The interesting thing about child abuse is that it’s not the actual acts that cause the problem. It’s the programming in our brains as children that requires we learn from everything that happens to us, and around us. We need to take meaning and lessons from events so that we have the best chance of survival as adults, when there is no one to guide us.
The facts of what happens in our childhood are not the problem. This applies equally to horrible events as it does to wonderful ones.
Did you know that we experience roughly 7,363,000 minutes by the time we are 14 years old? Because of the way we are wired, any one of these could become a significant basis for a lesson. It could be a good collection of minutes like remembering eating ice cream down on the beach with your mother. It was a moment of connection, of love, so now whenever you eat ice cream it reminds you of how much your mother loved you. And if you feel unloved, for whatever reason, eating ice cream brings back that feeling. It could be a bad collection of minutes where you got beaten for making a mess on your top at school. You learnt that your behaviour led to a beating which made you try and change your behaviour. But we all make a mess sometimes and so you could never get things right.
Everything that happens becomes a story. The facts take on meaning. The meaning creates the story. The story runs through our lives.
When you have been abused it is not the facts of what they did to you that are the problem. It’s the story you write. “He did this, my body responded and I became part of what was happening instead of merely a person he was doing it to. Because my body responded I can’t trust my body. I hate my body. I hate myself” And then you define yourself as hateful, disgusting, broken (or whatever because it’s your story)
I had my story. A story where I was either abused by every adult or not put first by any adult. And I had a few tries. I had a father and a stepmother, then a stepfather and a mother.
In my story I was the bad guy because when I had my daughter I couldn’t see how I would let anyone hurt her. I couldn’t see how I would ever do anything other than put her first above all else – no matter what the cost.
In my story I was the broken and evil lead character. Those around me were not the villains. There was a reason why they couldn’t love me. There was a reason why they abused me. I was broken. I hated the child version of me.
This is the story I have carried my whole life. If I ever became unsure, I referred to the appropriate chapter of the story, and reminded myself of what had happened.
But a story is a work of fiction. It might be based on facts but things are exaggerated and changed to engage the audience.
When I took my abuser to court I had to lay out the facts behind that story.
In my video I told them everything. Every single detail. I even told them, when asked, how I had felt at the time. I left no detail out. I then relived all those details 4 times through the trial. First I had to read the written statement I initially gave. Then I watched the first 25 minutes of the video evidence I gave. The next day I watched the remaining 1 hour and 20 minutes of the video evidence. Then I was questioned by the defence.
Through all of this there was no room for the story. Just the details. The facts. It stopped becoming a work of fiction and became a documentary. And then, to my surprise, both the defence and the prosecution brought details of my early childhood into play. That had also been a story to me. But now, that too, was a documentary.
When confronted so starkly with the facts, a story loses all mystique. All fictional aspects dissolved. It was a hard-hitting documentary that laid it out as it was.
And like someone telling you the punch line of a joke before they do the big build up, the story lost all meaning during the trial.
So now I have closed that story book and put it on a shelf. It serves no more purpose for me. It carries no more mystique. There is no meaning or emotion. It’s a rubbish story that I would never choose to read again.
The characters remain in the book of course. Unlike me, the trial created new stories for them. Stories that they had seen differently before. They will continue to play out their role in my story without me going near it.
They are nothing to me now. The verdict is irrelevant. What happens next for them is irrelevant.
I am not a victim of child abuse. I am not a survivor of child abuse.
I am Dawn Walton. I am a mother to the most amazing daughter. I am a wife to the best man I could every wish to have met. I am a therapist, an author and a public speaker. I am an Xbox playing geek who will use any excuse to buy technology. I am a lover of Starbucks coffee. My story has yet to be written but I can’t wait to see where it takes me because it’s going to be brilliant wherever it goes.