

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Fractured Self 2 Artist: Randall Cook

Fractured Self 2
Artist: Randall Cook

I am struggling with acceptance these days.

I remember back when I started to acknowledge and deal with my parts again over 2 years ago; Mama Bear and I went through a rocky stage because I was treating my parts as if they were completely separate “others.” They felt so “other” and while I vaguely knew that they were all parts of me, at the same time I needed to keep them as separate from me as possible.

I would get so mad at her when she would talk about them as “memory states,” because they are far more than just memories. But it is true that most of them are organized around trauma memories and most of what I need to deal with for the parts is related to what happened when I was young. What is going on now might be triggering responses, but my feelings and reactions are not really to what is happening in 2014 most of the time. The sense of “otherness” is so compelling, though. I physically feel different, I sound different, I think differently, I see the world and my place in it differently, my relationships with others are different, and generally I feel like a child, often a small one. This is the mind’s way of dealing with experiences that were too overwhelming to integrate at the time, after all. They had to be “other.” It’s no wonder to me that so many people with DID are convinced that they have other people inside of them, but Mama Bear was determined that I not fall into that trap and she repeated reminded me that even if they didn’t feel like it, they were parts of me.

Eventually, I had a breakthrough when I realized that I was trying to go back and rescue these child parts from the abuse, as if they were separate children and the abuse was something that I could change now. I could have thrown myself against that wall for the next 100 years and I would only have failed over and over. These parts are not children that I need to rescue, they are parts of me that I need to help understand that they are no longer living in the 70s. There is no rescuing from the abuse. That needed to happen 35 years or more ago. The abuse actually is over and done with and I have not been in a situation where I have been at any risk for over 25 years. But so much of me doesn’t understand that the nightmare that keeps on getting run through my head is all in the past and doesn’t have anything to do with now.

So, for the last couple of years, I have been working on showing to myself that things are different now. It’s a slow process, but it is working, bit by bit. And the more of me that understands that I live in 2014 and am safe now, even if I feel scared and overwhelmed when I remember things, the better that I can do all of the work that I need to do.

I’ve been kind of proud of myself for making progress. Then, this past weekend, it hit me smack in the face that I have been fooling myself. I’m not accepting these parts the way that I had been thinking. What I’m really doing is saying, “OK, I have these parts of me that had these experiences. But they had the experiences. The experiences don’t belong to me at all. Those terrible things happened to those parts over there. Yes, it’s awful, but it’s that part that was raped. It’s that part that felt tortured. Not me. Never me. Never, ever me.”

I don’t know if I’m strong enough to do it. I don’t know if I’m capable of really accepting that the child or pre-teen in the memories was me. Experiencing the memories from the inside, rather than from the outside is horrible. I don’t know if I am brave enough to deal with that level of terror for any more than a second at a time.

Frankly, my mind just freezes at this point. I don’t know what to do.

Mama Bear keeps on telling me that I can bring the parts to me, so I can soothe myself now, the way that I should have been soothed and comforted at the time of the abuse. The concept makes sense, but at the same time, I just panic at the thought of accepting that this is me (I can call it a “part”, but really it’s me), and then bringing it in close to more of me, to feel safe. I would rather go to the part in the memory and get stuck there for a bit, but then be able to leave the part and the memory behind (“it doesn’t really belong to me.”) That approach isn’t working though, not only does it put me through the wringer, but it doesn’t actually help the traumatized parts and they are starting to scream at me to help them.

I feel as though I should have some positive, hopeful ending, but really, I’m struggling with this. I don’t know how I am going to solve it. I’m pretty sure that I’m not going to hit a dead end here, though. Either I’ll figure out a way to do what I’m trying to do, or I’ll figure a way around it, I always do. I often want to give up, however giving up isn’t an acceptable option for me. I will admit, though, that right now I am feeling pretty tired and discouraged.

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Radiant Circles Artist: Libby Lehman

Radiant Circles
Artist: Libby Lehman

I am going to use this to try to figure something out for myself and hope that it will make some sort of sense to someone else.

