The essay below was one of three I wrote for my English Comp class in the mid 1990’s and written within the parameters given to us for the course. Keep in mind how much time has passed and the statistics that have changed since then.
Who Am I?
The lingering aftermath that incest has on the adult female survivor encompasses all facets of her existence. How is incest defined and what are the distortions impressed upon the survivor regarding the issues of intimacy and sexuality? How can these warped perceptions be conquered?
Incest has been described as a cancer of the soul that slowly destroys the victim’s self esteem. Incest is a betrayal of trust involving sexual, verbal or physical actions either directly or indirectly between a child and a trusted adult and/or authority figure. Fondling, exhibitionism and masturbation with or in front of the child are but a few examples of this treachery. This leaves the victim with little or no self esteem.
Statistics are shocking; one out of every three females and one of every five males has been abused as a child. The effects are no less destructive on males yet I have chosen to write from a female perspective.
Sexual abuse unconsciously influences how a survivor perceives herself and how she feels regarding all aspects of sex including; natural sexual feelings, sexual expression, roles, intimacy and sexual preference. There is tremendous difficulty in separating abusive sex from healthy sex. As a result of the abuse, the survivor sees herself as damaged goods and suffers from a poor sexual self-concept. Sexual preference itself is not a negative affect of the abuse to be overcome. It’s the confusion about preference having been complicated by the abuse that can be troublesome.
Abuse shatters our capacity for healthy sex. Sexual expression may now be associated with secrecy and shame. Many survivors withdraw from sex, thereby preventing any fresh discovery of healthy sex. Others may become promiscous. Not knowing any physical boundaries in sex has created confusion on when or even how to be sexual and she may engage in risky behavior and have sex even when she really does not want to. Difficulty in saying no to unwanted touch, the survivor may avoid any situation that could lead to sex.
Abuse influences a survivor’s capacity to establish and maintain healthy sexual relationships which also interferes with her ability to make healthy choices for herself. Survivors are unable to trust and feel safe with intimate partners who do care.
Abuse is something that is done to us. It is not who we are. (Euan Bear and Peter Dimok, authors of Adults Molested as Children) Sexual abuse can cause many survivors to question their orientation (preference). They may wonder the sexual abuse determines their present orientation. Sexual abuse harms the way we feel about our attractiveness, leaving us to feel negative about our gender or causing increased confusion about our sexual orientation (lesbian,gay,straight or bi-sexual). The issue of sexual orientation can be confusing enough for many people who have no history of abuse. Try, to imagine what a survivor must think, or how confused she feels.
Gender identity and sexual orientation are complex matters even without sexual abuse in the picture. They can be strongly influenced by any number of factors. Biology, upbringing, sexual experiences and cultural influences are only a sampling of those factors. Abuse can both encourage development of a particular orientation and impede another. Some survivors move towards the role they had to play in the abuse and others move far away.
If you are a survivor who questions her own sexual orientation remember, All your feelings are valid. They are yours and no person can tell you how to feel or what to think. Our acceptance of selves, not what others think is all that really matters. The following is a perfect way to end this paper and I hope you have been enlightened.
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to tell one from the other.” (anonymous)