MY BODY IS MY OWN: BREASTFEEDING AFTER SEXUAL ABUSE
We came across this story about breastfeeding after sexual abuse by Latch the Babes. While it is a sensitive subject, we thought it was important to share (with permission) to hopefully help other moms. If you have an experience that you'd like to share, please e-mail her at latchthebabes at gmail. All will be kept anonymous.
****TRIGGER WARNING! This post deals with sexual abuse and the content may be disturbing to some.****
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I hate the phrase, “Time heals all wounds.” The truth is, it doesn’t. Some wounds are so deep that it becomes ingrained in who we are. Sure, time makes them easier to bear, but like a glass vase that has been broken and then glued back together, those scars will always be there, even when it appears that the seams of the shattered glass match up perfectly.
I would love to say that I am a survivor of sexual abuse. I would give almost anything for that to be true. However, as I sit here struggling to find my words and calm my train of thought, I have the bitter taste of bile rising in the back of my throat and I realize that I still have very deep wounds that I may never completely recover from. I have moved on in a lot of ways, and I try to not let it dictate my life, but it’s still a struggle. Every day. It’s a struggle in self worth, mainly, but also a struggle of trying to arrange emotions in a way that they make sense. It’s how I deal with things..I rationalize them. This, however, is almost impossible, because what happened to me will never make sense.
I was sexually abused.
When I was around the age of eight, the fondling started by my step father. He and my mother had lived together then married a couple of years before the abuse started, and I had grown to love him as the stable father figure in my life. This is one of the things that makes it so hard for me to deal with. I had conflicting feelings when it started…on one hand, I did love him. On the other hand, I really didn’t know how to feel. It wasn’t a case of me feeling victimized as the abuse was happening. I was a child, I didn’t fully understand exactly what WAS happening, and the hardest part for me to deal with: at times I may have even enjoyed the attention. He didn’t cause me physical pain, and he never tried to have intercourse with me, thankfully, but I was still forced to deal with very adult issues as a very young girl. It started out as a very subtle thing. Now I know that he was grooming me. There would be a touch here and there, sometimes he made it seem accidental, sometimes not. Sometimes playful, sometimes serious. This is why so many child molestors get away with what they do…because they groom, and according to they do it in six stages.
In the first stage, they target their victim, which was easy for my step father, since I lived in the home with him and was a seemingly trustworthy person to my mother and the rest of my family.
In the second stage, they gain trust. He did that for probably two years before it began. He wasn’t the typical “bad guy” that I was warned about by well meaning family members; he was family, and family can be trusted, right? He wasn’t the creep who might offer me candy to get into his van, like I had seen on movies. He was a normal, decent looking, well dressed, hard working guy. Most are.
The next thing that child molesters do is stage three: fill a need. I’m going to be honest here, I believe that he knew that he could take advantage of me from day one. I also believe that a child molester can stand in a room filled with 100 children and pick out the ONE that they can molest. I had grown up in an unstable home environment up to this point. My parents divorced when I was a baby, and since my mother worked two jobs, I was basically raised by my great aunt and uncle. My mother had been married three times prior to this man. No doubt that he used that entire situation to place himself into our lives. I’m not even convinced that he didn’t marry my mother for this reason, even though the molestation did not start immediately.
Stage four is when they isolate the child. They will create a special bond with the child and create opportunities to spend time alone. This was easy since he drove a truck and was able to carry me on trips with him, and because of my mother’s long working hours.
Stage five is when they start to sexualize the situation. When the abuser has the childs trust and emotional dependence, the molester will progressively sexualize the relationship, and will desensitize the child to various situations, and then use that to exploit a child’s natural curiosity. This is the absolute most difficult part for me to deal with personally. He manipulated me until he found what aroused me and used that to extend the relationship, and he used the things that I loved to create opportunities for himself. I remember on several occasions, we would be alone in the house and he would bring me my mothers sexy nighties to “try on” and “play dress up”, then he suggest that we have a “dance party”. He knew that I loved to dance more than anything. He danced with me, and at some point would pick me up over his head and then slide me down his body, and his underwear would slide down with me and his naked penis would be exposed. Then he would stroke himself as I continued to dance at a distance and tried unsucessfully not to sneak glances at his penis. My curiosity got the better of me, as he knew that it would.
