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The impact and the outcome of pain
The impact of sexual abuse reaches all levels of Childs emotions. Confusion: This is usually the first reaction of the child. They will usually question, “What is going on?” and “ Is this right or wrong?” For a young child these questions can be a huge load on their psychological development. Once the abuse begins the victim experience a tremendous conflict with their emotions. They experience pain, guilt, and anger for what is being done. The question, “Is this right or wrong?” posses the greatest conflict within the Childs minds. The abuse feels so wrong yet the abuser insist it is okay, taking advantage of the Childs mistrust and naivety. This kind of conflict can stay within the victim’s minds for years. This pain and conflict is what Dorothy Allison writes about in her book ‘two or three things I know for sure”
Coming from a dysfunctional low-class family with mostly women around was her environment for years and the only man around, sexually abused her. Imagine yourself in a similar position and ask yourself “what would the effect be on me?”
The effect on Dorothy Allison is portrayed in the book. She writes about having mixed emotions that for people who have not had such an experience seems quit strange. For example on page 48 (I knew; with fury) she describes the first time making love to a woman. When she makes love to her the smell reminds her of her stepfather. She feels both desire and hatred. The desire was what scared her, but by making love to this woman it made her feel more comfortable with that emotion. The desire resulted in a process of healing, not thinking of her stepfather while having sex. It takes her a long time tough not to feel rage when she feels desire.
Comparing a book like this with Ursula Duba’s in essence is not hard. Both have the clear topic of multiple sources of social identity. In both books you can read about things that make peoples identities change, be it atrocities of war or a horrible experience like rape. The difference however and also the main topic of this paper lies in emotional wounds and their possible healing.
In “The bakers story” a poem is written about a baker and his wife, both holocaust survivors, and the regularly visits Duba and her husband made to the bakery shop. The husband of Duba, reminds the baker of one of his children, who died in the camps just like the rest of his whole family. Actually this was the baker’s second wife whom he had met in Auschwitz. The baker later asks the Duba’s husband about his roots. “Could they possibly be related?” is his real question. The husband however does not have sufficient knowledge about his background to answer the question. Later Duba and her husband move away from the area and for a while they do not see the bakers couple. When Duba visits the baker again she finds out about the death of his wife. After hearing this she replies (p61)”I am so sorry I didn’t know she as ill”. The baker whispers to her that she wasn’t really sick and that THEY killed her. Stating that the nazi’s have infiltrated America’s hospitals.
This section illustrates how the atrocities of war and the horrors of the death camps must have had on this individual. It’s unlikely that his wife was actually killed. The more realistic option would be that his wife died of cancer since that disease can kill in a very short time. Also the questioning of the background of Duba’s husband portrays the baker’s traumatized identity because the chance of a customer being related to you is very little.
What this poem in essence is telling us is that a lot of survivors of the death camp are still very much frightened of the nazi’s and their atrocities. A baker that asks for family roots to a random customer and thinks his wife is killed by nazi’s in an American hospital is clearly affected in his mental and emotional being. You could also say that this individual, unlike Dorothy Allison, has not fully recovered from his emotional wounds.
Now comparing the healing process of a death camp survivor and the sexual abuse of Allison is worth a whole study. Not only because the environment is totally different, but also because each individual deals with emotional wounds differently.
Dorothy Allison struggles with love and her need to be loved. On page 50 she describes how she used to hide herself away from her feelings of being hurt and desperate. She would try to help other women but not herself. It took her years to admit to those feelings. On page 55 she also tells about how love was a mystery, ‘’ a curse that somehow skipped me”. This is of course a self-protection wall she had build up over the years since her stepfather hurt her. I also think it has to do with all the women around her she saw being hurt by the men they loved. Sex however she was familiar with and she described metaphorically how love and sex were different countries to her.
Now how did she exactly come to a peaceful state of mind about the matter? The question has a thousand answers. If you read between the lines you can imagine some of the things that helped her. As a rape victim for instance you feel helpless because someone else is controlling your body. The karate helps her regain control over her body both physically but more important mentally. The emotions that I described earlier (not being able to love or be loved) come when she finally starts loving herself. Page 67 “two or three things I know for sure, and one of them is how long it takes to learn to love yourself, how long it took me, how much love I need now” describes her coming to peace with herself and her emotions.
Now who am I too write about my views on global wounds and their possible healing. I myself have never had any real traumatic experiences like war, rape etcetera. A strong point that is made by Allison on page 70, is that she is the only one who can tell the story of her life and what it means. But one thing I can say is that she dealt with it after a long struggle while the victim of the poem has not. Why? Because I think some people are emotionally more flexible and have more self-realization. Some people go are more emotionally stable and some are not.
I am not comparing the two situations here, cause Allison might have not dealt with a situation like the baker. What I am saying is that if you take two individuals and put them in the same situation with the same emotional wounds, the outcome of the effect on their identities and the possible healing is probably very different. Healing emotionally from a death camp experience or sexual abuse takes time, a lot of self reflecting and talking or writing about it. In some cases people come to grips with it and some cases people don’t, like the baker.
There are two or three things I know for sure; and one is that emotional wounds are dealt with in various ways. There is no right or wrong on how to deal with it. The other thing I know for sure is that this book has given me a new sight on emotional healing and its complexity.
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