This shame is not mine to hold.
Some survivors of child sexual abuse are scared of animals. I don’t care how ‘friendly’ your pet is. The involvement of animals in sexual abuse of children is one of those things that is next-to-never spoken about. A few examples of this: Dogs can be used as a threat to a child – if they don’t go along with things, the abuser will say the dog will be released to attack the child. Animals can be used to take part in the acts of sexual abuse with the child, or used as a threat that this will happen. And family pets can be used as leverage – the abuser will say they’ll hurt their pet if they don’t cooperate.
Even within medical, judiciary and clinical settings, people don’t want to accept that these things happened to the person sitting in front of them when they were a child. Well it happened to me, and to other survivors of abuse too. So when I flinch when I see a dog, or don’t want to pet your cat, it’s easier for me to say I’m allergic to cats, or I was know someone who was bitten by a dog, than to tell you the truth. It’s desperately humiliating to share this post, but I need people to understand that Adult survivors can be affected by their experiences for decades after, and the shame we feel because of the reactions of non-survivors, only adds to it
Larry wrote the following piece. It’s the first time I remember splitting due to Dissociative Identity Disorder.
We were always the cats
The stairs were concrete.The walls were bare. There was always the smell of alcohol in the air. There were always men; always Black. There were a few other children there. We were always the cats. There was a dog, sometimes two. The scariest times were when one man would pretend to be one too. There was little talking. I can still hear all their breaths. I gripped my father’s hand tight as a little girl in a simple dress. They made me watch. Watch dogs fight, attack each other, fangs bared. Then the children would be next, and when it was my turn, they watched me as I stood there scared. We were always the cats in that sick game. The men would take Polaroids, as I crouched with shame. Positioned next to a dog, or the man who was one too, I had to make noises, had to prove. That I was a cat and I was their pet. And I had to stay still as I felt the dog’s breath. But one night I realised I was watching myself. From the outside instead of inside, my perspective altered and went. A part of mind that couldn’t handle the pain, separated off and became a teenage boy without a name. We had to meow, be good and come to the men when they called. I stood as a boy in the middle of it all. The breath of dogs against my legs; the fear they would bite me made me want to beg. But begging is for humans and that wasn’t us. We were just bodies violated in the dust, and though I could bear more than Lizzie could, I still hold the sounds, the gold teeth and the fear of blood. The man who pretended that he was a beast would snarl and grab and show his teeth. The dogs would surround us, just as the men did. I had to be still while they licked all over my skin. Time split off, just like I had done; all these moments merged into one. It still plays out behind my eyes, and though I am older, Outside Jacq wants to hide. For sometimes when Jacq is having sex with someone they trust, the old instincts come out as an animal does. The shame they feel when they mutter a ‘meow’ confuses them, but they understand now. The understanding doesn’t help their pain. Outside Jacq just feels the shame. We were always the cats. We were victims without names. Though time has moved on for them, I as Larry remain, the cause and the cure; the balm and the bane.