March is self-injury awareness month. This is a re-publish from 2012…
Self-punishment, self-injury and self-sabotage in relation to having experienced pleasure during child sexual abuse is highly common.
This behavior can be linked to:
- For women –feeling our father, brother, or step-father was our boyfriend and sex partner.
- Having had orgasms with the perpetrator
- The perpetrator behaved as though the victim is the sexual aggressor (to protect himself) and the mother often blames, abuses, or strikes at the child because they WANT to believe the child is at fault.
Throughout the latter part of my healing, I endured a tremendous amount of self-inflicted punishment for wanting to be with my father sexually, or for the times it felt good, or when I received attention and affection when he molested me.
People who self-punish often deprive themselves of things they enjoy –like the enjoyment of food, or by avoiding activities that make their heart sing.
More painful forms of self-punishment can be things like “accidentally” hitting yourself in the jaw, slicing numerous fingers with a knife or cheese grater while cooking, frequently bumping your head head, dropping breakable items, or biting your own tongue.
The most common form of self-inflicted physical harm is known as “cutting.” It is sometimes called “self-mutilation” or “self-abuse.” Cutting is usually carried out with a knife or other sharp object. It is estimated that fifty percent of those who commit this type of self-injury were physically or sexually abused as children.
Adult survivors of child sexual abuse inflict wounds on themselves for a number of different reasons. Each person is unique. However, self-harm can be associated with trying to fix what is “broken” inside. Sometimes it is done in order to stop emotional suffering, and instead, feel physical pain.
Self-injury can be done to release rage because the person cannot verbally express their emotions. Watching the blood for a while is common. The blood can be symbolic of feeling unable to express emotions in a normal manner. One woman who cuts herself said, “I wanted to make visible what I felt inside.” This is just another reason why it is crucial for victims of abuse to verbally express themselves.
Psychotherapist Steven Levenkron, M.S. and author of the book Cutting found that as much as ninety percent of those who self-injure came from families with a system of denial and from families that avoided anything unpleasant. These types of households usually deal with problems in silence. This lends support for the theory that the number of sexual abuse victims among those who cut themselves is probably much higher than what is reported. Families with a significant system of denial are ripe for an incest victim to develop Dissociative Amnesia (repressed memories) for trauma and sexual abuse.
One woman told me that just before she cuts herself she experiences extreme anticipation that is exciting, dangerous, and sexual. Feeling excitement while cutting may be a way of punishing herself for enjoying the sexual stimulation with her abuser. For this woman, the danger, sexual pleasure, and the excitement, may have brought deep shame about enjoying what her rational mind told her she should not have liked.
Women I spoke with who perform self-injury said this form of violence is often a way of trying to remove the part of them that initiated the guilt, trauma, and suffering. They are literally trying to cut out what they feel is the cause of their grief. They try to sever the genitals or breasts like they are trying to amputate an arm or leg.
Van der Kolk did a study on patients who had problems with self-injury. Each subject indicated that a safe environment in therapy, facing the truths about their childhood experiences, and how they responded to those experiences, are what helped them become strong over their memories and what enabled them to stop the self-mutilation.
People who have been sexually abused as children cannot fully heal without dealing with any shame, guilt, and self-worth issues related to having taken pleasure in some of the sexual acts, or having had orgasms with their perpetrator.
Please know that you are not alone. Countless victims experience this –probably most victims do.