Thursday, June 11, 2015
The Unspeakable Horror of Childhood Sexual Abuse in Language: Part One
This is not so. This is not to make a statement about just how bad childhood sexual abuse is by using hyperbolic language.
This is not my intention. My intention is to address, in Statement Analysis, why certain phrasing may be erroneously flagged as deceptive when it is not. There is a tangible reason for its appearance and ways in which the analyst may discern it as such.
Hyperbole can be an effective and appropriate tool of communication in language, even as we flag it in Statement Analysis. This is Part One.
Overuse of hyperbole speaks to weakness and even deception. It shows a need to persuade that may have the opposite impact of the intention of the writer: persuading the reader that the assertion isn't true, based upon its overuse.
How much is too much? This depends upon the context and often comes down to the skill of the analyst in drawing a conclusion.
However, what if "unspeakable", that is, "without words" was literal?
In certain cases, this is precisely what we are looking at when we analyze the statement of an adult who has suffered childhood sexual abuse.
Childhood sexual abuse has devastating affects upon the victim. It is not debated as statistics are overwhelming.
Adults who have been sexually abused in childhood suffer greatly. This suffering includes what we will see in life, and in the language (statements), so much so, that it becomes "the expected" in analysis of statements made by victims of childhood sexual abuse.
For this purpose, childhood sexual abuse will be abuse that includes sexual contact, sexualized environment (including exposure to pornography, sexualized conversation, etc) and even "play" that includes the touching of genitalia. It will be pre-pubescent in scope, which is not to minimize the impact of adolescents nor adults who experience sexual abuse; it is only to limit the realm of the article as to explain why "unspeakable" is used here, and in analysis.
a. Suicidal ideation, which does, at times, lead to attempts and suicide itself.
b. Self-destructive tendencies, consistent with desire to end one's life or punish oneself. This includes substance abuse (drugs and alcohol), and risky behavior (including promiscuity), as well as sabotaging one's own success (deliberately failing various elements of testing in life, including school and career). In short, anything that "punishes" the victim, caused by the victim, is self destructive and often evident in teenaged girls who were sexually abused prior to the onset of adolescence.
c. Guilt The victim needs no one to say "you caused this", or "you were complicit with the perpetrator" as the victim will likely blame herself (or himself, though my focus is going to be on women for this article) The guilt is often heightened when the adult victim of childhood sexual abuse admits who perpetrated the sexual abuse. The victim feels as if she "hurt" or brought harm to the perpetrator, merely by acknowledging what he did to her. This is powerful and sometimes can be a dominant theme that often arises after she has raised her own children to adulthood.
The re-victimization, in spite of the victim's own guilt, does increase the suffering. This re-victimization can come from many sources including well-meaning families, the natural denial and minimization that parents experience and exhibit, the court system that values her life in such cheap terms, the dismissive therapist or medial professional, and even the Statement Analyst who erroneously sees deception within the specific language of the victim. Hence, an important and invaluable training element for all who treat or care for victims of childhood sexual abuse including professionals who investigate claims.
d. Depression where the subject feels low energy, melancholy, listless, without hope, low interest in life, reduced sensitivity of taste buds, reduced ability to sense pleasure, etc. This can lead to many other issues (including substance abuse) where adrenaline is sought after. Some teenaged girls will evidence depression by stopping eating, while others may eat and stuff themselves to appear "unattractive" to the abuser.
The food issue: When a victim of childhood sexual abuse is a 16 year old girl, and is thin, and looks in the mirror and says how "fat" she is, we know that:
1. Scientifically, she is not fat, obese, or overweight. We can measure her weight, and we can measure her body fat content and overall health, with scientific precision, by scientific conclusions. She may "see" herself as "fat", but she is, scientifically, not fat. She "feels" she is "fat", and this is not only wrong (incorrect), but it is a distinctly subjective measurement.
2. To acquiesce to her "feelings" or her perspective would be to take the subjective and call it objective. It takes the scientific and dismisses it. It exchanges fact for feeling.
What are the consequences for such thinking?
It would mean, in today's popular subjective standard:
To starve her to death, while calling her a hero, because "her reality" says she is "fat" while science says she is thin, is to abuse her further.
