Sunday, January 01, 1989

Some Common Characteristics of Survivors of Incest

Some Common Characteristics of Survivors of Incest
VOICES in Action, Inc. - January 1, 1989

Each survivor of incest has his or her own story, distinct and yet similar in one way or another to other survivors' stories.  Some of us remember a lot abut the abuse; others remember little of it.  Some of us were victims of "velvet glove" seduction; others were victims of intense violence.

How we react to the abuse may be a distinct and similar as our stories.  To survive the betrayal of trust and the violations of our bodies, we developed survival skills which may have been effective at the time.  Victims of child abuse tend to carry at least some of these learned skills into adulthood; as we recover, we struggle to let go of these old behaviors and patterns.  A large measure of our recovery is our ability to find and adopt new, healthier ways to cope as we seek to reclaim our lives.

Some survivors are:

  • numb to their feelings
  • accident prone
  • withdrawn or isolated from others
  • shy
  • gregarious ad very social, but only in superficial ways
  • angry or enraged
  • fearful
  • fearful of strangers
  • bothered by obsessive thoughts
  • promiscuous
  • celibate
  • substance abusers
  • compulsive over-eaters, or demonstrate another eating disorder
  • afraid of anger or violent people

Some survivors have:

  • strongly negative feelings about their bodies
  • mutilated or hurt their own bodies
  • strained relations with their family of origin
  • difficulty relating appropriately to men or women
  • anxiety attacks or panic attacks
  • phobias
  • gaps in their memories, or have conflicting memories
  • various physical problems
  • difficulty with sex
  • difficulties having an orgasm
  • sleep disturbances and/or nightmares
  • suicidal thoughts
  • a tendency to lie when there is no reason to lie

Some survivors feel:

  • different, isolated, or like a "freak"
  • drawn to help others, sometimes at their own risk or loss
  • unworthy
  • crazy terribly guilty. . . and don't know why