It's been a rough, ROUGH few weeks. I'm not really wanting to rehash on things and put too many details here, but I did want to let everyone know that things have been stressful and difficult as of late. I'm still around, though, no worries!!! It seems that no matter what's happening in my life, this remains my safe space, the place where I feel most comfortable, and where I 'escape.'
I know I've been extremely neglectful to my blog, my and to my kitchen sink, among other things. I've managed to autopilot through, though, and am starting to see some semblance of normalcy; it's been a while since there has been 'sunshine,' both literally and figuratively speaking. Some of my closest friends here already know a little bit about what's been going on in my life, and they have been absolutely amazing. My heartfelt thanks to those of you who were never without a kind word and those who have checked in or sent pick-me-ups my way. I'm a very fortunate woman, to know you and to call you friends!
So, when it rains, it pours...there's a hell of a lot of truth to that statement. And when it's pouring out and things keep coming at you like those balls being whipped at you in the batting cages - you learn to compartmentalize and to recognize what you can handle now and what you should tuck away for later.
Now that the storm has passed (somewhat) and the weather is becoming nicer and more bearable, I'm taking a peek at what's been in the back pocket of my brain for a few weeks. There's not TOO much in there due to my trying to tackle everything else that was coming at me at once - some things couldn't be put away.
As many of you know, I'm finishing up my junior year at the University (been back for a year, after taking a hiatus!) and I'm just a few classes shy of my bachelor's in Social Work. I'm taking a Child Welfare class and it's taught by an excellent professor. The guy is knowledgeable, he engages, he's not boring, he keeps our attention - and that's not easy to do at 8 o'clock in the morning. Anyway, in preparation for our midterm, he was kind enough to reveal what one of the essay questions would be.
"Identify the four types of child abuse and describe the indicators and signs that point to each."
I mean, some of this - it's a no-brainer. You have your physical abuse cases (seeing burns, bruises, welts and spiral fractures on a child's body and the child's account most often not being consistent with the story the marks tell), there's neglect, which is marked by the child's appearace at times - the child who rummages through trash because they're hungry and are in search of food, the child who is unkempt or inappropriately dressed (flip-flops in December?) is likely not getting what he or she needs at home. Emotional and mental abuse struck a chord for me for obvious reasons - although I was older when experiencing this type of abuse at the hands (and mouth) of my husband, it would be easy for me to spot signs of emotional distress in a child. The emotionally abused child will often verbally put themselves down, chastise themselves, minimize their self-worth, all reflective of what they perhaps hear from adults they trust.
I paid the most attention to the fourth 'type' of abuse - sexual abuse. I've not said much in class during these discussions - I'd chosen to just sit, listen, observe. I was fearful of what I'd hear were indicators of this - because for a long time, I've been holding onto the belief that I was sexually abused as a child. I'd LOVE to not believe it, but based on what I do know of myself and my behaviors as a kid, I can't discount any of it. I wondered to myself - what signs was everyone else missing? What was ignored? Was I that good at hiding secrets, that even as a child, I showed no indication that something was wrong?
The professor did talk about physical signs - those signs aren't always accurate, though - some can be confused for physical abuse (not that sexual abuse isn't physical, because it is - but a flinching child or a child afraid of an adult could truthfully point to either) and some can be attributed to one of the other types as well - and as children don't normally show up to school with their private areas exposed, sexual abuse is by far one of the most overlooked of abuse types.
There is one indicator, though, and according to the esteemed professor - it is the number one sign that a child has been sexually abused.
Anyone care to venture a guess as to what that sign is?
Okay, I'll tell you. I didn't get it right away, either, for the record. I guess I never really sat down to think about it because I never had to - but in preparation for getting my degree, I've had to take a good, hard look at a lot of things. I wasn't planning to pursue working with children, and I think I'm understanding now why there might be some (unconscious) hesitation there. It all makes more sense, now.
Without further ado - the number one sign is - 'a child who has an advanced knowledge of or is demonstrating sexual behavior at an age where they would not normally have it or do so.'
I wanted to shake my professor's hand at the end of class and say, "I can't tell you what for, but thank you!!!!"
He validated me and he doesn't even know it. Although I still have no memory to support my suspicions, he made them a little more true. I'm still not sure what to do with this - perhaps it's going back into that pocket from which it arrived, especially now that I know and understand that these signs weren't missed...they were ignored. My mother saw them when she witnessed (and scolded me for) behaviors that she told me were 'inappropriate' and dirty. I was seven. Or eight. How the hell else would I have known the things I was doing if something hadn't happened? A kid doesn't learn these things without some sort of exposure. A social worker saw the signs, too, when the 'dolls' did sexual things to each other. She asked questions, there was an investigative process but nothing came of that, either.
I dunno, guys.
I kinda hoped that there was some truth to me being a 'dirty' child. Or that I was just crazy and imaginative enough to make things up. Even being a kid that had something wrong with her was an easier concept to grasp, because it would mean I wasn't a bad kid...and that the REASON I did these things was because I was crazy, or just...smart enough to 'discover' certain sexual behaviors on my own...
Anyone I've spoken to about these things is most likely a survivor themselves. "Something did happen," they all say, "you didn't make this up..." Don't get me wrong - I do believe it - but there was always that tiny sliver of hope that I was wrong and that there was a misunderstanding or misinterpretation somewhere.
To hear this information from a non-survivor (as far as I know) and a professional....a teacher TELLING future social workers what to look at when trying to identify child sexual abuse...this has made it....different, somehow.
Surprisingly, I'm not triggered. I'm almost relieved, in a sense. It's a very hard feeling to explain, but perhaps I will be able to at a later time. I wanna say I'm angry, but it is not yet at the point where I'm feeling enraged. It's still a feeling of fizzing disgust - and mostly at certain people who were in my life, saw these very obvious signs, and did nothing. I've already, in my mind, held those 'players' accountable - even if I've not said anything to them (and with good personal reasons for not doing so) or shared with them what I DO remember. My suspected abuser is dead, now. Perhaps this can be looked at as an act of divine intervention - as I'll never get any confirmation from a pedophile who was buried last summer - maybe this was something I needed to hear in order to make peace with it, even in a small way.
I will say though, I'm glad social work professionals today are smarter and more thorough than the ones that existed back in the 80s. It's RIDICULOUS how much was missed, or even ignored back then.
I've just received word that my spring break has been extended another week due to the University's taking precaution over the mass hysteria caused by the COVID-19 outbreak - they are still having faculty come in but delaying students' return until March 23rd. Staff will be exploring the possibilty of continuing classes remotely if the need arises. So, the week that I mentally missed, (I still went to classes even though my head wasn't with it, but that was strictly for attendance purposes) I now have back and will utilize it in order to catch up as best as I can. I'll be spending some time with my word processor, research engines, and $25 bottles of hand sanitizer. So - back to the grind on the two papers that were due when we returned from spring break. No extensions have been granted on those as of yet, so I'm back to working on those under the assumption that they're still due on the established due dates.
I did want to post something here, though, as it's been a while since I let my words flow. It ALWAYS does make me feel a little better when I've done so - and as expected, I'm feeling calm and more able to focus on the things that are still sitting in front of me.
I'm hoping everyone is doing well and is staying safe and germ-free!!! My thoughts are always with you!
Peace, love and hugs,