After reading Marilyn Van Derbur’s book, “Miss America By Day”, it became clear to me that incest sexual abuse could very well be one of the hardest things anyone can go through since it is the kind of abuse we are most likely to deny and forget. And on top of the abuse, not only doesn’t the perpetrator take responsibility, our societal demands puts all the responsibility on to the victims. Making matters worse, the child (and the adult as well) is on their own to deal with it. As a result, much of the time, dissociative amnesia (forgetting the abuse) is the survivor’s only option. Our minds have to split for this to happen.
The perpetrator was likely also abusing our brothers and sisters too. And in these cases it can be rare for brothers and sisters to come together against the household abuser (if they aren’t the perpetrator themselves) since our brothers and sisters are also suffering from the same abuse and coping in very different ways.
The memories and emotions from incest trauma may surface once we feel supported and safe in our present day lives. And sometimes we might unconsciously block safety, real friendship, and support just to prevent the memories from surfacing (since we might unconsciously know this could happen?). That is how traumatizing childhood sexual abuse is. We might not know it, but the traumatized aspect of ourselves works (at the expense of our health) to keep these memories and emotions shut away from consciousness. I remember Marilyn in her book talking about her first marriage with Greg (who she didn’t even like) and how she avoided Larry Atler (her current husband) who she loved dearly. When her best friend D.D. gently and lovingly helped Marilyn realize what she was doing (self-sabotage), that’s when her memories flooded back into consciousness and that is when she married Larry (divorcing Greg) and that is when her healing process began. She was healing because she felt safe, loved, supported, understood and acknowledged by both D.D. and her husband. If we don’t have an enlightened witness in our lives who will be by our side during this process, it is impossible to heal.
This journey is tough. And it takes mad courage to cut ties with toxic people and treat ourselves to a good friend so we can begin to face reality and heal.