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student4toolong 01-06-2012 12:37 PM

Can someone have a delayed response to abuse?
I always, for as long as I remember, have been uncomfortable around my dad. I never liked hugging him or even being close to him. I realized that I may have been sexually abused ... I had feelings of anger and resentment, but I didn't start feeling sad and depressed until now. It's been about 10 years since I've moved out of my parents place.

There were some experiences that I've never told anyone about, but because of the anonymity of this post I feel I can say this. My dad would sometimes watch me undress (the earliest memory I have of this is when I was eight when I got out of the shower). Sometimes he would walk in on me when I was on the toilet or in the shower. Our house had faulty locks and a glass door, so it was easy to walk in and see everything. He would say 'sorry', but he didn't seem alarmed or surprised (as one normally would if they were to accidentally walk in on somebody who was in the bathroom). This happened a few times a year until I moved out and went to college. I always tried to take a shower when he wasn't home, but he was always home when I was. I never liked being alone in the house with my dad, but on occasion we were alone in the house. Nothing ever happened, but I was always uncomfortable at the thought. I never ever showered or changed when I was alone in the house with my dad.

There are a few things I would like to note.
-I don't have any memory, and I really don't think, that my dad ever touched me. I always thought that he did those things on accident. -However, I did always have anger and resentment towards my dad. My dad was very emotionally and verbally abusive to my brother, but not to me. He did criticize me (saying I was stupid, not smart enough to amount to anything so I shouldn't try), but my brother got much harsher criticism and abuse. I always thought that my anger and resentment towards my dad was because of the verbal abuse, but recently I've thought there must be something more.

-Other people do not feel he discomfort they do around their dad the way I do. I remember that up until I was about 21 I would dress really gross, I didn't shower frequently, I would wear loose clothing, and I would walk, talk, and act masculine. I made a very conscious effort not have any feminine appeal.


-Now, I'm in grad school, in my late 20's, and I'm fighting depression. I hardly cried growing up, I felt like I tried sometimes, but I couldn't. Now, I can't stop crying. Sometimes I feel the tears coming on when I'm in public. One time I started crying while I was driving and I had a hard time staying focused on the road.

I don't know if I was abused. I always thought abuse was rape. But now, I realize that the definition of sexual abuse has a far wider range than what I thought. I feel like I've kept it pent up for so long that it's all coming out now (the feelings, fears, anger, tears, depression). Can that happen, to have a delayed reaction to the abuse? I did not do drugs, I was not particularly promiscuous, I was, and still am, a responsible student. I struggle with relationships -- I often feel like I'm not good enough, like I'm damaged goods.

AverageUser 01-15-2012 06:08 PM

Re: Can someone have a delayed response to abuse?
Yes, pedophilia may be limited to voyeurism toward offspring. I would honor my instincts, even when the other abuse is not considered. The verbal abuse is a means to control; destroying self-confidence is critical to the privacy required to abuse. A confident person will speak out, and possibly seek help. Imposed isolation and shame is very important to control. I would ask that you not say you "chose" these things. They are self-defensive mechanisms, a [B][U]reaction[/U][/B] to what was being done TO you.

Yes, a delayed response is typical; a healthy brain will not intentionally put itself at risk, and will remain in protective mode for as long as necessary. Learning and healing will most often only start after an abused person begins to feel safe from further abuse.

It is not surprising that this has come on after moving away from the abuse. As much longing as you may have for home, the more time and distance between you and the abuser(s), the safer you may feel. You sound as though you may now choose to be around those who would love you, and support your feelings and needs.

I absolutely understand the feeling of "damaged goods," as self-deprecating as I now believe it to be. This was something that was done TO you; it is not OF you; if you had a choice, you would have opted for a loving, supportive family. You are wounded, and can heal, not irreparably "damaged."

It is okay to be sad or depressed. Part of healing is acknowledging and grieving the losses that are a part of abuse. It sounds like your childhood was stolen from you, and grieving that loss is okay. When the bruises are all on the inside, self-doubt can be a bigger barrier to healing than when the bruises show. Emotional, sexual, financial and spiritual abuse do not need to leave physical marks to be real.

