The Heart of the Matter (TW: Sexual Abuse)
Untangling my autistic differences from my other wounds has been rewarding, but parts of it remain incredibly difficult. Looking back now, it is hard to discern whether I felt more silenced by my autism, or by sexual abuse I was subjected to at 13 years old. Both served to steal my words, my feelings, my ability to cope as a “normal”, functioning human being. Neither of which were burdens I chose, but those that were placed upon me, and that I passively reacted to most of my life.
Diagnosis forced me to review the trajectory of my life, to put the pains and wounds and scars under a different lens. Looking backward meant losing the default lens of “there is something wrong with you, and you are to blame” and switching it to “that went wrong, but you are not to blame.”
So much of my life I have felt silenced–by my echolalia, by my alexithymia, by my selective mutism, by the very different point of view my autism grants me. Today, I am conscious that I have also been silenced by an incident of childhood sexual abuse. An incident of incest.
Boy, that was pretty hard to type.
I’ve been talking about it and writing about it–in poetry, to my therapist and to a select few trusted individuals. Now I have begun to talk about it to family. I am learning to unburden my own shame–release and let go of it powerfully and with some ease. I am also learning that many cannot accept my experience as true–cannot allow my wound to be true. So, part of my healing process has been a deep recognition that my truth is deeply disturbing to all who hear it, so I talk about it with caution–not because I have anything to be ashamed of, but because not everyone needs to travel the path of introspection with me.
For that reason, I’m not going to re-tell my tale here. Suffice it to say that my healing journey has been far more complicated than just autism acceptance, and has reached deeper into my psyche…to a shamed 13-year old who felt responsible for her own sexual response when a trusted relative twice fondled her below the waist.
If you are reading this because you know all too well the shame I’m hinting at, know that you are not to blame. You are not dirty. You have nothing to be ashamed of. And you are not alone. Even if you didn’t say no, because no wasn’t an option. Even if you stayed silent because there was no remedy for what was done to you. Especially if you aren’t sure what would be worse if you DID tell–being believed or not being believed.
Know that there is help out there when you are ready. Facing the wound is the most difficult and devastating thing I have ever done–only to be told by my perpetrator when I confronted him “that never happened!” He continues to choose his own ego and power over my needs, and thereby has set an end to our time together. But the chaos that results, the endless drama and replay, the inquests into my story, the terrible rending pain that exerts itself into all of our relationships now continues–with denial after denial after denial. In a sense, I will never cease to be his victim, no matter how I battle with every fiber of my being to heal.
The fall out from his choices will continue for some time; my healing journey continues. What I know is that I will not be silent any longer. My first experience with sexual arousal should not have come at the hand of my father. I deserve an apology. I am unlikely to get it. And I am also very likely to lose what remains of my family to this confession. So be it.
Silence ends here.
One thing I know: moving through this particular wound has made me WANT to re-open this space, has renewed my desire to talk about quality of life as a woman on the spectrum. I’m ready to RAWR again. With honesty. With complete transparency.
I have nothing left to hide.
Thank you for joining me.