Stage six is maintaining control of the child. He had it. I “clearly” liked it, and whatever was happening was my fault too, since I went along with it. In my own mind, I wasn’t a victim, although I had conflicting feelings of liking the attention, but yet not wanting it to continue…and no one else, I felt, was going to see me as a victim either. Not after what I had done.
I didn’t hate it at first, and that’s what I hate myself for now that I am an adult. However, as I grew older, my feelings about it transitioned as I came to the realization that what was happening was wrong.
Since he drove a semi-truck over the road, he didn’t have a regular work schedule and was home in the afternoon and weekends while my mother worked. When I was out of school for holidays and the summer, I would go on over the road trips with him. I enjoyed getting out of the house and seeing the country. I also liked the fact that we ate at different truck stops and he allowed me to order anything that I wanted. We traveled by day and when the sun went down, I would climb in the back and sleep. He would climb into the sleeper with me when he parked the truck for the night and then he would start to fondle my overdeveloped for my age breasts, then he would raise my shirt up and start to lick and suck on them. Most of the time, I would pretend to be asleep, because I thought that would make him lose interest. Sometimes it did, but sometimes he would continue for most of the night.
He never touched me when my mother was at home. He was an opportunistic predator.
The molestation continued until I was ten, almost eleven. I will never forget the day that I decided to tell my mother. I’d been dreading it for days and went back and forth on the decision to talk to her about it. The day that I finally got up the courage to tell her, I wrote her a note and stuck it on the kitchen table. I knew that she would blame me, and I honestly didn’t want to live anymore. I just wanted to die, but I didn’t want to die with this secret. I went to the kitchen and took almost an entire bottle of aspirin, thinking that it would kill me in my sleep, and then I went to bed. I woke up a few hours later and my mother, brother, and step father had gone out for dinner and left me there. I stayed in the bathroom all night puking up the aspirin that I had taken and wondered why my mother hadn’t came in to check on me. Apparantly she hadn’t read the note that night, because it was the next day when she came in. She gave me a speech about the seriousness of my accusations. I was a seriously dramatic child by nature, and was sure that she would think that I was just trying to cause a stir. He knew this too, and I think it’s why he thought he would get away with it. I believe that my mom was in shock over the allegations and went through different stages as we talked. Nonetheless, when I convinced her that it was really happening, she packed me up and took me to my grandparents to get me into a safe environment while she worked everything out. Afterwards was a whirlwind of going to doctors, counselors, and lawyers offices. My grandparents got emergency temporary custody of me and my mother eventually divorced him and she and my brother moved.
Fast forward several years, I got married and got pregnant my first baby. I knew when I got pregnant that I wanted to breastfeed, but I constantly questioned my ability to endure it. How could I allow an infant to suckle on the same breasts that my abuser fondled and licked? When I brought my baby up to my breast, would I see my molestors face? Would the stimulation be too much for me to bear, and would I develop an aversion toward my baby from breastfeeding him? I was haunted by severe apprehension. My greatest fear was that I would be so overtaken by my emotions that it would destroy any confidence in breastfeeding that I had.
Although I carried horrendous emotional scars that I wouldn’t face even for years to come, I convinced myself that I would push through it if those scars resurfaced after the birth of my baby.
Thankfully, when my baby was born, the hormones and instinct took over and the dread that I had felt about it was much worse than the reality. I was able to disconnect myself from what had happened and keep those feelings locked up for a while to sucessfully breastfeed, but it wasn’t easy, and eventually they did resurface.
However, the breastfeeding isn’t what stirred them again.
