Benefits of being a sexual abuse survivor…

I’ve been feeling disheartened lately. I’ve been practicing tantric yoni massage (no endorsement implied in the link, but the description seems about right, and it even mentions survivors), both on my own and with my wife and my lover. I have the injured vulva which has been very sore, and I end up crying throughout the sessions, and crying hard. It feels like it’s clearing held energy out of my vagina and vulva. 

I’m not afraid of crying. I know that clearing emotions is just something that has to happen, like vomiting when you’re really nauseous, and that once it’s passed you feel a lot better. Eventually, it clears so much that acceptance happens and that piece of gunk is fully healed. So crying is a good thing.

Meanwhile, I’m giving my partners multiple long screaming orgasms.

This doesn’t feel the least bit fair.

Yesterday I had a good cry and rage about how unfair it is that 4o years later I’m still trying to heal my vulva, while psychopath father still hasn’t done a day in jail.

I’ve developed a chart and am tracking the state of my vulva plus the things I do to treat it.

I have a 5 point scale from ‘blood red and sore without touching’ at 5 to ‘pink and not sore or itchy’ at 1. My vulva has been at a 4 or 5 for several days now. I’m taking turmeric daily, applying vaseline daily, tracking how often I use the high powered cortisone cream, and basically just monitoring what seems to make it flare up or down rather than numbing out that part of my body. I suspect that learning to be more present in my vulva is making me more conscious of the discomfort that has always been there, not worsening it, but it still sucks.

This article about vulvar skin conditions was a source of some good insight and advice. However, it also lets me know that I probably need to do more medical advocacy on my own behalf, including another biopsy, if I can get a dermatopathologist to examine it and refine my diagnosis. Apparently regular pathologists aren’t good at reading vulvar biopsies because the moist skin shows skin diseases differently than regular dry skin.

Anyhow, as expected, the emotional and physical gunk is coming up to clear.  It’s not like I didn’t know it would.

I’m re-reading Malcolm Gladwell‘s ‘David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants‘, a book about the benefits of being an underdog, or how sometimes an advantage is not an advantage. He talks about how sometimes not being invested in the mainstream way of doing things can be a big advantage and how skills and attitudes people learn when they are the underdog can sometimes give them an advantage. It got me thinking. What about being an incest survivor gives me an advantage?

Now, let’s be clear, I do not subscribe to any victim-blaming philosophies of growth that says basically that we’ve attracted abuse or are asking for it to grow our souls or it’s karma for being complete assholes in a previous life whatever. Despite being wrong, blaming anyone but the abuser for the abuse has been shown to be associated with poorer emotional health. However, since the reality of what I’ve survived is clearly the reality, I might as well look for whatever silver linings I can, right?

The point of the exercise is to look at things commonly seen as disadvantages and figure out situations or conditions in which they offer an unseen advantage. This is not about minimizing or denying, this is about figuring out what I as a survivor or we all as survivors can find to compensate for*  this thing we’ve been handed to deal with. (*terrible wording, but I couldn’t find a better way to put it. Of course, nothing can actually compensate for childhood abuse.)

Let me think:

As a result of healing myself of childhood sexual assault I have the following advantages:

  1. I understand and surrender to grief, but am not overwhelmed by it. Strong feelings are familiar and manageable, and I have ‘let’s get on with it’ attitude.
  2. I see dysfunction a mile off.   I make good decisions about people.
  3. I have a lot of empathy. As part of figuring out my own gunk, I’m often able to figure out other people’s enough to have compassion for them. I can make a frame for people to be who they are and as they are.
  4. I don’t put up with shit from abusers. I can spot them, and I don’t engage.
  5. I am not afraid of other people’s feelings. I accept them and am not easily manipulated by them.
  6. I know I can handle it if bad things happen, so I’m not as worried about things I can’t control.
  7. I love myself, deep down. We’ve been through a lot together, me and I, and I trust myself. I am proud of myself and what I’ve achieved.
  8. I am willing to speak truth to power when necessary and do it effectively.
  9. I have well defined skills for coping with fear, pain, uncertainty and processes that feel mysterious and involve faith and self-trust.
  10. I have close to me people who are real and grounded and honourable. Everyone else has the lack of these qualities seemingly written in neon paint on their foreheads.
  11. I have a deep, engaged and mature faith, and a strong spiritual practice.
  12. I don’t sweat the small stuff, and am great at reframing things so I can turn it into a win.

