Learnt behaviour has been playing on my mind. Behaviour learnt both in childhood as well as in adulthood.
As victims of childhood sexual crimes we were invariably conditioned to believe the abuser/s. Our innocence was ripped from us along with trust and the chance of a normal childhood.
Many victims of childhood sexual abuse become trapped within a cycle later in their lives. Abusive relationships become the norm, whatever form the later abuse takes. The victim only knows abuse and so ends up in adult relationships within which they are again abused. This may be down to a feeling of being unworthy of a healthy, nurturing adult relationship.
I know that this was true in my own case. I felt dirty and unworthy of happiness. I sought out damaging relationships. Subconsciously maybe, but seek them I did.
With that most amazing of things called hindsight I can see an obvious pattern. If I wasn't in an abusive relationship I punished myself in other ways. To be honest I also punished myself whilst in the relationships.
The conditioned "fact" that I was lower than the low permeated every aspect of my life. What a blind fool I was.
The past few years have had several highs and corresponding lows. Disclosure is both freeing but can leave one feeling vulnerable and exposed. It is worth it though. I'm not saying it's easy because it isn't. One day you will reach a point where a realisation dawns on you.
YOU are worthy. Try reading this list out loud to yourself..
1 - I will not be disrespected 2 - If I am not a priority then walk away from me. 3 - I am worthy and deserve to be treated well. 4 - Treat me badly and watch me walk away. 5 - I can appreciate that we all have problems to deal with. 6 - Good manners cost nothing. 7 - I am stronger than I thought I was. 8 - I am worthy of respectful love. 9 - Mess with me and I'll chew your head off. 10 - I think I'm very awesome.
You may be a victim of crime, but as you have got this far you are in truth the victor! You survived. You lived. You are here today to tell your own truth. You DO NOT deserve second best.
Stand tall, stand proud and rid yourself of those that do not support you, those that blame you, those that enjoy your pain, those that doubt you and those that treat you as a second class person.
Embrace those that truly support you, that stand with you. Some would take a bullet for you, they are most definitely worth hanging onto at all costs.
YOU are not dirty. YOU are worthy. YOU deserve a happy and fulfilling life, no matter what age you are.
Speak your truth. Speak your mind. Be open to others that are open and honest with you.
There may be bumpy roads ahead, but if you hold firm to the truth and value yourself, then the bumps will be worth it.
You're not a victim, you are a survivor, you have been victorious. Your enjoyment of life will be the best slap in the face of those that doubted you, those that hurt you, that you could ever hope for.
Life is for living, not for grieving.
Take chances. Believe not only in yourself but also that you are worthy of lifes treasures.
Unspoken Voices exists to give a voice to those who have lost the strength, will, or ability to speak out. This non-profit organization has been created to (I) give a voice to victim/survivors through empowerment, education, and advocacy; and (II) to give a voice to each of us, encouraging us to become active bystanders. We, as individuals and community members, have the ability to say that violence is not okay. That we will not accept violence as the norm and we, you, and I are going to use our voices to intercede, support, and protect each other, our families, and our communities.
To this end, Unspoken Voices has various ways of engaging the bystander and advocating for the victim/survivor. We do this through educational trainings, personal and community advocacy, creating and/or participating in various awareness events, and other measures. We are currently creating our second video made only from still shots. These photographs, usually seen in black and white, are brought together to make films, flyers, and posters. In each photo, individual(s) have chosen to lend their "voice" by writing or choosing a pre-written quote, statistic, or personal story about sexual, partner, domestic violence, and/or any other type of personal power based violence. These pictures and videos empower victim/survivors to share their stories in a safe and comfortable way. Through this, individuals have the opportunity to feel empowered and encouraged while simultaneously creating awareness about the enormity of violence in our culture.
Empowering Survivors of Personal Power-Based Violence
Unspoken Voices supports the Green Dot Strategy and the NO MORE Campaign. Both of these modalities combine awareness and action in an easy, empowering way. Join us in saying NO MORE to violence by an active bystander and creating your own GREEN DOTS.
No one has to do everything, but everyone has to do something.
What's your Green Dot?
Contact us to learn more about our unique videos designed to empower survivors of
Personal Power-Based Violence.
We are also more than happy to speak with you about awareness and educational events,
as well as other training opportunities and curriculum that we can provide.
Sexual Violence affects EVERYONE...regardless of gender.