I am at a point in my therapy where things can be quite intense for a period and I simply have to do my best to cope, but I’ve also developed more of an ability to observe what is going on for me. What may be even more important, I am also learning to not make immediate judgments about what I observe, but rather to take it as something useful to understand about myself and how I work. Really, what would make the way a brain works be bad unless it results in real harm? At the same time, there isn’t necessarily a “good” way for it to work either. It just is. So that is my goal, no judgments on whether my brain is doing something “bad” or not, despite the fact that I seem to have soaked into my pores the idea that everything that is individual about me is “bad.”

Over the least several months, as internal communication has increased, I have become increasingly adept at 1) recognizing when I am in a dissociative state and 2) identifying which part is involved. This is good, because I am no longer going along in this dissociated fog, clueless about what is going on with me (at least most of the time I am not.) I am able to deliberately communicate with my parts and often keep things from escalating to an overwhelming point. Good news, right? But it’s also frightening that the parts are becoming more clear to me. Is my paying attention to these parts reinforcing them and making them stronger? Or am I simply bringing into focus what has always been there at this level? How would I even tell the difference?

But are these the really important questions?  If I step back and think, I realize that my goal over these last several months hasn’t been to change the parts one way or another, it has been to decrease my distress levels and increase my functionality.  What I do know is that the symptoms have become more manageable most of the time and they weren’t getting any better when I was ignoring how much I function in parts. I had no control over anything going on in my mind and was constantly being triggered, whether I realized it or not. The way that I was functioning then was making me ill. Things were really chaotic for awhile and I have since learned that Mama Bear was tearing her hair out trying to figure out how help me get out of the pit that I had fallen into, because I was headed in an alarming direction.

So, thinking about it, I can see that I had to establish the internal communication, so I could start to get a handle on what was going on inside. I had to get to a point where I wasn’t so afraid to “see” and “hear” my parts, because otherwise I would never be able to figure out what I needed in order to start to feel safe. If in doing so, I have reinforced the parts, then so be it. That is a far better side effect than psychosis which could have been an option the way that I had been going.

I can let go of the worry that I have done something “bad” here and just accept that I acted in the way that would most improve my life and the lives of my husband and daughter. There is nothing at all bad about that.

I can be at peace with myself. I haven’t made myself “worse” by paying so much attention to my parts. I have done the best that I can and I am in a better place now.

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For decades, I have been focused on trying to figure out what the “truth” is about what happened to me. I have sought out a concrete truth that I could rely on to be something firm and unshifting. I think that I keep on looking for a truth that I can show my mother and be certain that she would agree with.

The only truths that will satisfy that criteria are that my extended family system is extremely distressed and the family stories show and extraordinary amount of severe disfunction and abuse over the generations. These conclusions come directly from things that my mother has told me or we have discussed.

Getting to the point where I could simply and unequivocally acknowledge that my family is one that abuse could thrive in was a big deal for me. Accepting the reality of my parts and the effects that the abuse had on me was another big step. Coming to grips with the fact that my insides clearly tell me that my father sexually abused me was yet another step forward.

Through all of this, though, I keep on censoring myself. This applies both to what I allow myself to know and what I then am willing to share. I will think to myself, “I don’t really know that” and turn my mind away from looking at what some part of me is saying. I think, “but I have no proof” when I consider telling Mama Bear about a memory. But unless something unforeseeable happens, I won’t ever have outside proof. All I will ever have is what is inside my head.

These last couple of days, it is as if I have decided inside, “No more hiding from the full truth. I know much more than I am allowing myself to remember. I am sick and tired of being alone with this crap. I know that I am here, now. I can deal with knowing what happened. I just can’t deal with secrets any longer. I feel as though I am going to suffocate on the secrets.”

I think that I need to accept that I will be dealing with what happened from the different viewpoints of the different parts. They might not always agree. They might sometimes be exaggerated or distorted and that is OK. I need to know what all of my parts need to tell me and I need to share with Mama Bear what they tell me. I won’t know for sure What Happened, but I can develop an understanding of what I believe happened and have the self compassion to accept that I am human and the best that I can do is to develop an understanding.

So, I have started writing in my journal, with the intention of being open to the parts of my story that I don’t yet understand. I know that Mama Bear would ask, “Do you need to know everything?” She is a stickler for making sure that I don’t overwhelm myself with the past. The answer is that I don’t need to know everything, but parts of me have been crying out to share their parts of the story for years. I think that I may most need to share the things that I previously most needed to keep hidden.

