It is very common for childhood sexual abuse survivors who have their memories and emotions fully or partially repressed to need to live in a “sterile bubble”. In an environment or any hint of the slightest bit of anything outside of “positivity” puts the survivor at risk to repressed memories and emotions arriving to the surface. The messiness of real life and real people are a threat to those who cannot handle the truth of their past. Since they are not strong enough to handle their own pain, they actively (or passively) preach or demand false-positivity in an effort to keep other’s pain stifled and themselves locked in that sterile bubble. This is just another way sexual abuse survivors survive: avoiding adversity at all costs. Too bad, however, that it is at the expense of those survivors who want to get real and face their past and recover so they can move past it. For the most part, our world is riddled with the virus of false positivity making it a really challenging environment for those on the path to recovery. We have here a cultural example of how sexual trauma survivors trigger each other. And it’s next to impossible for both groups to feel compassion for each other since generally neither group has the tools to cope and co-exist with each other.
If we are adults, we can create boundaries. If we are children, dependent on a guardian, or if we are adults with weak boundaries, we risk being subjugated to what some psychologists call “secondary trauma”. Secondary trauma is where the abuse deniers condemn or re-abuse the truth tellers leaving their pain and raw expression denied (by gaslighting, belittling, or punishing). Some argue that this “secondary trauma” is considerably worse than the original sexual abuse wound since those who want to recover are blocked from doing so and must find a way to carry this wound alone without going mad. There is no abuse worse than having to carry this alone. If we accept this without rebellion, we risk perpetuating the cycle and as a result, some survivors of “secondary trauma” (gaslighting, belittling, punishment) will either re-victimize by condemning other survivors (even their own children) or create victims through more sexual abuse.
I write about this as it is important to think about how we affect each other. And maybe together we can think of a solution (if there is one at all outside our own commitment to heal). If we don’t think about the impact of sexual abuse and how it re-traumatizes others, it is hard to have hope for any real change.