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Timing

“The earlier the abuse took place, the deeper and more traumatic the impact on the survivor.” I read that statement by an authority on childhood abuse. He never presented any evidence, but he did say that came out of his “30 years of practice.”

He also wrote something to the effect that the more deviant the perpetrator’s behavior, the greater the detriment to the survivor’s recovery. He seemed to believe that, as adults, they had deeper issues to work through.

He added something about the wider the age difference, the more negative the result.

That’s when I stopped reading, although I’m no expert who can disprove what he wrote. But what he ignored was the personality of the child.

We all heal differently, and his statements didn’t reflect that. Some boys are more sensitive than others; some survivors never seem to overcome the effects.

Immediately I think of John, a member of a small group of six men I joined during the initial year of my coming to terms with my abuse.

In one of our first meetings, John told us about his painful childhood of abuse, and it sounded much like mine, except his was a single perpetrator. He had been seeing a therapist for 20 years. He ended by saying, “I feel like a bag of shit.”

Our group met every Thursday for four years until I moved out of the city. On the last meeting, John made the same statement about himself.

I haven’t seen John since, but I wonder how he feels about himself today. My guess is that he’s probably at about the same level as he was back when he was part of the group.

Why was John unable to recover after more than two decades of therapy? I don’t know. I’m hesitant to say it was because his abuse took place so early. Or blame the length of it. I could say the same things about mine. John knew his abuser was at least 25 years older. The old man who assaulted me was at least 55 years older than I was and the woman was 35 years older.

Why have I been able to achieve almost-but-not-quite healed status and John seemed stuck? I don’t know.

I’m grateful for the friends and loved ones who have stood with me and helped me. I’m even more grateful to a benevolent and compassionate God.

Why me?

Why have I moved so far down that road?

I have no idea, but I’m filled with gratitude at the growth and progress.

3 comments:

Mark Cooper said...

Intriguing comment.

I often feel guilty that I am no more healed than I am. I have been in counseling for years. Have attended men's recovery group for years. Have been open and accountable for years.

Last summer I ended up hospitalized for 5 days because of depression and now take meds under a psychiatrist care.

The battle with depression, temptations, loneliness, responsibility, guilt, shame seems relentless.

I've "showed up" and done a lot of work. And in the struggle and pain I find a lot of messages of encouragement and hope that others respond to. But for me, something is still missing.

Roger Mann said...

I think there are different factors that affect how we heal. Of course the counselor in this article is correct in that what happened, how it happened, the age difference and how long it went on are all factors. Also the personality of the individual, the support or lack thereof in the parents too. I know men who were approached by a child around their own age who still have trouble seeing it as abuse and maybe even whether they share some of the blame.

My faith and my mom's prayers probably helped me through the tough years more than anything else. It took a long time to get over the anger and hurt. I suspect when the sexual abuse is combined with verbal and physical that can make it exponentially more difficult to overcome.

There are just too many factors that could and many times do play a part in abuse really make sweeping statements like this guy made. There may be patterns that can stand out over the years but I doubt a single factor like aged difference would always determine who makes it and who struggles.

Just my thoughts

Anonymous said...

I believe that statement to be correct I was abused starting at age 2 until I was 12 by my father and a few times by my uncle at age 3 and 4. More times than I can count or remember. I will never be safe I will never be healed I will never be whole but I will never quite.