The sun is shining, the flowers are bursting forth and there is a hint of green
coming to the trees. Spring is a time of magic. I love all the seasons for
different reasons but Spring and Summer are where I belong, where I feel most
in tune with my surroundings.
From late winter when the snowdrops pop up defying the cold and bob about in
the breeze I anticipate the arrival of the burst of life that Spring
brings. I can feel it resonating deep inside me. It is a divine anticipation
of lengthening evenings and of the rebirth of nature herself.
Looking out of the study window I can see the almond trees covered in pink
blossom with narcissi dancing at their feet. Where there is life there is hope.
As Tennyson famously penned..
"In the Spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love"
Spring holds so much promise, and not only for the young. The horizon screams of spring and the budding trees,
tulips poking their head above the soil and thoughts of romance and love fill
our hearts and minds. It is in the air, catch it, make it your own, take
what is there and let life and love happen.
Our expectations of what love can bring changes as we grow older. Our needs are
different, our bodies are different. Time might not have been as kind to some
as to others. That does not matter for real love sees not the effects of time
but instead the benefits that time has granted through experience. Love in later life seeps through the cracks left behind by previous heartbreak.
Romantic love is often dismissed as the years roll by, but has been described
as ‘a human universal, or near universal’ and is associated with intense
emotional experiences such as increased energy, euphoria, obsessive thinking
about the loved one, feelings of dependency and craving. When people are ‘in
love’ they may feel as if they have uncovered the very meaning of life. One
feels complete and life feels whole. This can and does happen at any stage
of life, but is at it's most intense when we are younger. Love lifts us up no
matter what age we are, it fulfills us and gives us reason and hope for the
I am reminded of the following passage from Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis
"Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then
subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work
out whether your root was so entwined together that it is inconceivable that
you should ever part. Because this is what love is.
not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of
promises of eternal passion. That is just being in love, which any fool can do.
Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this
is both an art and a fortunate accident.
Those that truly love have roots that grow towards each other underground, and
when all the pretty blossoms have fallen from their branches, they find that
they are one tree and not two."
We all need love in our lives. If you believe yourself to be unworthy or
incapable of love I urge you to think again. Love takes many forms and truly is
a many splendored thing. Do not turn your back on it or deny it
life. Life as survivor of childhood sexual abuse can be tough enough as it is. Frequently we feel unworthy of love, or incapable of expressing it, for a variety of reasons. Learn to F.L.Y (First Love Yourself), accept that love and allow yourself to be open to love from others.
There are so many excuses as to why some people do not allow themselves to be
in love. If the love is true, then it will survive any obstacle, time zone,
distance or challenge. Love is patient..Spread your
wings this year, fly with no fear, be all that you know you are and can be.Make it happen! Give love a chance.
Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams (1881-1944)
‘What is REAL?’ asked the Rabbit
one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana
came to tidy the room. ‘Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a
stick-out handle?’ ‘Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a
thing that happens to you. When someone loves you for a long, long time, not
just to play with, buy REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’ ‘Does it hurt?
Asked the Rabbit. ‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful.
‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’ ‘Does it happen all at once,
like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’ It doesn’t happen all at
once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it
doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who
have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your
hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your
joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you
are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.’ ‘I suppose
you are real?’ said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he
thought the Skin Horse only smiled. ‘Someone made me Real,’ he said. ‘That was
a great many years ago; but once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It
lasts for always.’
Adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse often do not have the same outlook on life as non-abused adults. As a child, someone they trusted hurt and manipulated them. Not understanding what was happening, but somehow 'knowing' that it was wrong, they assimilate many deviant behaviours into their understanding of 'normality'. They grow up with a different view of many of the cornerstones of inter-human relationships and interactions.
An example would be the concept of 'love'. Often the abuser will say that they love the child. The non-offending parent(s) will say they love the child. Love is then understood to be a good thing - people who love you care for you, comfort you when you are sad, give you presents on your birthday, make you feel happy etc. It is also a bad thing that leads you to get physically hurt, to become terrified at times, makes you feel embarrassed or dominated. It will include forced involvement in activities that must be shrouded in secrecy and which you will not be able terminate, avoid or have any control over. To a child being abused, this becomes what 'love' is. Upon reaching adulthood the social pressure to find a life partner to love and that loves you in return is seen as a dubious or alarming goal. The survivor may also 'love' someone else and may view this emotion in themselves as forever corrupted. Anyone who proclaims love may 'naturally' be viewed with suspicion, perhaps dread or fear, or at best with wariness. The other person's motives will always be open to speculation.
