Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Thoughts on Sexual Abuse in Language
Thoughts on Sexual Abuse in Language
by Peter Hyatt
We have previously seen that a statement is "verbalized reality" and not necessarily reality itself. Within a statement we find that certain phrases or words, perhaps unnecessarily so, enter the language of victims of childhood sexual abuse, just as it does in cases of sexual homicide.
it makes sense.
If you're a regular reader, you know that doors, for example, opening and closing, can sometimes creep into the language of a child who has experienced sexual abuse. I have interviewed hundreds of children and have even seen subtle changes in body language during such descriptions.
"Closed the door and went to bed" has a missing pronoun:
Who closed the door?
Who went to bed?
The subject, even as a child, did not say she went to sleep, so, in following Avinoam Sapir's SCAN protocol to the letter, I must not say she went to sleep unless she says it. The mantra: "The statement is alive, while, to us, the subject must be dead"; that is, without impact or influence. The child's sweet face, or any other communication must not enter into the analysis.
Doors, windows, blankets, and the unnecessary mention of water will sometimes show itself. We have had many such examples that you can find in the archives here, but it is an understanding I seek to convey, today, on why this is.
Children and Boundaries
If you're a parent, I will wager you a cup of coffee that you've, at some time or another, gently teased your child about being naked. "Oh, you better get dressed now!", where once, the young child ran freely through the house naked, it was only natural that a sense of modesty descended upon the child, and you were quite at ease with it.
Eventually, the child got older, and closed the bathroom door while using the toilet. The closing of the door made the child feel safe from embarrassment. It is natural.
But did you ever stop to consider what happens to the boundaries of a child exploited?
The child does not feel "safe", not only from the perpetrator (if family member, the child 'loves' the perp), but from embarrassment and shame: There is no natural boundary.
The child believes her body is not her own, is not to be protected, and does not feel "private" as other children do. Little wonder when the child hits teen aged years, that she learns to let others abuse her, even as the perpetrator once did. The language of "doors" and "showers" and "brushing teeth" (slightly separate but close) creeps into statements where, for many others, it is absent.
If it is important to the account that a door needed closing, it is to be viewed as such, but if it, like covering with blankets (which can also be PTSD) as "unnecessary", SCAN dictates that it be considered "doubly important": any "useless" information is to be considered sensitive to the subject.
The child does not have proper safe feeling boundaries, and the adult victim now does not see the world as you or I see it. As children, they did not learn that there were lines others should not cross because the trusted perpetrator taught her otherwise.
I think it is likely to be the worst when it is a father, or primary caregiver.
When a perpetrator (adult) fondles a child's genitals, for example, it is a massive intrusion into the child's "space"; or personal boundary. This invasion can even occur on lesser levels, such as creating a sexualized environment with pornography, or parents not keeping their own sexual activity private. Adults who perform sex acts on or before children teach the child that body space is non existent. We must look for these signs in language.
If a child grows up in this environment, what do you think happens when someone attempts something sexual? The children do not understand that they have the right and responsibility to say "no" to the abuser. The lessons learned in early childhood are deeply embedded.
Shame and Betrayal
It is not difficult to understand how such abuse leads to promiscuity, passivity and self harm.
The passivity shows the attempt to remove oneself from responsibility. We have seen this many times (see Ryan Braun's 'mea culpa' without the 'mea'), with
"the gun went off" rather than, "I pulled the trigger."
With adult victims of sexual abuse, we must be very, very careful when viewing passivity because the adult victim learned in childhood to remove herself from the situation, and almost "watch" the abuse as it happened. It is no coincidence that she does this as an adult and that the language of passivity enters as she recounts such things.
We may conclude that the passivity is an attempt to distance oneself from responsibility, but we must ask, "Why?" as we continue to dig deeper. This is why I often repeat the call for therapists and counselors to study SCAN.
Disassociation and Language
We now come upon a topic that will only be mentioned but not further: the child who was sexually abused, learned to disassociate herself from the event, and this will show in the language:
She will minimize, but as Kaaryn Gough has said so many times:
the brain knows.
The brain knows that the adult victim is minimizing and we often hear the "temporal lacunae", or the passing (or skipping) of time (and detail) within the account.
It is like the subject is in denial, and 'believes' the lie (minimization) but is, once again, being betrayed because the brain knows what it knows, and no matter how desperate the subject is to conceal this information, words slip out, like marbles in a cabinet, when she goes to choose the right one.