Three weeks ago, I wanted your decision to call off the engagement, to be about me-about something I did or didn’t do. Three weeks ago, I began the inner dialogue of playing the ‘what if’ game: “What if I had sent a more loving text?”; “What if I had sat closer to him at soccer practice?”; “What if I had planned a romantic weekend instead of buying Valentine’s Day gifts?”
Three weeks ago, I was drowning in self-doubt and self-blame. I thought about all of my flaws: my middle-aged after three children body, my short-temper, my overly analytical mind.
Three weeks ago I needed something tangible, something I could isolate- an exact moment when I destroyed the relationship. This discovery would empower me: it would give me control. If I had this tidbit, then I would not be a victim again. I would protect myself. I would use this as a reminder to what I had learned so many times: never be vulnerable; always be vigilant.
My vigilance was complete and steady until recently.
I fully blame the media for my change in heart. I was inundated with another v-word- vulnerability. Vulnerability was all the buzz when it came to unlocking the secrets to finding and keeping love.
Studies were conducted, articles and books were written, T.V. shows and documentaries were made. All of these purported the same message: Vulnerability is key to a true connection. But, I am a hard sell. It wasn’t until I went to see a long-awaited film that I gave this notion some real thought.
In late October, on a really bad date, I went to see the film A Star Is Born. I was absolutely stunned by the performances both actors gave. It wasn’t just the vocals or the acting- although both were superb-rather, it was the lesson they learned.
The characters, both struggling with their own demons, together find their way out of hell by letting down their guard and trusting the other. The scenes where Ally and Jackson allowed themselves to be vulnerable were both uncomfortable and beautiful to me. I wanted to be Ally—not just because of her voice and marriage to Jackson- I longed to know what it was like to trust someone enough to be completely vulnerable.
When Sex Abuse Victims Aren’t Supported And Nurtured
Vulnerability is often learned at the hand of trauma.
I have learned this more times than I will ever admit. Sometimes it is extreme like sexual and physical abuse and sometimes it is a matter of being demeaned, humiliated, ignored. And unlike adults, children are not allowed or not encouraged to feel how they feel. They bury the feelings of betrayal, confusion, anger, and rejection. Or if they are allowed to feel some of the emotions, it is not under the care of a professional or a trusted adult.
What makes childhood abuse so detrimental to future relationships is the victim learning the hard way that you cannot trust those who were supposed to have protected you. It is the memory of recalling what it was like to be in a situation in which you have no control and no one would answer your calls for aid. It is the anger that comes with knowing that telling about the abuse will make things worse and leave even more people broken and hurt.
Children learn quickly. The subtext that they pick up on really quickly is this: society blames victims- especially women.
When a woman is raped, how often does she feel the scrutiny of outfits and interactions? When a woman is abused by her partner, what gossip does she hear about her inabilities and insanity? When a woman is mentally terrorized, how often does she see another rewarded for her tenacity to go through the hell?
The blame game impacts every young woman-those who have experienced abuse and those who have not.
It is extremely common for trauma victims to blame themselves because they are looking for a defense mechanism against the most awful feeling in the world: powerlessness. It is also extremely common for all humans to want to understand. Children who have known trauma, don’t often get to address these issues.
When a caretaker or parent doesn’t ensure that these feelings are addressed, the child will find a resolution: self-blame. The repercussions will certainly continue if the victim (If we) never come to know that it wasn’t our fault; it wasn’t our choice; it wasn’t what we deserved.
What I deserve (d) was the ability to be vulnerable, to have parents and caring adults protect me from the evil that targeted me. I deserved to be believed, supported, and nurtured when these same adults failed to protect me. I didn’t deserve to have my pain buried, to have my self-esteem diminished, to have my self-love lessened. I deserved complete and unfaltering love.
I believe in healing. I believe that trauma is only a part of who we are. I believe we have to stop re-traumatizing ourselves. I believe we have to stop repeating the cycle of pain. I believe that we can see ourselves as brave warriors and not victims. And I most definitely still believe in love.