It was simply being a mother.
I developed an overwhelming urge to protect my child from what had happened to me, but in order to do that I had to face it. I had to take myself back and re-feel all of those emotions. I had to remember and ponder on the events that led up to what had happened to me. It was important to me as a mother to understand the mind of the one who molested me and stripped away my child-like view of the world entirely too soon.
Overcoming my abuse is still a daily struggle, but writing about it and talking about it has helped me to start to heal, and ironically, the thing that I thought would be a trigger has been what has allowed me to face my demons and begin to move on.
Knowing that my body is being used for what it was designed to has changed my outlook completely. I believed that I would struggle with not having my body “to myself”, yet the opposite has happened. I don’t view it in that way. My intense self-loathing has subsided a great deal just knowing that my body has supported four tiny lives, all on its own. It has been empowering to know that my body came through for my babies and its intended purpose, even though I did not treat it very well in the years follwing my abuse. I feel as though I have reconnected with my own body through my breastfeeding journey and have been able to not only accept my body, but also appreciate the magical thing that it has done in creating and sustaining life. My body is my own, even though it was used to grow and feed my babies. My babies may have been demanding, but not in the same malicious, devious way as my abuser. Their innocence and dependence on me allowed me to remove those mind barriers and fear that I had conjured up in the beginning of my first pregnancy. Having and nourishing my babies has ALLOWED me to claim back my own body.
I may periodically come back and add things to this, as my emotions are always evolving as I take steps to heal. I feel that it’s important as a victim to get those emotions out and at least try to put them into perspective.
Other mothers have sent me their experiences to be included in this and I would like to share them below:
When I was little a male family member abused me many times. It was right after I had started developing breasts. Since then I have had a very negative view of my breasts.
I didn’t tell anyone about the abuse for 5 years. I blamed it on myself, my breasts were too large, they were gross. I felt they were something to be ashamed of. As a teenager with size D breasts it was something I really struggled with.
In my sexual relationship with my partner, I asked to keep my breasts out of it. He was a total boob man, but respected my past and never touched my breasts.
Once pregnant I took the usual baby class and one night was breastfeeding night. After learning all the benefits for my son, I SO wanted to breastfeed him. But, I was scared. If I couldn’t let my partner touch my breasts after 3 years of having sex how would I feel with this little baby touching and sucking on my nipple?
I had nightmares about it throughout my pregnancy. Yet I was still 100% determined to breastfeed.
When my son was born we cuddled, his birth was unmedicated so he was very alert. He soon found his way to my breast. One of the nurses went to touch my breast, without asking, and I quickly asked her not to. I helped my son latch and we began our beautiful breastfeeding relationship.
I feel so lucky that I have never felt any of the things I feared I would. But if I had never tried, I wouldn’t know how beautiful breastfeeding truly is.
When I was 14 and my boyfriend at the time was 16, he decided he was ready for sex. I was not. I begged for us to be able to wait, I was too young and scared. He wasn’t willing to accept that and told me that “if I truly loved him, I would let him.” He forced himself onto me and took my virginity. He covered my face with a pillow and held me down while I cried the entire time. He continued to abuse me physically and sexually, threatening my life, until I was 17. I gained the strength to leave him after losing my father. I became pregnant a year later with my now husband’s baby. The first time I breastfed my son in the hospital, I cried the entire time. I convinced myself that because of my past, I couldn’t nurse my son. I felt too dirty, and almost as if I was abusing my son somehow. I cried every single time I breastfed my son. I made it to 3 months of nursing until I gave up. It took a few years of soul searching and turning to God before I was able to realize that what happened to me, was NOT my fault. In 2013, I gave birth to my daughter. She is almost 7 months old and has not had a single drop of formula. I feel guilty at times that I wasn’t able to overcome my problems to breastfeed my son, but he is a beautiful healthy and happy 4 year old. I am thankful everyday that I am able to give my daughter the best start I can by breastfeeding her.