To try to grasp complex emotional concepts like love, children group experiences into simplistic extremes. Good or bad, black or white, there is no grey. They can't differentiate between one trusted adult's behaviour and that of another's. Therefore, if one trusted adult abuses them, this experience is not taken away by the non-abusive relationships they experience, it just becomes part of their understanding of 'relationship'. The child learns not that 'some adults do bad things', but that 'all trusted people can do bad things.' This includes even the child itself. Like many other aspects of their developing psychological make up, this distrust becomes an integral part of their socialised constructs - their sense of how they see themselves and others and how people relate. It is just the same as their sense of humor or ability to reason. As with these psychological traits, once it is integrated it can never be 'unlearned' or erased. It 'just is'.
In adults, this total acceptance of distorted worldviews form the basis of many survivors beliefs about their 'true selves'. These views are like coloured lenses placed on the eyes of the survivor - they see everything through them and are usually totally unaware of their existence. It forms the core of their beliefs of themselves and of how others see them. It is through these lenses that they observe others interactions with themselves. As the beliefs are tainted with shame and guilt, they promote isolationist or self-destructive behaviours (I hate myself, you have no idea what I'm 'really' like, I am unlovable, you're only being nice to me because you want something). It is common for these beliefs to go unchallenged until the survivor begins sexual assault counselling.
Any new relationship, be it romantic or friendship, can be difficult for a survivor of Childhood Sexual Abuse.
I believe that as a child we have an automatic trust response to anything and everything around us. We are not really aware enough to know that people, animals or object could hurt us. We are hopefully taught by our own families what and who is safe. If they betray our inherent trust themselves then we are in trouble. The same applies to any person who is in a position of supposed trust over a child (teacher, nurse, doctor, family friends, scout master etc. etc.)
An abusive childhood can frequently lead to dysfunctional adult relationships. Our learnt behaviors regarding trust infiltrating our love loves and friendships. Many are constantly on guard, expecting trust to be broken and because of this they are unable to truly express and feel love or friendship.
I have been as guilty as any other in that respect. Thankfully I have learnt to spot this trait and do try and correct it before any, or too much, damage is done. I hope so anyway..
Along with trust must come faith. No, not the religious type. Faith in the humanity of others. Faith that our value will finally be recognised and cherished. Faith that right will prevail and that it is indeed safe to trust (and love) again. One of the hardest things I struggle with is silence from others. Silence feels like abandonment or suchlike. This is probably down to at least a modicum of paranoia.. Something else I am working on putting right. I am learning to apply the same faith myself. I think it all boils down to most of a lifetime of feeling unworthy, not being good enough, of being let down by those who were supposed to love and protect me. There is also the fear that in giving someone space yourself that they might see it as not caring enough, or backing away. I must not listen to the devils whispering in my ears and simply have faith that I am not being misunderstood. This leads me to conclude that the problem is not trust, but mistrust. Being hurt by so many, conditions us to mistrust until trust is earned. Assume the worst then don't be disappointed when people behave as we expect them to. This is wrong, so very wrong. Our own mistrust can be a festering wound which infects others. Once we recognise this we can do something about it. Take the leap of faith, stop behaving as if the world is out to get you and simply trust that your trust is returned. I am. Life is too short, too precious to waste it waiting for more bad things to happen. Put down your phone, turn off your computer. Go outside and walk in the sun. If something is meant to be, it will be. Have faith in yourself. You are worthy.
Some thoughts on this issue from other sources.
A recent comment got me thinking about trust issues that many survivors grow up with, and how this is one area where many, many survivors don’t live life to it’s full potential because of it.
Let me explain. As children we learned, early and often, that we couldn’t trust anyone. Even those closest to us might be the source of abuse, or at least may not believe us or see the warning signs, etc. The only one we could trust to help us was ourselves. This lesson stays with us, leading us to get involved with people who aren’t trustworthy, because after all don’t we know no one is really trustworthy? Then, because we are now involved in a relationship with someone who never deserved our trust, it is betrayed, and teaches us the lesson all over again.
Or, if we’re lucky enough to actually wind up with someone who is trustworthy, we spend most of the relationship suspecting them of not being trustworthy, which creates a very unhealthy relationship that falls apart, and which we use to also remain convinces that no one is worth investing our trust with.
