We know this; we lived it. Abuse. Short and ugly. But we didn’t always see it this way. As a matter of fact – we didn’t see it at all during our first 21 years or so.
Odd, don’t you think?
Not so, we all reply. That’s one of the advantages of having ‘alters’ – agreements and consensus reached by a diversity of minds and egos – some purely analytical and scientific; others those the hearts of “my” abused children – the souls within.
For being beaten, burnt, whipped, kicked, thrown across the room – the list goes on and on, folks, so I’ll be brief –
It all appears absolutely normal to the child’s mind. This is the world, he thinks, this is all there is to it. He thinks everyone lives like this; that all families are torn by strife and violence – that this is a normal life and state of affairs. When he meets families where love and kindness are the rule – it confuses him. I know I was confused*.
This is what we call “a lack of reference”, meaning the child – the teen, and the adult, perhaps – have no other lives to compare theirs by. They may see hints of normalcy around them – but . . . we are a suspicious lot, us survivors, and we see in others what we see in us sometimes.**
(M2, teen talking here.) I don’t think I ever even heard the word “child abuse” until I was in my mid to late teens (we’re talking end of 60’s beginning of 70’s era here). And it certainly didn’t apply to me! After all – I’d been raised “normal”. We didn’t think anything was wrong about it at all. But we also didn’t understand about sexual boundaries, had huge rages, bad things all around.
(M3) Not your normal kind of person. We (nod to M2, who grimly nods back) – have our differences. We will speak of them later.
But to sum up the point – it wasn’t until much later that we began to suspect abuse. If we had not been ‘adopted’ into a much more real, normal family when we were about 22 or so, we’d not only be dead, but we would have never realized we were abused. And it can take even longer for a victim to acknowledge their abuse, as I noted here. My poor brother still . . . well, just read it.
So please – don’t be ‘shocked’ or ‘surprised’ that a child ‘didn’t know’ something was wrong. We were isolated – military family, moving around a lot. Perhaps that had something to do with it, but I doubt that’s more than a fraction. Mostly I think it is because when you are born, you have no other life to compare yours to but your own – and what you’ve been taught.
To you, the abused child, it is normal. Or as we used to say in the Marines: “SNAFU”