As a result of experiencing childhood sexual assault (this is harder) I have the following advantages:

  1. I have only family of choice remaining to me. I don’t ever have to put up with the garden variety of annoying relatives or family drama. Anyone who isn’t good and loving is no longer in my life.
  2. I have very strong friendships with other survivors. Because we don’t have biological family, we make our friends into family, which makes for strong connections.
  3. I am a very sensitive and skilled lover. Because my own vulva is often sore and easily irritated, and I am not always able to receive touch on my vulva without discomfort, I have put a lot of my sexual energy into getting off on giving my partners pleasure. I have also developed skills to touch other vulvae well without irritating.
  4. Disclosing the experience of abuse to friends, family or lovers is a bit of a litmus test for people’s character. You can tell a lot about people by how well they handle it. It weeds out a lot of bad eggs that would otherwise take awhile to show their colours.

That’s all I have for now. I’d love to hear in the comments about what ‘earned benefits’ or silver lining items (no matter how ironic or backhanded) other survivors can think of about being a childhood sexual abuse or assault survivor.

5 thoughts on “Benefits of being a sexual abuse survivor…”

  1. Dear Cher,

    Thank you for your blog. I googled “Benefits of being an incest survivor” and your blog came up as the only relevant site. I’m studying A Course in Miracles right now and filtering my lessons through the question, How was this a good thing, a blessing? How can I integrate my life story?
    I uncovered this incest 30 years ago, buried my dad 15 years ago with love and care and there is energy coming up around the narrative. (Last year, my inner self brought up unfinished feelings around my mother.) It’s refreshing to be in the presence of others survivors because this is where I feel deeply understood and my experience validated. Thank you, Merry

    1. sworddancewarrior

      In reply to Merry.
      (The blog is mine, not Cher’s ???? )I integrate my life story by saying that I’m proud of what I’ve made of myself, of what I’ve done because of and in spite of some horrible life experiences. I also think that maybe, just maybe, the forces for good in the universe needed someone strong and clear seeing for a purpose, and this was the catalyst to make me that person. But know this. You get to be mad – at your father, at god(s), at the culture that condones it, at anything related. You get to hold him accountable. You get to dance on his grave. There is no need to forgive, ever, unless that actually just happens. Don’t let any idealogy force your soul into a shape that is not true for it. Most idealogies around forgiveness get child abuse wrong. A post here that might be relevant to you is this one. – SDW

  2. I jusst discovered this blog and I’m liking it a lot. I went looking for something like this to deal with upcoming Father’s Day which I have a hard time with every single year. This year in particular is looming since my abuser/father died a couple of months ago. I’m just gearing myself up for a weird emotional day that I can never explain to people around me.

    1. Yep, I totally get that. I say “I have grief attached to Father’s day” and then don’t go into details unless I’m comfortable with it. I’m just about to post on it. I’ve prepared most of the people close to me about what to do when my abuser/father dies, but I’m thinking I need to so some planning on it. Nice to meet you Cher.

  3. You’re lucky that you’re able to weed out abusers. I’m very cautious in relationships, but in my 20s an abuser still managed to manipulate me into marrying him. It was a different kind of abuser, a verbal abuser, and he took years to show his true colors. Everything wrong between us, he attributed it to me being a childhood sexual abuse survivor and “mistaking all men for my father”. It really messed me up…

    So now he’s no longer in my life, and I don’t ever disclose the abuse to sexual partners.

    Anyway, I’m happy to read you again. Silver linings that I also feel on your first list are items 1, 3, 6, 7 and 10. On your second list, I have items 1 and 2, only I just know another survivor in real life but he’s a close and trusted friend.

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