Molestation survivors are often haunted by the fact that they were betrayed and violated when they were most vulnerable. And the details of the assault itself replay in victims’ minds involuntarily. Being victimized when you are defenseless and totally dependent on adults makes the adult world a dangerous place where no one can be trusted.
Being molested is similar to a burglary, where a thief enters your home while you are asleep and takes your most precious possessions, and by the time he or she is caught – if caught at all – the items have been pawned and are irretrievable. And for the rest of your life you check your doors like an OCD sufferer, buy extra locks, sleep shallowly and wait for the next intrusion.
It is an existence filled with anxiety, desperation and mistrust. Potential mates are also potential victimizers who will identify the scars of your past, the weak spots in your foundation, and use them against you, exploit you and leave you. And the mates that you do choose, the ones that slip inside the cracks, are curiously bad for you, yet you continue to be “attracted” to them for obscure reasons. It disgusts you that they may have something in common with your abuser, and that you might be reliving your abuse and thus punishing yourself over and over again.
Parents become co-conspirators in the act or acts. Why would they willingly leave you alone with that relative or family friend? Were they as naïve as you were to trust them? If so, how does one earn the title of “adult”? Are there any real adults? Shouldn’t adults instinctively know how to protect their children and insure their safe journey into adulthood? Can’t they sense danger?
In effect, everyone becomes a suspect: Could he or she have done more? Didn’t they see the signs? And then, once you have reached adulthood and everyone else is concerned with their own daily lives, it reinforces the idea that society is not only dangerous but callous. No one really cares because it happened so long ago; no one can see the pain in your eyes or your awkward behavior around certain people. If you want to get help, you must seek it yourself, or risk embarrassment by naming your offender.
Of course the embarrassment is mostly internal, a stigma you have placed on yourself from years of internal conflict over the events that took place and who is to blame for them. After not being able to confront your abuser or parents, you have decided that it’s easier to just blame yourself. So every time you involuntarily recall your abuse you wince and punish yourself again for being so naïve, so innocent, so defenseless or so open to abuse.
And then you go on with your day-to-day life, mimicking the toughness that is all around you: being strong when you feel like crying; being an adult when all you wanted was a real adult to protect you. Reality becomes warped sometimes, causing smiling faces and helping hands to look more like deceptive grins and sharp claws.
You build over the scars, the cracks, the pain, but you never forget. And every time you encounter an overly friendly older person, or a touchy-feely relative, you wonder if there was something you overlooked, something or someone you forgot in your countless reenactments of your abuse.