I read Nedra’s newsletter this week and while the subject was directly covering child abuse, I found it to be a subject that resonates so strongly with me as a survivor.
When Nedra talks about growing up in an alcoholic family, naturally that was something that resonated with me. Growing up my father was an alcoholic. It was normal for me to fear your father, especially when they’d been drinking. It was normal for there to be violence at home. It was normal for children to be physically attacked for as little as making too much noise.
Perhaps worst of all, it was also normal to keep it all secret, to not share what happens at home outside of the immediate family.
Which made it all the more easy for the sexual abuse I suffered later to be kept secret. And, in some odd way, for it also to seem normal. In the same way that I normalized doing whatever I was asked to do to avoid physical abuse from my father, I obeyed the person sexually abusing me to avoid something worse happening. That was how relationships with any older male figures in my life went. It was normal to live in fear of them, to allow them to set all the rules, to tell me what was acceptable behavior and what wasn’t, and that punishment for not acting in the way they wanted me to would be punished.
Is it any wonder why, even now, I don’t have a ton of male friends?
Also, is it any wonder that I was in my 20s before I heard someone describe being sexually abused and, for the first time, realized that I had been too? Growing up what happened to me was what I thought was mostly normal, just not talked about. Sexual abuse was something else. That’s what happened to kids who got kidnapped by strangers, not sexually abused within the family. I grew up not even knowing what was happening to me was a crime because it seemed normal. It was what I knew. It was also the thing I knew we didn’t talk about, so I assumed it happened to most of my friends too, they just didn’t talk about it either.
As it turns out, it WAS happening to some of those friends, but it was not something we should have just gotten used to and accepted as normal. It was a crime. It was sexual abuse.
It’s the sense of what is normal that we carry into adulthood and can cause a lot of problems. Go read what Nedra has to say about how to overcome this by learning to view our situations from outside of our old views in order to react in a healthier way rather than our normal ways.