So far in this series on the anger associated with sexual abuse, we have covered the areas of guilt and internalized anger. Today we will examine the phenomena of “anger at the world”, a behavioral trait that is often exhibited by victims of sexual abuse.
Jenna had been sexually abused by her stepfather from the ages of 8 to twelve. Her own natural father had died when she was 3, and her mother relied on her stepfather for a decent standard of living. Now 35, Jenna was consumed with rage at anything and everything.
She had never told her mother about her stepfather’s conduct. As a child she had been too afraid to, and as an adult she told herself it was too late to do anything about it. Besides, she didn’t really want to hurt her mother.
So she kept the secret and the anger inside. At times she was successfully able to use the anger to propel her in her career – she was a successful lawyer. Yet the rage she felt towards her stepfather continued to build within her and spilled over into all areas of her life.
For one thing, she had never had a successful long-term relationship with a man. Once she fell out of the “honeymoon” stage in each relationship, she started to find fault with her partners. We all do this to a certain extent, but with Jenna it was quite malignant. The well-balanced men left her because of her rage and the doormat types put up with it, which only enraged Jenna further.
She had a poor relationship with her mother because she was still trying to protect her and yet incensed that her mother hadn’t protected her all those years ago. But with no real target to aim her anger at, the world copped her rage. She shouted at taxi drivers, she insulted waiters, she infuriated her co-workers and she hated her neighbors.
Yet in the quiet of her bedroom, she would weep. Sometimes for hours. She would weep just like the little girl that still lived inside her. The hurt and angry one.
When Jenna lost her job, she came for counseling. She wanted to fight and argue with me over everything, from the price of the sessions to the work she had to do in order to recover. “Why should I have to pay out money and do work on myself? It was my step father who assaulted me. I didn’t do anything wrong!”
And so she hadn’t. One of the injustices of this world is that is the victim of crime and the victim of abuse who has to do the hard yards. And this naturally makes people very angry. They have suffered enough and now they must suffer the pain of therapy. It is not fair, but there is little choice. I tell my clients that in doing the work required in order to get better, they will ultimately be happier with their new life in a way they could never imagine.
We will continue Jenna’s story in the next blog.
Contact Beth McHugh for further information or assistance regarding this issue.