Of course, like many things we learned in childhood, it’s not true. Sure, there are lots of people out there who aren’t trustworthy, and we should be aware to stay safe. There are also lots of people who are worthy of our trust, and who we might make real connections with (romantic and otherwise), if we could only learn how to trust. Also, imagine how much deeper those connections could be, and what kinds of great things we could be accomplishing with our time if it wasn’t spent worrying about what the other person is doing, or when they might hurt us? For myself, I couldn’t do the work I do, and see the people and places I get to see as part of that if I was spending the whole time worried about what my wife might be doing without me. My inability to trust would actually hurt me, in terms of having to pass up opportunities out of fear of getting hurt.
Of course, healing and coming to grips with trust issues is easier said than done. As I said, survivors learn early not to trust anyone, and use that mistrust to protect themselves. I do not honestly believe that we can heal by simply “trusting” anyone when we’ve never had any practice doing it. I believe the ability to trust comes from something deeper than that. I believe it comes from having the confidence in ourselves that we’ll be ok, no matter what. Simply put, as long as my well being is dependent on another person’s actions, I will always be at the mercy of that person, and being in that position makes it impossible to not worry about what might happen, and how I would survive it. It’s that worry that drains our ability to live and enjoy life.
No, don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating being cold, distant, and not ever allowing anyone to get close enough to hurt you. I am, however, advocating having enough of a sense of yourself that you can exist, and have a life, regardless of what another person may or may not do. For myself, if my wife decided she didn’t want to be married to me any longer, it would break my hurt. I would be devastated, but I also know that it wouldn’t have anything to do with my value as a human being. I don’t believe you can truly be vulnerable in a relationship, and trusting someone else is absolutely about being vulnerable, if you don’t have the self worth to know that you can go on with life even if this relationship ended. If you don’t have that level of confidence in yourself, you’ll wind up wasting a lot of energy trying to control things, and protecting yourself. That doesn’t sound like a relationship worth staying it to me. It’s definitely not trust!
(From Child Abuse Survivor)
At the root of all trust issues is a past betrayal. Whether abused as a child or cheated on by a spouse, the betrayed person will go through life seeing herself/himself as less desirable than others, or believing herself to be unlovable. She will keep others at a distance, avoiding intimate relationships. Only by working through these trust issues – or, rather, lack of trust issues – can the person learn to maintain a healthy boundary while still letting others in.
The deepest issues stem from child abuse, whether sexual, physical or emotional. Sexual and physical abuse are easier to be aware of as an adult, but emotional abuse can cause even more psychological problems and trust issues in an adult abuse survivor. As children who were abused grow up, they may perceive that others will not love them for making mistakes or behaving in certain ways. They also might have a hard time saying “no” to people they care about and people in positions of authority.
All humans are born with a fundamental need to be loved and to love. When children don’t receive love, as adults they’ll feel a lack of self-worth, that their feelings don’t matter, that they lack personal power and that they are unlovable. With these thoughts can come an inability to trust others or their own gut feelings, or a pattern of continuing to trust the wrong people.
When an adult is in an intimate relationship and is betrayed by a partner – whether cheated on, abandoned or abused – she may internalize some of the same ideas as the abused child. She feels powerless, unlovable, and that she is responsible for the betrayal or deserved it. If, at this point, the adult doesn’t begin to realize that these internal beliefs are flawed and can hurt her just as much as the hurtful betrayal of another, she’ll go on to develop relationships with other abusers or to find inappropriate coping mechanisms such as addictions, perfectionism, misplaced anger or symptoms of physical illness such as high blood pressure or migraines. In any case, she may find herself unable to trust another person enough to form a truly intimate relationship.
To work through your trust issues, you need to recognize the source of the betrayal and the cause of your anger. If you’ve been wearing a mask of “I don’t care” or “I don’t need anyone,” it’s time to drop the mask and examine yourself. If the betrayal occurred in childhood or hurt you very deeply, it can be helpful to have a therapist or counselor advise you as you work through these issues.
After you dig up and acknowledge your real feelings, it’s time to understand and express them. Even in an otherwise healthy relationship, it’s easy to express your feelings the wrong way. For example, you may say, “You never come home when you say you will,” after your partner stays out too late. Remember that you’re responsible for your own feelings and actions, and you can’t control the other person’s behavior. Say instead something like, “I felt hurt and worried last night, and I don’t like feeling like that.” Focusing on your feelings instead of the other person’s behavior may help him to actually listen and hear you. If he does listen to you, you’ve both made a step towards resolving your trust issues. If, on the other hand, he refuses to listen to how you feel, you may want to reassess the relationship. Just the act of stating or owning your feelings is a step toward recovering trust.