Most of the things that I am writing about are not new to me. I am either getting details to flesh out the story and help me understand it or admitting to myself something that has been in the back of my mind for quite some time. Allowing myself to put it all down in one place, with the determination to be as honest as possible, allows me to start to see how eventually the barriers might one days come down between the parts.

In the interest of being real and honest, I will admit that I am a bit in shock at the moment. In one of my moments of honesty tonight, I was thinking about how so many of the things that I used to attribute to my grandfather turn out to have happened with my father. I never see my grandfather’s face in the memories, but I do have a strong sense of his body in the abuse memories that I am sure happened with him. And I suddenly knew that the horrible type of abuse that I have been referring to lately didn’t just happen with my grandfather, it happened with my father, too. He didn’t do it in a way that felt as bad, but he did it too.

I just want to swear that there is so much of a burden to work through. But it affects me even when I pretend that it isn’t there. At least now I can take it in and talk with Mama Bear about is after her break. It’s better for me to stop trying to block what my brain is trying to show me and it will be best for me to take these pieces in to Mama Bear as they come up, rather than trying to hide them in the corner, behind the door.

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Detail of quilt: Fauna Artists: Frances Alford, Kathy York, Vickie Hallmark, Julie John Upshaw and Judy Coates Perez (who did the chameleon) Full quilt can be seen at: http://aquamoonartquilts.blogspot.com/2007/10/3rd-times-charm-fauna-wins-2nd-place-at.html

Detail of quilt: Fauna
Artists: Frances Alford, Kathy York, Vickie Hallmark, Julie John Upshaw and Judy Coates Perez (who did the chameleon)
Full quilt can be seen at: http://aquamoonartquilts.blogspot.com/2007/10/3rd-times-charm-fauna-wins-2nd-place-at.html

Things are very different for me today than they were a week ago. I was in a bad place last Saturday and now I am in a better place than I was before I fell apart last week. I went into my session today and tried to explain to Mama Bear what felt different. I told her that I felt as though things are shifting and adjusting inside and could tell that I needed to be patient with my insides while this was happening. Her question was, “Why is now different? Don’t they deserve for you to be patient with them all of the time?” That took me aback. She is correct. All of me needs for me to be far more patient and compassionate than I normally am towards myself. I deserve to be treated gently and with love and respect. I need to treat myself the way that I hope that I would treat another person who has been through what I have been through.

Very often, I will struggle and struggle over something big and seem to make little or no progress for months, sometimes many months, and then suddenly things will suddenly come together in a way that allows for a huge shift all at once. Sometimes I will have some sense that a shift is coming, but generally I have no clue until I am trying to adjust to it. That is what has happened to me now. Suddenly I am able to look at the whole of what I experienced as a child and say, “Really terrible things happened to me. I am the person that those horrible things happened to and they hurt me badly, but I am also the person who is standing here right now. A strong adult who is dealing with some deep wounds but doing fairly well despite everything. I can be both.” Up until now, I have always had to be one or the other. I either experienced myself as the child who was being hurt or I experienced myself as the adult now. Sometimes I could experience myself in rapid succession as the hurt child and then the adult trying to help soothe the hurt child, but I still needed to think of the abuse as happening to that child part, rather than to me. I knew in my head that it happened to me, but always in a vague, distant way. I had to think of it as having happened to the child that I was or to the young body that grew into the body that I have now. For the last couple of days, things have been different and I can finally accept, “It happened to me. Past tense, happened, but it happened to me.”

I realize that I still am early in the process of making this transition and if directly faced with the emotions of a trauma memory, I think that I would immediately fall back into the habitual ways of dealing with it through dissociation. At the same time, I fully recognize that what I am experiencing right now is something big.

In fact, I see it as an important step on the journey towards integration. So far, the process of integrating is turning out to be something quite different from what I expected for it to be. I’m not doing anything with the goal of integrating in mind; I’m just working towards healing in the ways that feel most important to me and in the order that feels right. Instead, as I heal, I find that the separateness and barriers feel less necessary and they are dissolving bit by bit on their own. I know that I am early in the process and I am taking baby steps as I go, but I suspect that I will continue to experience further changes in the same way.