I want to say this so you don't wonder about it. Without an admission from the abuser, which is rare, it is impossible to know the type of abuser he was. It is possible that he is not a pedophile, per se, but that the violation of your privacy or was instead a part of overall domination of you. The effect on you would still be sexually abusive. When healing, the focus should be on your effects, rather than his causes. We don't ask an adult victim of a voyeur to explain why the perp did it , and it would be even more inappropriate to ask someone who grew up being abused to explain it. If he did it, he is guilty, not you. The shame belongs to HIM, not YOU.

It is very important, and I can not stress enough, not to try to go through this alone. Online support is great, but please try to see a counselor. Group therapy is very helpful to start talking about it, which is one of the hardest steps toward health.

Be good to yourself.

student4toolong 01-18-2012 12:33 AM

Re: Can someone have a delayed response to abuse?
Reading your message makes me finally understand why I feel the way I felt, and feel; and why I acted the way I acted, and still act. This whole time I was just trying to protect myself, to survive. It's been a while since I've moved out and I felt so unsettled for so long. Now that I've seen the truth, even though I feel depressed, angry, and resentful, somehow I feel relieved.

I have started to see a therapist a few months ago. And, actually after I posted on here I made an appointment with my therapist. She was the first person I've told about this. After I told her I felt an overwhelming sense of guilt, like I had betrayed the most sacred secret between my father and me. But, I know that I shouldn't feel guilty. Like you said, I shouldn't feel guilty because this wasn't my choice -- I didn't ask for this.

It's funny, if this happened to one of my friends, I would have a much different opinion -- I would know that it is clearly wrong. But, being in the actual situation, it's different, especially with something like non-contact abuse. I thought that for a very long time that abuse was only physical, it wasn't until I was much older (in college) that I was introduced to the idea of verbal and sexual (non-contact) abuse. I still don't know if my father touched me, but I know his brother (my uncle) touched me when I was in elementary school. I tried telling my Dad but he said that I should be nice to my uncle. I even tried telling my mom that Dad would sometimes watch me shower and change, and she would brush it off saying that it was an accident and that it's actually a funny accident, making jokes that my father was sexually harassing me. I thought I was overreacting. I wish that my mother took me more seriously.

If there are others reading this, please trust me on this. If you feel uncomfortable around your father, in a sexual way, then something isn't right.

AverageUser 01-23-2012 12:34 AM

Re: Can someone have a delayed response to abuse?
My heart goes out to you. Healing is a process of replacing all of the hurtful ways of imposed thinking, thus unhealthy feelings, with healthy ways. As freeing as it is, it can be very confusing and stressful. Unsettling is actually a beautiful word for it, so perfect. It brings to mind a shiny garden trowel, unsettling the ground, loosening it up, rooting out the weeds, and planting new flowers. Thank you for that.

I would ask that you consider saying that you are REacting, rather than owning "the way I act." A wonderful book stated that the feelings are "normal reactions to an abnormal amount of stress." It helped me distance my conscious choices from my learned defensive reactions.

It took many years to realize that my mother was a participant in the abuse, in promoting my compliance with my father. She actually taught me to keep him calm, how to soothe him, how to please. She failed to protect me, failed to remove me from the abuse, failed to put her child's needs in front of her comfort. If I ever spoke out to her in defense of myself, I was "hateful," or some other demeaning word. She was never physical with me, but the bruises she left were all on the inside, much more internalized as a part of my being.

It took more work (unsettling, digging) to realize that, than the abuse my father dealt. He was easy to hate; easy to point at specific actions against my person, and say, "See? EVIL. NOT ME, NOT mine." Mom's non-physical abuse was much harder to nail down, to see. Now, when I look back, I think I was emotionally hanging on to the lesser evil. Becoming an orphan by choice has its pitfalls, but in the end, I receive so much more genuine support, friendship and love from people to whom I am no blood relation, than I ever did from my family.

Immersed in an evil family, it can be difficult to see all the good people out there. Having scraped them off, for the most part, I sometimes feel I now live among angels.

Thank you for sharing your story.

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