Next, you need to examine your history of relationships. If you see a pattern of behavior, such as repeatedly choosing people who are verbally or physically abusive, you should consider changing both the behavior and your boundaries, two important factors in trust issues. Boundaries can be externally physical (like “your space” or “comfort zone”), sexual (you determine when, where, how and with whom you choose to be sexual), or internal and emotional (only you are in control of how you feel and what you think, and the same is true for others). You need to “say good-bye” to past abuses or betrayals after seeing how they’ve been affecting your life. It’s likely that you haven’t truly done that, even if you think you have. Then you can grieve for those memories you’ve put behind you. You’re giving up an old familiar way of thinking and acting, and that can be both difficult and painful. But it is a vital step in resolving your own trust issues.
Finally, use what you’ve learned about your feelings and your boundaries to establish relationships in which you assume responsibility for your feelings and actions, and the other person does the same. By healing past betrayals and taking responsibility for your adult-self, you can re-establish your ability to trust and overcome your trust issues.
Learning to trust: The way out of isolation is to communicate in relationships – find out what others are really thinking – not what we perceive they are thinking. Be accountable for thought obsessions and fantasy. Fear of betrayal isolates us and puts us in touch with pain and loss – but we need to cultivate healthy relationships with good boundaries, respect, communication and equality.
To re-store your reality means learning to trust yourself again. In trusting yourself you begin to trust others. The more you understand how CSA has affected you the better you will be able to see how this prevented you from listening to yourself. One you are no longer on red alert or in survival mode, you will be able to gauge what you feel and think. Then you can stop being influenced by the expectations of others. This will allow you to reject other people’s judgements of you and to develop your own judgement.
A useful way to restore trust in your intuition is to listen to your inner experience or gut instinct. Do not be forced to make any instant decisions and take time to reflect on what you truly think or feel. It is okay to say ‘I don’t know but I will get back to you’. Anyone who rushes you into instant answers or decisions is not respecting your right to reflect in your own time. If you have any doubts this means you are not sure and need to think about what is being said or requested. It is essential that you listen to your doubts and take them seriously. REMEMBER: Doubts are inner signals that you are not sure. You need to listen to them before making any decision.
The more you listen to yourself the more you will be able to develop your inner value system and inner wisdom. Using your inner wisdom will restore your trust in yourself rather than be influenced by others. This will help re-build your self esteem and help you to make positive choices that are right for you. Restoring trust in yourself allows you to become more self-reliant. This will reduce your dependency on others who may let you down or betray your trust. Also as you begin to trust yourself more, you will begin to trust others and trust in a better future.
I've been feeling contemplative over the last day or so. Looking back at old photos of myself it's obvious to me at which times I was at war with myself, when I was in pain and the few times when I was happy. Then there are big gaps where I'd refuse to have my photo taken, or I'd destroy them. The eyes reveal most and then the smile, or lack thereof. I tended to smile with lips closed from late 20s onwards. I was conscious of my teeth being crooked and some missing.
Many of the photos I have no recollection of being taken at all. My eyes haunt me in several. I seem like a broken puppet. No control or spark of life in them at all. Now I know why.
I don't trust easily, I don't open up easily. I am wary of being used or hurt. Writing this blog took a huge leap of faith and a load of courage.
I have had to disassemble myself, to totally lose control of everything, before I could start to reassemble and in so doing take control of my own destiny. I'll never be who I should have been gad my life not been blighted. I think I'll be better, stronger and far more empathic. I will reach out and touch other lives with kindness and compassion.
I also found more filled writing books. Scribbles, poems, stories, song ideas etc etc. I shall take a good look through those this holiday weekend.
I have been chatting about dreams and the like with someone very close to me. I don't recall most, but some have repeated so often over the decades that I know them inside out. They normally repeat once or twice a year at most. This last fortnight I've been swamped by them.
I feel something in the air, some big event is going to happen in the next year or so. I know I've posted about changes etc recently, but this is something very different. This goes very very deep on all levels.
My co-author has given me a deadline to get our book finished by too. I'm up for the challenge Donna!
I don't do this as often as I should.. Thank you for following this humble blog and for taking the time to read, comment and then share its content on social media.
Wishing you all a good holiday weekend, whichever path you walk.