The mental image that I have is that I had this big house that was all cut up into these tiny rooms that were isolated from each other and the doors were locked. That house is changing over time. In some cases walls are being knocked down between rooms, in others doors are being created or enlarged between rooms. Some rooms didn’t even have any windows to start, so windows are now being added. There now is a common area that is growing as the walls are being knocked down. The common area it isn’t all open though, there still are places where things can be kept out of sight as need be, but there also is relatively free movement within that area. I don’t know how this is going to “look” over time. I may end up still needing to have some rooms that can be closed off from the rest of the house. I may need to just have alcoves. The point is that it is safe for my internal state to evolve now so it best suits the me in the now. I had to keep that house a dark warren of small rooms as a child, because at first my mind couldn’t have survived putting those experiences together and as I got older the only way that I could tolerate dealing with what was happening on my own was to keep the experiences separate. As a young adult, I started to put in doors between the rooms when I started my therapy work. As time went on, I was able to bring in more light and open things up somewhat in the “wing” that deals with my grandfather, but the wing that holds my experiences with my father remained as tightly closed up as I could make it. Now I am finally at the point where things have come together in a way that allows me to do massive renovations.

What a revelation… It really is safe for me to learn how to be the person that I need to be. I don’t have to be a chameleon in order to survive. It is safe for me to discover who I am and then to really be that person. It doesn’t feel safe yet, but I understand that it is safe, and in time it will come to feel safe.

How about you? Have you discovered that you are safe to be/do something that never felt safe before?

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	 Katie Pasquini Masopust


Katie Pasquini Masopust

“He raped me.” There have been days when I probably heard a little voice inside say that every 5 minutes. “He raped me.” It started before I could let myself know who the “he” was. I wanted to believe that I was only talking about my grandfather, but I knew in my gut that there was someone else and underneath that I was terrified that I knew who “he” was, even though I would rather have torn myself to shreds than accept who it might be. In fact, I pretty much was tearing myself to shreds.

I didn’t have any faces to my abusers in my memories for over 20 years, so I could save myself from facing just who had perpetrated the abuse that I was re-experiencing. But re-experience it I did, physically and emotionally. Over and over. I spent years in therapy dealing with the sadistic abuse with my grandfather and that helped a lot. It probably allowed the body memories to pretty much stop for a time; at least they became much less frequent and I was able to “put them away again” more easily for the years I was not in therapy. However, when I started therapy again, the flashbacks/body memories were frequent occurrences to me.

Almost as soon as I restarted my work with Mama Bear, I heard a voice saying, “He hurt me.”

Some of these flashbacks were the same body memories that I wrote about experiencing before I started therapy over 20 years ago. Some of them were new ones that I hadn’t dealt with before. Month after month I lived with them and suffered from them. For awhile I felt as though they threatened to take over my life and I was going to lose my mind- at that point Mama Bear got serious about reteaching me the containment and coping skills that I lost along the way. She hadn’t realized for months that I have no memory of the therapy work when I learned them the first time, so I had no idea of how to help myself through the flashbacks. It’s inside me somewhere, but I still haven’t come across wherever that period of time is stashed.

“He hurt me.”

Five or six times over a period of about 18 months, I would have a memory that involved my dad. The first time, I sent a panic stricken e-mail to Mama Bear, begging her to tell me that I was crazy, that it couldn’t be true. She phoned me, scraped me off the ceiling, and calmed me down by reassuring me that it might not mean what it seemed to on the surface. And in therapy I started to look at and admit that I don’t trust my dad; maybe he isn’t the ideal person that I have always felt obligated to believe he was.

“He hurt me.”

The next time, I was walking down a path and I was literally forced to my hands and knees by the force of the memory of having to do oral sex. I couldn’t get up for awhile and then I was consumed by rage at a world where “everyone else could live normally” while I was knocked over by such horrible, unbelievable things. I was furious with myself. I was furious with Mama Bear. I wanted to destroy everything and everyone around me, particularly myself.

“He hurt me.”

Another time I was on my 2 hour drive back from my session to where I lived at the time and I had to pull the car over, because a child part had pulled me into an understanding that I had a “day time Daddy” and a “night time Daddy”. One felt like someone I could trust and the other was a monster that I wanted to escape.

At some point “He raped me” joined “He hurt me.” He raped me?!? I couldn’t imagine how I could ever deal with that and I wanted for that voice to go away, but instead it became the predominant one.

