Thursday, November 9, 2017

Childhood Rape: Innocence Lost by Peter Reum

The subject of sexual molestation and rape has been brought to the awareness of our country. A number of adults who were molested in childhood have spoken in the media and have expressed themselves in an angry manner and have identified their assailants, some famous, some not.

The experience of childhood violation is a subject that I have had to come to terms with as an adult. When I was 7, I was violated by a teenage neighbor who passed off what he was doing as a "science experiment." I did not fully comprehend what was happening to me, I only knew that I DID NOT like the feeling I was experiencing. I was asked to participate in another "science experiment" but instinctively declined the invitation.  It just felt WRONG.

The latest Hollywood sexual scandals seem to me to be the only time that public attention is focused upon this societal plague that shrivels the souls of young boys and girls and adults of both genders. The confusion regarding the differences between childhood and adult rape/molestation and acceptable consensual intercourse leads many people to equate rape and molestation with gay and lesbian consensual intercourse. The key word here is consensual. At least here in The United States, the historical page has been turned regarding same sex lovemaking and relationships. That the religious right wing still uses Old Testament Biblical verses to condemn same sex love and marriage between adults is a travesty that is being exposed for the silliness that it is. That there are many sensational cases in extramarital affairs  and hidden same sex relationships among the religious right is not surprising.  Outward piety bears no relationship to repressed but undeniable sexual drive.

I have had the chance to read an excellently researched book concerning  heterosexual and same sexual rape and molestation by Jon Krakauer entitled Missoula.  The first dozen or so years of this new century are the background setting for the drinking and drugging culture at the University of Montana in Missoula. Missoula is a beautiful small city, located in a valley carved by the Clarks Fork River. The University of Montana's student body, and their partying culture unfortunately led to a disregard for consensual sex at the University. Missoula is a town that enjoys microbrewery beers, and parties are often held after sports events on campus, especially during the autumn football season.

Without trying to summarize an excellently researched book that is presented factually, I will say that this volume is a focused and fair summation of several alleged rapes that occurred when students at the University of Montana were drinking or drugging, and incidents alleging rape or molestation led to destruction of the lives of some students at UM.  The women who were raped and molested were often highly intoxicated, as were the men who were accused. There was somewhat of a ho hum approach when these sexual incidents were reported by women to various authorities. The intoxication levels of the victims was used as a mitigating factor that the authorities deemed applicable pertaining to the question of whether the intercourse was consensual or not. In several cited cases, Mr. Krakauer documents an attitude among authorities that casts a doubt as to whether various victim's allegations were valid. When the alleged perpetrators said that they thought they had the consent of the accusing individuals because there was little to no resistance from highly intoxicated women regarding how the sexual incident proceeded.

For children, the idea of consensual intercourse is, of course, absurd. For especially young or mentally impaired children, the possibility of informed consent is impossible. For hundreds of thousands of  younger boys and girls, the incident may be perceived by the child as a chance to please the adult, a chance to obtain some sort of promised reward in exchange for sex, or to prevent an adult from physically beating the child. For me, it was a one time experience that just felt wrong. I did not tell my parents because I was ashamed of what happened, and I was worried that the incident would ruin our family's relationships with neighbors if I reported it. I buried the incident in a dark and dank section of my mind, and did not think of it, until 19 years later, when a female employee at the record store I was managing tearfully recalled the horrible emotions and feelings of being violated and unclean since the rape happened. All of a sudden, I recalled the rape I experienced and blurted it out to the employees of mine sitting at the table. I was trying to empathize, but the people at the table just sat there silently, wide eyed and shocked.

I will digress briefly to say that after I  became a therapist, my experience with rape seemed to help my efforts to assist men and women who had experienced molestation and/or rape to process and work through their grief, anger, and sense of shame that cast a long shadow over their lives. It is a powerful result of research in chemical dependence that 80 percent of women and 50 percent of men who enter chemical dependency treatment have a history of unresolved sexual violation-either rape or molestation.

As a chemical dependency therapist, it became a boilerplate approach that I would inquire as to whether my new addiction group members had a history of being sexually violated. Once, when I had a group of 6 women and 1 man in an outpatient group I was leading, all six of the women shared experiences of sexual violation in their presentation of their life histories. To help my readers here to understand the depth of anguish and violation these women experienced, each was able to recall the  body odor (smell), the sounds, the anguish of the experience in real time, and the shattered feelings each woman experienced for years afterward that they tried to forget. As time went on, their anger deepened, and the unresolved anger that festered became harder to numb with chemicals. For myself, having repressed the experience I had for over 30 years, as the women graphically described the noises, smells, violence, and environmental location of the rapes triggered my mind to open itself to the same memories which for me came roaring back.  I could not disclose these feelings to the group as it would have messed with the positive sharing that these women were using to heal themselves and to end their chemical dependence. I instead sought private therapy for myself.

Group therapy had the cumulative impact of helping these women to process the jumbled feelings they had concerning the sexual violations they had experienced. To this day, some 12 years later, when these women cross my path in the community, they thank me for allowing them the risk of sharing their pain with each other and the resulting group support they still have. Some of them have gone on to become employees of shelters for female victims of  physical, mental, and sexual abuse.

The answers to the problem of sexual violation of minor children and vulnerable adults are still in their early development. There is an excellent array of literature available for any child or adult who is struggling with the memories of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse. In larger communities, obviously the resources are greater than in rural communities.   Peer support groups, therapists, and bibliographic resources are excellent sources of support.  Obviously, the initial and tentative first steps into disclosing and feeling the emotions lying under the anger and shame are the hardest. As time goes on, most victims empower themselves, and some even enter the field of service to those people who are in need of professional assistance because of their being violated.

Here are a few online resources:

Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse - Adult Resources for Child Sexual Abuse
Adult Behavior as a Result of Childhood Sexual Abuse - Effects-child-abuse-neglect-adult-survivors/
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - Effect of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder on Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual and Physical Abuse - https://www.recoveryranch.com/articles/trauma-and-ptsd-articles/child-sexual-abuse-as-a-cause-of-ptsd-post-traumatic-stress-disorder/

Text copyright 2017 by Peter Reum - All Rights Reserved