Friday, August 10, 2012

Perception, Regardless of Definition

I've got an amazing roommate, and we have really intense conversations on topics that seem to find us; often coming out of no where. Due to this, we've discussed some very controversial topics and I've realized how my opinion differs from hers, and therefore, from the majority of traditional conservative Christendom. I won't get into some of the more scandalous of my views, but I did want to touch on the topic of abuse. Of the first three definitions, implying misuse, mistreatment, and speaking harshly or unjustly to or about, it's the fourth definition that speaks of what I want to address: to commit sexual assault upon.

Firstly, I have to express my bias on this subject, as a victim, as well as a sibling, niece, aunt, daughter, and friend to victims. I do not like abusers, of any variety, but especially these kinds of abusers. They exercise their will over another human being, subjecting them not only to the sexual abuse, but to emotional and physical abuse, and not just at the moment of the offence, but every day of that person's existence thereafter. I have, literally, not gone a single day without thinking of it, or it's effects on me.

Several months ago I was on a public chat client which pairs you, randomly, with a stranger. Most frequently I talk to them as though I'm a alien (that's the easiest sentient and intelligent creature I can think of who could be asexual, which allows me to avoid the "asl" question with some humour), but I was frank (although dishonest regarding age and circumstance) with one individual who identified himself as an 18 year-old male from Wales. He admitted that when he and his friend were both six years-old, they performed fellatio on each other, at the request of the other boy. This individual viewed it as a case of "boys being boys", and claimed to be heterosexual, and told me he didn't abuse drugs or alcohol, nor was he promiscuous. Deviance of these varieties is a noted effect of sexual abuse, and while I expected very different answers from him, it follows the line of reasoning I developed from the conversation: perception of one's role is more important than popular opinion or the law, to the individual.

After I had this conversation, my roommate came into our living area and I discussed it with her. I respect my roommate and her opinions, but I also disagree with what she says on occasion, and this was one of those occasions. She said, regardless of what that young man felt, he was a victim. With all due respect to her, from what I know of her, she can't ever empathize with a victim of abuse. She can absolutely sympathize with me and people like me, but empathy is a vastly different thing. The law would disregard this young man's experience, as neither participant was mentally superior to the other, and as the young man claimed in our discussion, he was curious. "Boys being boys", would be the response. While his experience and mine are extremely different, he viewed his experience in, almost, a positive light; it was just him and his friend being silly little kids. He experienced no heightened levels of deviance and felt he was mentally and emotionally sound.

As far as abuses go, I consider myself lucky. Yes, lucky. "Gasp! But how?!" The only way to answer that is to explain a bit: I was abused as a very young child by an individual very close to me. I don't remember the actual abuse, which I am thankful for, but I recall the before, and after. What followed was my period of repression (and unexplained behaviour, the "acting out" stage of my childhood), remembrance of the event, and then acceptance. I won't go into detail regarding the event, but I will address the repression, remembrance and acceptance.

Repression: in psychoanalytic theory, the basic defence mechanism that banishes anxiety-arousing thoughts, feelings, and memories from consciousness. This was one of Freud's theories, and while I typically dismiss Freud (by way of example, Freud later explained that our lust for our other-sex parent isn't remembered due to repression), this is one I do accept, having experienced it myself. Most people believe repression does occur, but a load of memory researches disbelieve in the regular happening of repression. Given the population of our planet, however, "rarely" becomes less rare. Back to it, Freud did say that with patience and effort, the repression could be broken into and the memory retrieved later, either by a cue or during therapy. While I did undergo therapy, it was not while in a session with some brain-picker that my repression was breached. When I remember it, I often think of the repression as being something like a wall, concealing the memory from my consciousness. Remembrance occurred when that wall, for whatever reason, was removed.

After having the event repression, I knew, without knowing what had happened, that something was wrong. Something happened to me that wasn't right, and in my confusion I acted out: I hid under my bed, almost daily, before being awoken for school; I refused to participate in class, to write tests; I became disinterested in spending time with previously close friends and would get into fights. After my parents separated, I began attending a new school, but I continued to act out. While I was deviant in the traditional ways, it was only in minor degrees. I figured at the time that the way I was acting was just a reflection of what people did. It wasn't until my remembrance of the abuse that I realized it was the cause of my deviance.

I am not a traditional survivor of abuse, but I don't hold myself up as some kind of beacon that all other victims and survivors 'ought to look to for guidance. I believe, were it not for my introduction to and acceptance of my faith, I would have ended up as a traditional statistic of child abuse.

You may have noticed that I started using the word "survivor", as well as "victim". Our perceptions are important, they enable us to define ourselves, which I believe is more important than how others would define us. Victims are acted upon, while survivors act. Victims are defined by what others have done to them, while a survivor has taken that experience and added into their chronicle of events that have helped shape who they are.

There's a scripture in the New Testament that says that "... God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." Let's take the word tempt and look at it with its obsolete meaning: to try, or to test. So, like a good math professor who wouldn't give an AP calculus test to his eighth grade students, God is not going to laden us with a test that is beyond our capabilities. To be able to deal with the test, to handle it, God supplies us with a way. This scripture has always meant a great deal to me for this reason. Yes, I was abused, and it was horrible and awful and shouldn't have happened, but it did. It, along with many, many other experiences, have shaped who I am. While I don't see myself speaking to my abuser again in the future, I wouldn't change the past even if I could.

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