Just a warning to my friends who have been through assault– I’m going to talk about trauma today, a little graphically, to try and help people who have never been through it to understand. If you don’t want to read that, you can scroll down past the picture of Jesus, to my message for you at the end.
So, by now we’ve all heard that a 20-year-old woman in the Netherlands had herself euthanized, because of severe trauma from sexual abuse which a doctor told her was “incurable.” I’m not going to talk about the Church’s teaching on Euthanasia here. Far more competent people than me can tell you all about that. Euthanasia is a terrible injustice which opens the doors for many more. I’d rather take a moment to try to empathize with this soul. She is my sister in Christ, and she desperately wanted to die, and some doctors helped her do it. God have mercy. Why?
Sexual abuse is a difficult thing to imagine if you’ve never been through it, and I pray you never do. Your own body becomes your torture chamber, your own flesh the rack. The parts of you that were created to feel pleasure and the deepest intimacy become scourges. When you start to feel the slightest sexual pleasure for any reason– while having sex, while having a dream, accidentally seeing something that arouses you, on the toilet, in the shower– your body clamps down in terror. Pleasure triggers pain, pain like you wouldn’t believe. I’ve described trauma as a bear trap before. Sexual trauma is a bear trap with acid on the teeth. You would chew your own leg off to get out of that bear trap; it would hurt a lot less. Except that your whole flesh is the bear trap. Your bodily existence is what traps you. Your skin is the enemy. Your genitals are the enemy. You are your enemy. Your abuser was your torturer, at first, but now they’ve made you into your torturer, and teaching your body to stop will take a long time. Of course you hate yourself. Of course you want to die. Of course you self-injure or binge or purge. You want to escape, and you want revenge on your torturer. But you can’t have it. You can’t escape you.
I can only imagine what it’s like to be sexually abused as a child. My childhood traumas were very different. I’ve already talked about how naive I was, and how people who run away from abuse are vulnerable to predators. Well, after I ran away, after I married my wonderful husband and tried to start a fresh life free of trauma in that horrible little pauper’s apartment on the worst street in town, the one with the door that wouldn’t lock, when I trusted people I didn’t know because they quoted the Bible and I had been raised Charismatic– that was when it happened to me.
Mind you, It may have happened anyway; not trusting is not a recipe for safety either. No one is ever 100% safe, no matter what precautions you take, and this world of pain could open up for anyone. But that was how it happened to me.
And yes, I hated myself. And yes, I wanted to die. I remember standing by the cliff at the edge of the public park in town, thinking how pretty the view was and how pleasant it would be to step off. By the grace of God, I didn’t. By the grace of God, I stayed alive. I lived through it. Many don’t. And it’s far more painful for many others than it was for me.
A mortal sin requires full knowledge and full consent, the kind of calm rational consent it’s very difficult to give when your soul is on the rack, so we have every reason to trust that the souls of those who die that way are not lost. Still, it must be so difficult to appear before the throne of Life Himself, when your last earthly thought was of death. We should always be interceding for people who die of their trauma that way. And any doctors or other souls who “help” them have the far greater sin.
If anyone reading this has been sexually abused, especially if you’re considering suicide, please listen to me for a moment: I am with you. I’ve been there. Please take courage: I’ve been on the rack and the rack does go away. I want you to know that you are very strong, even though you don’t feel strong. You are deeply loved, even though you don’t feel loved. You are very good, and nothing that happened was your fault. I know that you feel less than human, like a monster who deserves to be in pain, but you’re not. Your abuser is the monster, and they tried to make you think it was you because that’s what evil does. The world is a better place because you survived, and because you are alive right now. The world will be better still for hearing how you survived, and how you are alive right now. I, personally, would love to hear your story. You can comment it here or message it to me on Steel Magnificat’s Facebook page, if you’d like to, or you can write it in a postcard to postsecret.com and it’ll be totally anonymous. If you need someone to speak with right away, or to be directed to other help, you can call the National Sexual Assault hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673). Or, if you’d rather talk to someone online, they have a website. Please stay alive, because you deserve to live. I’m getting offline right now to pray the liturgy of the hours, and I’ll pray for you to be strengthened in your battle. You deserve to win. You deserve to conquer. You are loved.
(both images via pixabay)