Long term abuse victims often have what normal society views as inappropriate associations with objects, words, gestures, and actions. This seems especially true in those who were sexually abused as a child.
Flinch gestures can be seen in adult victims where an upraised hand (as in a salute or friendly clasp on the arm or shoulder) leads to an involuntary withdraw or defense gesture, such as an upraised forearm (to guard) or palm (to block). Abuse victims are often disturbed by arguments, associating loud or harsh words with violence, or impending violence. They will often retreat, turn up their TV’s or radios, and may even attempt to intercede.
Sexual abuse survivors may see sexual associations in just about anything – I should know, I do. (Being a man probably doesn’t help much, LOL!) And then there’s the inappropriate speech – where we say something that is ‘just not right’ or doesn’t suit the occasion (but everyone tends to laugh anyway.) We have a cutting sense of humor – sometimes juicy, sometimes dry – and yes, I can see sexual connotations in those words as well. That’s just how we are. Blame it on the abuse, then ….
I’ve seen abuse victims associate the damnedest things with their abuse sometimes. A rag, a towel, a short length of rope . . . the way the sun sets at a certain time of year . . . an old pickup with a homemade camper shell. A clock ticking . . . a hairy wrist – you name it, some abuse victim probably has some association with it, some ‘trigger’. I’ve even known abuse victims who were triggered just by a color – in one case, red. We couldn’t use red in a chat room when she came in – it was too triggering . . . and then she would trigger us, all of us in the room, with her memories. (She was DID/MPD, too, by the way.)
And words! Words can lead to associations. Heck! We’ve all played those word association games. I’m good at them – but lousy at them – often giving off the wall kinds of answers. Not all of them are related to abuse – some are related to the fact that I’ve spent my life studying just about everything under the sun, and quite a few things beyond it (as well as a few things IN it: can you say ‘heliology’ (the study of the sun)?)
You say “iron” . . . I say “solar” or “fourth generation” – because that’s where iron came from – the fourth collapse and regeneration of the sun of our solar system . . .
You say “blow” and I think “job”.
There you go: you see what I’m meaning . . . and seeing “fourth generation” up there puts the word “incest” in my mind . . .
Looking at the fruits and vegetables in the supermarkets is always an interesting experience in sexual connotations . . . the curve of a peach; the butt of an apple . . .
“Is that a banana in my pocket? Or are am I just glad to see you?” (someone asks)
For abuse victims, it’s never a banana.
When I used to work a parts counter (waaayyy on back, something to do with the military … part of one job, covering for another . . .) I used to tell the guys:
“Quit messing with my nipples! And leave my cock alone! And you there! Yeah, you! Quit fondlin’ my nuts!” Of course we were all talking about pipe fittings and big truck parts . . . but you get the picture . . .
Abuse can lead to associations with many things . . . other people – a look, a glance. A child taking her father’s arm by the wrist . . . two children going off into the woods ‘playing’ . . .
and that’s probably the hardest one to bear. The children.
I cannot see two children alone without wondering . . . I cannot see some things without knowing. I feared when I saw my daughter being taken by her friends to go play in someone’s old pickup truck . . . it had a camper shell. And I kept ‘seeing’ in MY head . . . and wondering what was in THEIR heads . . . while they were innocently playing.
Abuse associations. “You would!” and outraged voice lashes out in my mind (seeing the children in the truck – thinking that they might be doing these things) – a form of ‘self punishment’ – having to nearly physically restrain myself to keep from going to look and see what was going on . . . and that angry voice (sounds like my mom) hissing and demanding; telling me how nasty and rotten I must be . . . having these associations.
But WE’RE good with that (trust me, I know) – WE have gotten that thing under control. (A PR trick – that is, a ‘trick’ we learned in PR after ‘building something’ (someone) within to get it all under control . . .) We no longer feel that anger, hatred, and shame – and when we do we ‘bottle it’, assigning it to ‘someone’ under control . . . another way of surviving, and being happier some of the time . . .
“Be HAPPY” (visions of a childhood orgy). “Reach out and touch someone!” (we did, in the groin, with our mouth and hands . . . hungrily grasping and reaching).
“Can you hear me now?”
and wondering . . .
if you really do.