I am almost finished reading Linda Stanford’s “Strong At The Broken Places”, and it is both inspirational and hopeful in its tone and content. Stanford has a very intimate knowledge of survivors of childhood abuse, having dedicated forty years of her life as a social worker and psychotherapist to understanding how this kind of trauma affects lives.
I like that she refutes many psychological theories that are regarded as set in stone; for example the idea that victims of childhood abuse are likely to go on to abuse others or that victims of childhood abuse lack the ability to use their imagination. She challenges these mainstream assumptions with her in depth interviews that she carried out with many survivors of trauma.
Stanford shows how these survivors have overcome multiple and horrific traumas enabling them to heal and move on from the past. These survivors have triumphed as we can. She describes the courage and indomitable spirits of survivors and from personal experience I can only say, this is the same spirit I have seen among the community of bloggers here on WordPress who have suffered from childhood abuse. We can be strong in those places that we were injured.
For me, one of the most powerful insights is when one of the survivors interviewed says (about her abusive father);
“You know, when I accepted that he was more than just a batterer, then I could accept that I am more than just a victim.”
That is so profound and touches a very deep cord within because that’s how I am beginning to feel now. It has been a year since I started counselling and facing the truth of my childhood abuse. Something is changing for me, it’s a subtle slight change; I am realizing that I am so much MORE than a survivor of childhood abuse. Yes, this is part of me, that hurt inner child will always be there and I can never ever rewrite or undo history. But, I am also a mother, a teacher, a friend, I was a wife, I am a writer, an adventurer and many more things. The abuse does not define me wholly. I feel that I will be able to move it from the centre of my focus soon as I work towards integrating the different parts of myself.
As for my father, yes he sexually abused me and I am not ready to confront him or forgive him. I think I will forgive him eventually but I may never confront him! But, I know that he was more than that to me too. He is a storyteller, an entertainer, he has been generous to many people, he worked tirelessly to put me through university.
With my mother, she turned a blind eye and that is so painful still but I know she was the woman who was unmothered herself and given to an aunt when she was only two days old. She made my father and his needs her world because she was never mothered. I received more care than she did from her own mother. She also stayed up after working a full day, night after night, to help me with my homework, she attended every play, every prize giving and every parent-teacher consultation. She also organised the most wonderful birthday parties for me every year.
Life is so complicated. It’s never black and white, all or nothing! I am not excusing what they did or saying its all water under the bridge but I am saying that there has been a subtle mental shift within me. The abuse is not everything; there’s a lot more to me and my parents.