Even if it is in the name of "civil rights", and even if she is praised as "courageous" and becomes beloved across the world, it is abusive and the results will be her demise. All the subjectivity in the world will not trump the scientific fact that what she "feels" is not what is, and the consequences are deadly and far reaching, especially when, not if, but when, this argument is applied to other areas of life, including childhood sexual abuse.
e. Anxiety that exceeds what most people experience in our uncertain lives. This includes an overall feeling of doom, or sometimes described as living "a bad dream that does not end", so that the uncertainty is rarely ever given relief. Since all of us feel anxious or even anxiety over the many dangers and uncertainties of life, there may be a lack of coping ability within the adult victim of childhood sexual abuse, that is not understood by the general population and there may be a very sound reason for it, scientifically, which we will not only seek to learn, but seek to understand as it enters her language.
Most victims of childhood sexual abuse do not go on to molest their own children. This is stat number one.
Stat number two is that most all parents who offend on their children were victims of some form of childhood sexual abuse.
It does not come from a vacuum. This is why I wrote, "there is much more to the Duggars' story than what is told" as the expected minimization and denial have something behind them.
Many survivors of childhood sexual abuse go on to become loving parents, but the successful ones are often those who recognize how easily they could fall into the "pendulum" of response:
f. Failure to Protect is, sadly, sometimes the result of childhood sexual abuse. The victim, as a mother, fails to protect her own children; perhaps unable to recognize the patterns before her. The neglect can also come from depression, denial, or a feeling of inevitability; that is, a fatalistic, "I can't stop men, anyway" viewpoint.
g. Hyper Vigilance of her children, so terrified that they may become victims, the mother actually sets up the child for bullying, as she is over protective and refuses to let her child learn how to negotiate life for himself or herself. They inevitably instill anxiety into their own children. Some mothers will chop off their daughters' hair, and dress them as "unfeminine" as possible, not wanting the child to appear "attractive" to the abuser.
Those who process, either through the assistance of trained professionals, or through their own journaling, have the best odds for success. They will never be "healed", yet they may experience a great measure of healing in their lives. The scars will always be there, but the 'sting' can be reduced, and for those who live successful productive lives, what is not known to the outside world is just how many days they went to work, wow'd employees with their productivity, but thought about killing themselves before they even got dressed for that day's work.
Only they know, and, sometimes, those who love them. Yet the years of interviewing have taught me:
The victim of childhood sexual abuse, no matter how much she shares, and how marvelously emotionally intelligent and successful she is, suffers in ways of which she shares with none in this world.
h. Compromised Immune System. I often say that cancer did not kill Susan Murphy Milano, but being raped by her father did. When she sacrificed herself to save her little sister from her father's rape, she did just that: she sacrificed herself. She did not simply let the rapist exhaust his rage upon her in saving her sister, she took upon herself a life time of suffering of which her body, with more energy than most of us, could not sustain the assaults of disease. She literally laid down her life for another.
Susan wrote about her life in "hell", which, especially as I read its brutal, unedited form, was more than I could bear, as I had to, for a bit, walk away, compose myself, and return to the work she so much wanted and needed to share with the world. Courage? She had it in abundance.
We do not know how severely impacted a woman victim of childhood sexual abuse's immune system is, but those who work in the field, on behalf of victims, routinely report that they are more plagued with health issues than the general population. What sounds incredible to us, is more common to victims, such as what I mentioned recently: women who's limbs go numb, randomly, of whom doctors think are being foolish until it happens in the office.
Since our bodies fight off many diseases that are never diagnosed (since they do not manifest), we are not able, yet, to measure just how bad it is for a woman victim to be, in terms of life's daily health issues.
In interviewing adult victims of childhood sexual abuse, as well as interviewing social service professionals, treating psychologists, doctors, nurses, case workers, case managers, and other treatment teams, the impact is acute, no matter where it shows itself.
In Statement Analysis, we allow the woman victim's own words to guide us. (Male victims often speak differently, and this will be covered in a separate article).
There is no argument of the devastating affects upon women who were sexually abused in childhood.
We will need the woman, herself, to guide us, in the analysis. There are indicators of veracity that are strong and universal, yet there are also indicators of veracity that are especially relevant in Statement Analysis of victims' statements.
We seek to answer the signals of veracity, the signals of sensitivity , as well as to learn the impact upon husbands, fathers, sons, daughters, mothers, and other loved ones, of the childhood sexual abuse, and will seek to learn if the age of the victim can be learned from the language the adult chooses to employ in describing the abuse.
Why is it "unspeakable"?
How does "unspeakable" impact Statement Analysis?
What causes some cases to be "unspeakable"?