Former Miss America, Marilyn Van derbur, was sexually abused by her father, including rape for almost thirteen years. Marilyn has talked about being physically paralyzed from head to toe because of the incest. This is only one aspect of the many physical problems that Marilyn had suffered because of her father raping her for so many years.
Frank Fitzpatrick was sexually abused by Father James Porter as a child. Frank has publicly revealed how being sexually abused by a man created sexual confusion, causing Frank to feel that he might be gay or bisexual.
Incest survivor, Rachel Downing, was sexually abused by her father, an Episcopal minister, and she says he killed Rachel’s animals in order to silence and punish her.
As an adult, Rachel suffered from physical problems that were unable to be diagnosed, and she endured depression from the time she was a child. She went to the emergency hospital seventeen different times within three months for pain in her abdomen. Doctors eventually surgically opened her up in order to find the cause of her pain; they found nothing.
Family and friends often tell people who were sexually abused as a children, “let it go” “move on with your life” or “don’t allow it to affect you.”
It’s not like we don’t want to let it go. Do people actually think that abuse survivors enjoy suffering?
Victims of trauma and severe prolonged sexual abuse, do not have a choice. A person cannot consciously attempt to push aside what happened. This is ineffective and causes more severe problems.
Here are some of what is felt or experienced by a child being sexually victimized by an adult:
- Sexual pleasure
- Sexual confusion
- Fear of death
- Fear of the good ending at any moment
- Constantly walking on egg shells
- Emotional attachment to the victimizer
- Physical Pain
- Feeling worthless
- Inability to trust anyone
- Fear connected to not knowing what is going to happen
- Fear from death threats
- Boundaries being crossed
Here is a partial list of what the adult survivor feels as a result of having been sexually abused (some of this is also experienced by the child during the time of the abuse).
- Sexual dysfunction
- Feeling estranged from others
- Feeling crazy/different
- Feeling of having a short life span
- Exaggerated startle response
- Dislike of being touched
- Frequent or uncontrollable crying
- Panic attacks
- Severe Depression
- Fear of a punishing God
- Poor body image
- Feeling sexually stimulated inappropriately or when there is no conscious reason for it.
- Frequent, excessive, unwarranted, washing (especially of the genitals or breasts)
- Abnormal fear or hatred of men
- Abnormal fear or hatred of women
- Suicidal thoughts
- Physical symptoms
It’s not very easy to just put it all behind you and to “not allow it to define your life.”
People who offer this “advice” to survivors of trauma and sexual abuse either say it for their own self-comfort (if the abuse survivor puts it behind them, then others don’t have to be made uncomfortable hearing about it), or they have abused a child themselves, or they are repressing trauma of their own and don’t want to face it.
In this post I would like to share with my readers how seriously ill the incest made me and how much I have overcome and healed in myself.
The purpose of this information is not to draw sympathy or attention to myself; it is to inform people that incest and child sexual abuse can cause severe damage to the victim’s immune system and vital organs, such as the heart and bladder, as well as affecting their psychological state and emotions. This post is also to show that there is hope for every survivor, no matter how badly they suffer.
Twenty-one years ago I suddenly came down with an illness that doctors say has no cure or treatment. I was scared out of my mind because I was suffering from incapacitating, frightening physical symptoms that caused me unbearable suffering. I spent countless hours in doctors offices and hospitals (and once in an emergency room), having my body probed, poked, examined, violated with instruments and scanned. After $30,000 in medical bills, the experts told me that they could find nothing wrong.
After a year with no diagnosis, an ear nose and throat specialist finally diagnosed me with chronic fatigue immune dysfunction syndrome, which is now known as myalgic encephalomyelitis.
I remember sitting in the office of one of the specialists. I was frightened and full of uncertainty and desperation. The specialist said to me, “There’s good news and bad news about this disease. The good news is that you are not going to die, and the bad news is that you are not going to die.”
It was not until I was well into the labyrinth of the illness that I truly understood the depth, and truth, of his words. On the days when I was bed-ridden with a fatigue that is indescribable, I simultaneously suffered from chronic diarrhea, constant stomach aches, ringing in my ears, short-term memory loss, pain in my heart area, vice-grip headaches, choking for no reason, inflamed lymph nodes and dizziness.
In addition, every night for years, as I lay my head on my pillow my heart pounded so loudly in my ears that I thought it would stop from pure exhaustion. If I did manage to fall asleep I was soon awakened by a feeling of forgetting how to breathe and I woke up gasping for breath.
For over a decade, I woke from nightmares so tormenting, that they were beyond imagination — nightmares so vile and disturbing that I wanted to die when I woke up. For years I experienced sharp pains in my vagina. Pains that no doctor could find the origin for because they were caused by being raped by my father when I was in grade school.
When I managed to crawl out of bed during the day, food caused me to want to vomit or I shoveled meals in my mouth at alarming rates –for me, food had nothing to do with sustaining my body. For me, food represented the sexual abuse.
I also began to experience the feeling of having a full stomach all the time –whether or not I had eaten. Then there were numerous days at a time when I could barely eat at all because food made me so nauseous and dizzy that I was afraid of eating. The fullness in my stomach was created by being forced to perform oral sex on a female family member.
Then there was the pathological hunger. A debilitating hunger that never ceased. Even when I was full or nauseous, I was always hungry. One day I ate four burritos and was still starving.
During those years, I continually suffered from shingles outbreaks. Shingles is a virus of the nervous system and can be serious. It attacked my head and ears with pain, and a very ugly bubbly lesion always formed down the left side of my neck. Through therapy, I was able to find the root cause of the shingles outbreaks and they are gone.
I also do not suffer from migraines anymore.
In 1997, four months before remembering that my father had sex with me as a child, my bladder erupted into one of the most excruciating symptoms of all. For four months I could barely urinate. I went to the bathroom twenty to forty times a day in a futile attempt to expel my urine. Each agonizing time, only a trickle came out.
Gynecologists and a top urologist found nothing wrong with my bladder –even after inserting a tube up my urethra. The next step they wanted to take was to put a scope with a camera up my urethra. I said, “Thanks, but no thanks.” I then chose to allow the therapy to heal me because it was the only method of treatment that was healing my other physical suffering. My instincts were right, because after I finally remembered the incest, my bladder slowly became better and eventually healed completely.
Child sexual abuse is very serious and can create physical illness and disease. It can cause mental torment, death and suicide. Don’t ever let anyone think you are crazy or “faking it” or that you should just “think positive” and forget about your pain and suffering.
I have surmounted an incredible -nearly unbelievable- amount of physical suffering and disease from all the sexual abuse, trauma, and multiple abusers I had as a child.
This photo is me now. It depicts how much joy a person can experience when they heal and recuperate their drive for life, and their gratitude for having climbed a mountain and stood at the top with confidence and with liberation from fear, guilt, shame and anger.
If you, or someone you know, needs help, please contact me for the number of my therapist. She helped me heal from diseases doctors say have no cure, or treatment, and she liberated me from my hell. The therapy can be done over the telephone, from almost anywhere in the world. firstname.lastname@example.org
How Deep the Scars of Abuse? Some Victims Crippled; Others Stay Resilient, Sandra G. Boodman Washington Post, Monday, July 29, 2002; Page A01
A Flight of Mind, Pamela Oldham, The Washington Post, February 18, 2003, Page HE01)