When you are violated by child sexual abuse, there is no such thing anymore as a boundary. The most intimate part of a child has been taken away. The child is left in that moment with any control over their life, their body or what they feel and think. Boundaries have been destroyed.
Many child sexual abuse survivors turn to either absolutely no boundaries or ones that would keep everyone out. We can see both extremes if we pause to notice this.
I had to find better boundaries...
For me, I often attempted to build a wall and keep everyone out. They got to see the superficial side of me, but they didn't get in any further unless they had gone through a 1000 page examination and been watched for some time. Slowly I had to learn how to find better boundaries and attempt to let the good in, but keep the bad out.
Some days I do well on this and other days I struggle with it. I've had people that I let in and were good for some time, then they tried to destroy me from inside the boundary. In those moments, it hurts greatly and I pull back on everyone.
In my family, there were no boundaries...
Growing up in my family, there were no boundaries. From having to use the bathroom with doors open (only to be reminded to close it if guests were over) to having to get dressed in front of a father that seemed to enjoy watching me, there were no boundaries.
In my family, you had no privacy or safety or alone moments. The only way I could find any of that was to hide out in the barn and tell my cats all my personal secrets. A journal would have only become public knowledge, but my cats would never tell anyone.
Sexual intimacy all my life was not a personal thing. It was a family-for public viewing pleasure thing. There were no boundaries in that, because the moment they asked you to rub their back (ask meant the same thing as expect), it was the beginning of one of those common scenarios that forced you to do things you didn't want to do.
Even taking a bath had no privacy. I can remember all too frequently being forced to take showers with my dad or brothers. This was to "conserve" and "save" water. However, when you're reaching sexual puberty, the last thing you want to do is take a shower with some other member of the family. Of course, it became much more than a shower. There was no way to say no, either. After all, we were only allowed one shower a week (before Church on Sunday) and so, there was no way you wanted to miss it.
Child abuse obliterates boundaries...
I could go on and on with example after example, but by now, I think the point is clear that boundaries are obliterated during child sexual abuse. They make it difficult from that point forward trying to figure out what is the norm and what is not.
At a VOICES (Victims Of Incest Can Emerge Survivors) conference, I remember Mike Lew talking about boundaries. He had us imagine where our boundaries were and how far out that went. Then he took us through an exercise where we tried to extend those boundaries of safety and security. It was not an easy exercise for me.
Ever since I started my healing journey, I've worked hard to break the silence and try to share what I went through and how I found my way back out of hell. None of that is ever easy for me to do and at times I still hold back. I'm still in fear of the abusers coming after me and following through on their threats.
Each day I work to regain more and more of my life, taking back my core essence and the parts that were stolen from me in the child sexual abuse. Boundaries are still something I struggle with, but I'm learning more and more by sharing with others, just what a good boundary is and that the violations in my past were not normal.
Blog Post And Images (c) 2016 by Don Shetterly
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