June 7, 2017
These are the words from Melinda Schmitt who is an intuitive coach empowering her clients to identify their blocks, recognize their value, and bring their greatest gifts to life.
This is real talk from survivors of abuse. Inspiration from one survivor to another.
SURVIVOR TALKS - NO. 0005
AUTHOR: MELINDA SCHMITT
WHERE IT BEGAN
I was 10 or 11 I think. It makes sense that that’s the age I would have been based on what I do remember. My extended family would have get togethers in the summer and after a day of playing in the pool and eating massive amounts of hot dogs, potato salad and beans, we would invite my cousin to sleep over. She is 2 or 3 years younger than me making her somewhere between 7-9 at the time. I shared the same bed with my older sister and our cousin would sleep between us. I don’t remember my reaction to the first time it happened, I just know that I woke up to my body being touched, kissed, licked and fondled. I froze. Every single time it happened, I froze. I pretended to be asleep. Pretended that it wasn’t happening. Praying that it would just stop. It never occurred to me to ask for it to stop. I don’t know why. I was paralyzed. It continued for 2 summers. I learned to fall asleep on my stomach with my legs and arms pulled tightly in but it made no difference. She pulled and yanked me open and rolled me over. I wonder now how someone so much younger than me had the strength to do that. I also get angry at how she must have known I was awake if it was that difficult to access my body. Yet, she persisted.
I started protesting these sleepovers but my sisters’ enthusiasm was contagious and eventually I became just as excited as they were for the prospect of her sleeping over. Maybe it won’t happen this time, I would think. But, it always did. I finally got the courage to say something to my Dad. He had always been diligent about making us aware of abuse and reminded us often to tell him if we were touched inappropriately, but none of his talks prepared me for this. It wasn’t the same. I wasn’t being touched by an adult taking advantage of me. I was being fondled gently by a younger girl cousin. I still didn’t think that counted, but it made me uncomfortable nonetheless so I spoke up. I told him it wasn’t a big deal but that I wish she wouldn’t sleep over anymore because I didn’t like being touched. I can’t remember any more of that conversation and neither does my Dad, but she never did sleep over again. And, the incident wasn’t discussed again for 30 years.
I never brought it up to anyone else. It was just an uncomfortable incident that happened over a couple of summers. Fast forward to my teen years. I had sex by the time I was 15 to a random boy in high school. I dressed provocatively. I fooled around with anyone who would give me attention. After high school, I stepped this up and began going to parties to find my next “victim.” Someone I deemed attractive enough to give me the attention that I was desperately looking for, then, I would sleep with them. Not because it’s what I wanted, but because that’s what was expected. At least in my mind that’s how it worked and I never bothered to question that.
My husband and I haven’t experienced a healthy or fulfilling sex life together. We always blamed it on the circumstances in our life at the time, but over the years we recognized a pattern. We would have sex, experience a dry spell of a few weeks, and then argue about our sex life. It didn’t make sense. He blamed me, I blamed me. He thought he wasn’t attractive enough. I thought I was broken.
About 7 years after we were married it occurred to me to ask him if I had ever told him about the incident with my cousin. I prefaced it with, “it’s no big deal, but I just feel like you should know.” From that point on, I couldn’t get it out of my head. It took 4 years and 2 therapists before I could acknowledge that I had been raped. Even now, I am squirming in my seat because that description doesn’t feel accurate. She wasn’t violent or threatening. She was a young girl showing affection to her cousin. Yet, that’s not accurate either because if that was true, she wouldn’t have waited for me to fall asleep. She wouldn’t have waited until she thought she wouldn’t be caught if she didn’t know somewhere inside that it was wrong. The thing is, I don’t blame her. But, regardless of whether I call it rape or not, I was violated. In that violation, my world changed forever.
Nowadays as I go through the healing process I find myself less and less able to be touched in any way. I cringe when my husband comes near me. I wake up in a panic and want to scream and attack him if he brushes up against me while we sleep. I often find myself sleeping on my stomach with my legs and arms pulled in tight the way I used to do to protect myself. I am pretty sure I have slept that way ever since it happened. Sometimes it’s ok to get a hug from my husband, other times I have to tell him no and watch the pain on his face as he is rejected by his wife when all he wants is to feel connected. Occasionally I feel safe enough to want to have sex with him again but those days are few and far between and the intimacy is almost non existent. I sometimes even get overwhelmed if my children spend too much time in my space. It sucks. Being violated sucks. The way it has impacted so many areas of my life sucks.
I was deprived of the opportunity to experience sex from a healthy viewpoint. I was deprived of the pleasure of learning what I like and what I don’t. I was deprived of the awkwardness and embarrassment that comes from playing and figuring things out as you go along. Now, I find myself 41 years old wondering what the hell I like. Do I even like sex? Am I attracted to my husband or is it just comforting to have him around? What type of person am I attracted to? How do I learn to find myself sexy? What does sexy mean? How do love and sex even go together? I want to believe they do, but I have spent so long thinking of sex as a commodity that I don’t know any other way.
Over the years I have been given exercises to try. Ways to get in touch with my sensuality. Ways to connect with my body. Ways of touching myself. These always feel fruitless. I don’t connect with my body, I just make myself orgasm. This is a problem because I have orgasms as a way of disconnecting from my body. It’s a way to make the feeling of desire in my body go away. It’s the fastest way I have found to make that happen. I am disgusted by the sensation and the sooner I orgasm the sooner it leaves my body. I know that’s not the way it’s meant to be. I see the ways in which other women approach sex differently, from a loving, vulnerable, playful way. And, oh, I want that so bad. But it scares me.
I am afraid of who I will be if I allow myself to fully heal and become a sexual being. I am afraid of what I will lose if I allow myself to be completely vulnerable with another human in that way. I am afraid of what it will do to my marriage. I am afraid of feeling more pain. I am afraid of hurting my family. I am afraid I am being selfish by putting myself first. I am afraid if I keep following this healing path, it will take so long to heal my husband will choose to leave me proving my theory that sex is a commodity. I am afraid of what will happen if I become intimate with someone and they can see me, I mean really see me. I am afraid of not being safe. Most importantly, I am afraid I will never be able to learn how to live comfortably inside of my own body. I am afraid I will never be able to connect with my pussy. I am afraid I will never be a sexual being.
Sometimes however, fears are a beacon. They call out to us in our darkest hours saying, follow me. This is the way. Continue down this path deep into the heart of the trauma for your salvation. The only way out is through. I know this to be true because I have braved that path. I have surrendered into the pain that accompanies fear and let it swallow me whole. I have come out the other side braver and stronger. And, I am prepared to do it again and again until once again I am whole.
If you would like your story to be featured on Duvet Days Survivor Talks please say hello via email to learn more.