Raw and Unprotected at Age 3 . . .
Silenced by Terror
The Pain. . .Too Much to Bear
By Germayne Boswell Tizzano, Ph.D.
***Trigger Warning – Please give yourself permission for self-care and love.
Heart races. Chest pounds. I awake, vigilant to the shattering dreams that remain as remnants of the nightmares I have faced. You see, I am not allowed to talk about the moonless nights of my past. The dark, scary monster that imprisoned my fragile soul was not acknowledged in the walls of my home. My tender body crippled by experiences I could not comprehend laid fragile. Tears of terror and shuttering pain remain voiceless even today in the hollows of my form.
At such a young age and for many years, I met face to face with sexual violence that some adults do not survive. While others my age were learning what it felt like to hold hands or to experience the innocence of their first tender kiss, I was learning to navigate the brutal and unpredictable forces of sexual assault.
The wretched reality is that sexual abuse occurs in isolation, denial, and often under threats of harm to self or others. For the innocent, there is NO safety in disclosure. To survive is to pretend. To function is to conceal. To exist is to bury the treacherous feelings of abandonment, rejection, and annihilation of the self.
Sure, for me, I can speak to the good times; unlike others who may not have been as fortunate. I can remember the trip to Florida, the toboggan rides at age three, the smells of homemade spaghetti sauce simmering for hours – all pieces of some (the) sanity that kept me glued. What settles in as binding horror is the unnamed trembling parts that fractured my being.
You see, today, I still, face, daily, what many who have not experienced sexual trauma do not know nor understand. Life is filled with land mines and to believe otherwise is to be vulnerable. I remain susceptible to agitation, triggers, and unpredictable highly sensory experiences known by some as flashbacks – pitted stomach, choked throat, and sightless fear are a normal part of my existence. Coping with this fate requires a powerhouse of self-care and interpersonal tools, along with time, patience, and a laudable, close knit group of friends and supporters.
Those of us who identify with the #metoo and #metoohealing journey know the damage done to the body, mind, and spirit. The assaulted child faces a life-long and highly-risky trajectory of altered immune function, hypertension, chronic fatigue, depression, suicidal thoughts and attempts, post-traumatic stress disorder, interpersonal difficulties, intimate partner violence, deficits in attention, substance abuse, teen pregnancy, and incarceration to name a few.
The statistics are alarming. One out of ten children under age eighteen are victims of sexual abuse. All young people are at risk with the highest being ages seven to thirteen. Of all child assaults, ninety percent know the perpetrator. The majority of attacks occur in the residence of the victim and/or perpetrator.
According to the Center for Disease Control, one year of child maltreatment costs on an average 124 billion in medical care, mental health treatment, special education and judicial justice. The lifetime costs per child that lived through maltreatment is on the whole over $210,000.