Jeff and I like to watch the show “The Haunting of…” If you haven’t seen the show, it deals with celebrities who have had experiences of the paranormal. The show is an extended version of “Celebrity Ghost Stories.” It is an hour of a particular celebrity meeting at the place of his or her haunting with Kim Russo. If the paranormal and psychics are not your thing, please don’t give up on this post. It is more of a platform on which to build the rest of the post.
The featured actress in last Saturday’s episode was Nadine Velazquez. She and Kim went to her childhood home, where described her experience with a ghost. Usually the show goes to one place, but this time, they went to two. In the second home, Nadine said one of her parents still lived there, but she didn’t go upstairs when she stayed there. She and Kim went upstairs and Nadine was clearly uncomfortable and in many ways, it looked to me as if she was trying not to dissociate. She also made a face several times that looked like she was trying to fight off a feeling.
If the term dissociate is unfamiliar to you, it often happens when a person is being abused or experiencing trauma. It is as if they leave their body. Many survivors describe their abuse from a detached perspective. Many are hovering over their bodies and watching it from above or watching it from a different part of the room. Many of my memories are from the corner of my parents’ bedroom, watching what was happening to me from outside my physical self. If you’ve never experienced it, it may not make much sense, but it is a survival tactic many survivors use. Some only dissociate when they are being abused, but many dissociate at any sign of trouble in their lives. In therapy, many people work toward stopping dissociating, which is helpful so people can stay present, but is a very difficult thing to learn.
As Kim and Nadine talked, Kim asked Nadine what was going on in her life when she had her ghostly encounter in that particular room. Nadine said she was being sexually abused and she said she had never admitted that in public before. She said she was embarrassed about what had happened. I wanted to tweet her and tell her it was not her fault and she had no reason to be embarrassed. It is never the survivor’s fault. The shame and embarrassment should never be the survivors, but the abuser puts that on them. The abuser puts shame, guilt, emotions, and experiences on the victim without further thought of what that does to a small, innocent child.
If the statistics are correct, and I believe they are extremely underreported, especially for men, one in four girls(some statistics say one in three) is sexually abused before they turn 18 and one in six boys are sexually abused before their 18th birthday. I know of several actors and actresses who have come forward about their abuse including Nadine Velazquez, Carlos Santana, Oprah, Tyler Perry, Teri Hatcher and Corey Feldman. Instead of being filled with shame and embarrassed about experiences of abuse, Hollywood could be ablaze with people speaking out about their experiences of childhood sexual abuse.
For instance, in one of my favorite recent movies, “Oz, The Great and Powerful,” there were one hundred and forty-four actresses and actors. There are approximately eighty-eight male actors in the movie and fifty-six. (I did count, but I some names could have been male or female and did not have a picture. I also rounded down.) Going with the statistics society uses, that means that seven women are survivors of sexual abuse and fourteen men are survivors of sexual abuse. That’s probably a low estimate, but a whole lot of painful memories all in one place and that is just one example. This only includes the actors and actresses and does not include all the other people who worked on the film in various other ways.
It is hard and it is embarrassing, until you say the words enough. “I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. It is not my fault. I am not the only one. I did nothing wrong.”
I thank each and every survivor who has come forward. I am grateful to every survivor who has survived and I mourn the loss of every survivor for whom the pain was just too much. The shame is not yours. It is not your fault and you are not alone.
When I went to the Paths to Healing conference last week, Peter Isely said that the abuse doesn’t really become real until it is spoken for the first time. He doesn’t mean that the victim is making it up, it is more that in the telling it becomes real. It is no longer a painful secret hidden and festering in the darkness.
When one has a wound, the would needs to be covered to keep out dirt, but it also needs air and light to heal. The same is true with the wound of childhood sexual abuse. Keeping it in the dark creates a covering for the pain, but to heal, it needs to be aired. If you have found and recovered your voice, please keep speaking. If you have not yet spoken of it, I encourage you to keep trying to find the words and speak your truth. You are not alone.
I know that there is pain…Hold on. You didn’t get yourself into the mess of childhood sexual abuse, but you can change the impact it had on you. You can be free.