Each time I would go to Mama Bear, tell her what I had experienced and then vacillate between going all the way to “my dad definitely abused me and did everything that I remember” and then ricocheting back to “there is no way that any of this happened, and there is something terribly, terribly wrong with me to even think about it.” Mama Bear just tried to steer a middle course, reflecting back to me that I didn’t yet know what happened and assuring me that either it would eventually become clear to me or it would not, but we did need to work with what was becoming increasingly clear to me: I wanted to have nothing to do with my father. I wanted him out of my life, I trusted him not at all, and I had a great deal of anger at him. Each time, I would deal with whatever crisis the flashback precipitated and then try to proceed as if it hadn’t happened, pretending as if all of the memories that I was dealing with related to my grandfather only and I didn’t know deep, deep down that my dad abused me.

“He hurt me. He raped me.”

Then my parts became increasingly involved. Last summer, they told me that I needed to listen to them and to believe them, because I wouldn’t be able to heal until I did so. I could understand why I needed to listen to them, but I was heartbroken, because I knew that I did not want to “hear” what they had to say. I proceeded to have flashback after flashback of being abused by “him.” I found myself admitting to Mama Bear that I was afraid that my dad had abused me but then I would step away and fall back into denial again. The numbers of different memories added up and eventually I had to admit to the obvious: my grandfather didn’t have enough access to me to do everything that I was remembering. There simply wasn’t enough time for that many different things to have happened. Admitting that there had to be someone else allowed something in me to relax, but also frightened me in other ways.

“He raped me.”

The flashbacks began to more clearly have my father in them some of the time and I started to do a terribly self destructive dance. I would have a flashback that lead me to the horror filled realization that my dad abused me and then I would find some way to bludgeon myself into explaining it all away. A day or two later, it would start again. I doubted my sanity and my integrity. What sort of a horrible, sick, perverted person was I to keep on thinking these things about my father? It was like I was shredding my soul 2 or 3 times a week and I began to feel as though I was killing some essential part of me by doing this over and over.

“He raped me.”

And then, at last, something changed inside and I just wasn’t willing to treat myself that way any longer. I finally found some self compassion and the strength to believe that the essential me needed to be treated gently and respectfully, which I had not been doing. Refusing to believe what my parts had been screaming at me for months wasn’t working, maybe I needed to give believing myself a try.

I still find it hard to believe myself much of the time. Who would want to believe such a thing? But I have found that even when I cannot tolerate believing the specifics, I can still believe the general fact that my dad hurt me badly and that hurt was sexual in nature. The rest of in I go in and out of depending on which part I am in contact with, how much stress I am under, how tired I am, etc.. The part of me that experienced the normal childhood and was completely walled off from the abuse still can’t accept it at all, which makes sense, because her job was to have no awareness of the abuse.

As I have started to tell Mama Bear about what happened with my father, that voice has quieted, not completely, but most of the way. I have come to understand that while, yes, I do seem to have memories of the sort of sexual contact that most people think of when they hear the word ‘rape’, what this voice was trying to tell me was much more than that. It was trying to express the sense of outrage and violation that I feel about all of the abuse. ‘Hurt’ is too mild of a term to describe what even less physically invasive sexual abuse is like for a child. It is an act of violence, pure and simple. Even when the perpetrator tries to disguise it as something “loving”, it is an act of violence. Even if it feels pleasant because of the way that the child is being stimulated, it is an act of violence. Even when there is no physical force or overt threat used, it still is an act of violence. Even if the child has to believe that she wants to be there, because knowing how much she hates it would destroy her, it still is an act of violence.

So, yes, that voice was telling me the truth, he raped me.

** Edited **
I feel a need to add an addendum… There is the way that the general public tends to define the word “rape,” which is quite limited and actually far more constricted than the legal definition. Too many of my experiences and I am sure the experiences of other sexually abused children satisfy the legal definition. In fact, for some people who experienced multiple forms of rape, the other forms of rape were even more traumatic than penile/vaginal rape. I say this because I really want for everyone who has experienced this type of violence to give themselves the full amount of self compassion that they deserve. The violence that you experienced was what you experienced, even if you think that it “should” be less serious than another type. And for those who have someone share such an experience with them, please don’t think, much less say, “At least it wasn’t rape.” Please listen to and have compassion for the pain that you hear, not what you believe you should hear.

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