How Anger Helps Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse
Imagine it is your 18th birthday.
A well dressed stranger comes to your home. He has news for you. He tells you that you have inherited $550 million dollars payable upon your 18th birthday.
Hey! That is today.
You jump up and down. Cry, get excited. Dance. Think of everything that you will buy. Think of all the people that you will buy great things for.
You calm down a bit to catch your breath. The man tells you he has more news. Unfortunately, the person who was placed in charge of managing your funds for you has stolen all of your funds. There is no more money left.
You are devastated. He couldn’t have called? Emailed? Texted even?
Now you feel such a sense of loss and sadness. You are trying to move on but something keeps pulling you back to that sense of loss.
Now imagine you go to people for help.
This is what they tell you:
“Don’t be angry.”
“Turn the other cheek.”
“Let the past be in the past. Just move forward.”
“Get over it.”
After hearing your friend’s advice, do you feel more, angry or less?
This is similar to how many victims of sexual violence feel. Of course it isn’t exact. I don’t think I could give you an example that would come close. The amount of loss and devastation is tremendous.
But, this is a rough illustration.
So much is lost when we experience child sexual violence, but we are given advice along the lines of the 5 statements above. People usually expand upon these statements, but this is the basic summary.
What do y’all have against anger?
Anger is an emotion that has a really bad reputation. But especially during the healing process, anger is a valid, appropriate, and necessary emotion.
People aren’t comfortable with emotions in general. But when it comes to anger, we all get concerned. Then we get fearful. And because we are fearful we insist that everyone calm down.
These days, even calling someone angry is an insult. That is how much we are uncomfortable with it.
When I brought the secrets about my experience child sexual abuse/rape into the light I can’t really tell you what emotions what the adults around me were feeling about my healing process. Nor, the unfortunate rapes that necessitated it.
I can tell you what I observed. There were a lot of looks, whispering and what not, but, little to no direct talking about feelings.
As for me, I crawled through guilt, shame, excruciating pain, depression, and hopelessness. And all cousins and kin to these emotions.
Once you get to know anger
In my family, in our school, in our community, if one exhibited any signs of anger that was viewed as extremely problematic. This is typical of many families, schools, and communities across this nation.
Like a lot of Survivors I learned how to smile and cry quietly.
For me, it took years before I felt like I had “permission” to be angry. No one said I couldn’t. But it seemed like a bad thing.
It took years before I expressed anger in a therapeutic environment. It felt like I was doing something wrong. A level 5 sin.
It smoothed out though.
Anger meant that I was able to acknowledge that what happened to me was worth getting angry about. I had every single right to be angry. Someone took something from me that I could never get back.
Furthermore, I might have complications for a lifetime. And that was way beyond wrong.
My innocence had value beyond measure. That was stolen from me. Yes, I get to be outraged about that.
My body is valuable beyond measure.
My safety is valuable.
I have every right to be furious about the fact that my body and safety were violated.
There are still Survivors who don’t realize this. WE as a society must allow them safe space to be angry about what was stolen from them.
Once I was able to get angry I began to feel differently about my body, my words, my talents, my spiritual life-I mean everything. Now I wanted to collect all of ME.
It was as if I was beginning to break up with hopelessness and I wanted my &#%$ back. Only anger made me feel that way.
Anger isn’t necessarily bad.
Anger isn’t necessarily good.
Anger IS powerful.
Therefore, anger must be managed.
Survivors often have no idea the amount of anger residing inside of themselves. This is usually why it is a good idea to work with a professional with experience and training in this area.
Many Survivors that I know channel the energy of the their emotions into helping others. Yes, this includes anger.
WE aren’t hurting people.
WE are showing up on hotlines, in organizations, in the government, hospitals, on stage-everywhere-to stop the pain.
WE are giving people information to stop the spread of the pain.
Tonya is a Social Justice Info Expert with over 23 years experience. She holds a BS in Organizational Management & Development. Her cat MiaBelle is her co-writer.
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