Summer of 1996. The Woods.
Picture taken 20 years later. Spring 2016.
This is one of the places X sexually abused me. It’s one of the first places I remember actively disassociating.
I remember floating, slightly outside my body while he kissed and bit my neck, breasts and stomach. Hard enough and long enough to leave marks. I felt like he was marking his territory and his territory was all across my 15 year old body. I remember feeling ashamed of those kiss marks, trying to hide them from my friends and parents. I remember making a lame excuse when my parents noticed a red bruise-like mark on my neck one day that summer.
While he lifted up my shirt and I lay on my back on the large stone, his weight on top of me making it difficult for me to move; I floated. I floated and I observed the trees around me. I remember noticing a circle of trees with straight trunks around me and the rock. I felt like it was a clearing, almost a circular chapel with the rock as an alter in the centre. The trees around me comforted me, but I remember feeling disgusted and wishing that the kisses would stop.
I remember the feeling of the hard rock below me. The rock was cool compared to X. I always associate X with the colour red, like fire burning away the blue ice I associated with the numbness of disassociation.
At the time I would never have considered the abuse by X as sexual assault, or even abuse. But looking back I know I often said no, I set boundaries, I asked him not to ever do certain things and he ignored me. Eventually I tired of saying no and I began to submit quietly, not really resisting, just trying to get it over with and minimize the impact on me. It was during this time that I learned to please X as quickly as possible so that he would not spend much time touching my body. I learned that a way of exerting some small amount of control over the situation was to try to speed up the process and distract X. When he was touching me I often just froze. I didn’t move, I didn’t fight, I didn’t scream and I didn’t resist. This still impacts my healthy sexuality now, 20 years later.
Fight. Flight. Freeze. Fawn
Disassociating is a normal coping reaction to experiencing violence. Freezing.
Trying to please the abuser in order to minimize risk to self is a normal reaction. Fawning.
Doing the best you could to survive is the best you could have done.
It’s easy to look back harshly on our young selves and say “You should have run, you should have left him, you should have told someone, you should have screaming…should…should…should”
But I believe if you could have done better, you would have done better.
If I could have done better I would have done better. My younger self had reasons for not running, not leaving, not telling and not screaming. I didn’t run because I disassociated. I didn’t leave because I was worried he would commit suicide. I didn’t tell because I thought I would be in trouble and I thought people would think I was a slut for being sexual. I didn’t scream because I was raised not to make a fuss, to be kind to others and because I believed I would be judged.
I’m sure you have valid reasons too and if you are reading this (and I’m still writing it!) you have survived which means your best was enough. You are enough.