For First Time Visitors
If you are a first time visitor to this blog, I invite you to start from the beginning, especially if you are unfamiliar with the potential emotional impact of long-term child abuse.
Trigger caution to unhealed survivors!
Trigger caution to unhealed survivors!
Understanding the Incomprehensible
Children of incest or long-term sexual abuse grow up to be wounded adults with complicated emotional issues. Unfortunately, some symptoms are misinterpreted or often dismissed as "crazy", only serving to maintain a tormented victim status. We, as a society, have the power to change this dynamic. Each of us can make a difference.
Dec 7, 2008
Bracing for the holiday
For survivors of organized pedophilia, Thanksgiving is the foreboding of Christmas. While it may be joyful to give presents and share with friends at a certain point in healing, Christmas is a very difficult day for survivors on many levels. If you are a friend or support person of a survivor, it's good to understand. You needn't change your own traditions, but a few modifications could help ease anxiety. Survivors are invited to add comments to more fully expand this message.
What might appear to be a peaceful holiday scene in the photo might be viewed from a survivor's perspective as: scary fire, boxes that hold scary things, Santa (who is someone who sexually abused them as a child), or even feelings of shame instilled for wanting presents. Christmas is never about religion (except for a very warped version) or joy. It's singled out as one of the more abusive times for a pedophile gathering to instill deep trauma into victims while the pedophiles engage in their perversions.
I recall feeling sickened after my first memory of father abuse when my sister told me that my father (who was born and raised Jewish) was going to be Santa at the area shopping mall. Any Santa with little kids is terrifying to me even though I logically know not all who play Santa are pedophiles. Recently a very distasteful ad appeared on television for erectile dysfunction. The spokesperson was a man dressed as Santa with a long line of adult woman waiting to sit in his lap. You can't imagine the revulsion survivors have to such images.
How to help
Wrapped packages/boxes were used to disguise disgusting and terrifying items. Use gift bags for survivor gifts. The openness feels safer.
If you are comfortable asking the survivor if anything in the environment is causing distress and you are willing to remove any object during the visit, by all means do so. Just offering may be sufficient to put the survivor more at ease.
If there is a gathering where Santa is to appear in costume, make sure the survivor knows that in advance. Perhaps s/he would be willing to move to another room to feel more comfortable.
Changing the tradition
As with any holiday, survivors can create their own traditions or changes as they progress through healing. Those in the early stages of healing may elect to avoid holiday gatherings. My SO and I now exchange gifts on Christmas Eve and enjoy his family gathering of watching them open gifts on Christmas Day. We eased into it because I was always trying to get him to allow me to open presents the night before. Now he understands that it feels safe for me and I appreciate that it is okay with him now too.
Christmas is known as a depressing time of year for many. The economy this year alone could create an even greater impact. However, survivors wrestle constantly with wishing they could enjoy some of the holiday while staving off the depression that surrounds the many Christmases that were made horrendous days of abuse in the past.
Other typically benign objects may be triggers. Do you know what to do if your friend or SO has a panic attack or a frightened little takes over? If not, ask. Lacking an answer from the survivor, reassurance of current safety and offer of helping move her to a comforting room with a quilt and possibly a stuffed animal may help to calm the little as well as ease the panic attack. The survivor may be frightened to be left alone once separated. Coping skills are breathing slowly, calming words, calming music. Does the person need to call her therapist? What does she need if isolation from the trigger and reassurance of safety don't work? Asking is good.
I recall a party I attended in my early years of healing where I walked into the kitchen where several men had gathered and bottles of liquor were strewn about. I got so dizzy I nearly passed out. I made it back to my SO in a little's state asking to go home. A memory surfaced later about the trigger of men and alcohol for me.
Surprises and gags
Surprises and gags are not only not funny, the panic of even a good surprise could trigger a memory. You don't want to give a survivor a surprise party. In looking for an appropriate photo for this post, I came across one showing Santa from the back as he was flashing the people in front of him. That's not funny to us. It's sick. So, if you know a survivor will be visiting your home, you might want to avoid the anatomically correct Santa cookies or gingerbread men.
Yes, we have a lot of emotional baggage and holiday trauma. It takes a long time to diffuse. You can also be a part of the healing journey by being a good friend and understanding ally.