Sexual Violation

by Madhuri Marelli, M.A.

Everyone either has been sexually violated or knows someone who has. It is a topic that is highly charged with sadness, anger, pain and a myriad of suppressed feelings. If you think you don't know anyone who has been violated sexually, it is that you just aren't aware of it. The prevalent statistics are unclear and incidents are under reported. Many people remain silent, living with the experience, humiliation, shame and emotional scars which impact them the rest of their lives.

Violating experiences vary on the continuum from inappropriate comments, even innuendo, to violent rape. Any unwanted behavior or speech crosses the line of appropriateness. Emotional violation, while not the principle topic of this treatise, always accompanies sexual violation.

Very young children, under the age of 6 or 7, often do not understand physical boundaries. They sexually explore themselves and each other innocently. It is usually a natural part of development. It is when someone knows better, but chooses to cross the boundary of an innocent for his or her own selfish pleasure, that a violation occurs. The act leaves its mark in the psyche of the abused and used child.

As children age towards adolescence, unfortunately the incidences are quite high of taking advantage of a younger child. Usually it is one who was violated earlier on. If they coerce someone of their own age, by physical or emotional badgering or force, this is violation. Any non-consented action or speech from an adult to an adult is violation. These are my own definitions. Probably one can argue that my standards are rigid, but after counseling professionally with people since 1975, I have found that the residual suffering from subtle and non-subtle acts of violation can be fiercely devastating, depending on circumstances and individual sensitivity.

Recently, I viewed the Sundance Film Festival movie, SPEAK, made in 2004. It could have been produced earlier or at any time. The theme of sexual violation is timeless and universal. This movie is the story of a 15-year-old young woman and her inner suffering. Her untold story progressively leads her very close to psychotic breaking. Tastefully, sensitively and non-sensationally done, this movie is a psychological classic. Anyone who has been violated in any way, as well as professionals working in service industries, needs to see this film. It is about the need to talk and be heard, to speak out one's story to regain or maintain sanity.

The cover of the DVD reads, "The truth will change everything." It does open a can of worms for the community, but prevents harm coming to other women. Only when one tells their story can healing begin to take place.

Fear of repercussions is often why people remain silent. Caution may be necessary to be in a supportive environment, and with people who can truly help and maintain confidentiality. Receiving compassion and understanding are tantamount to moving forward. One should be careful of becoming or staying involved with others who are verbally or physically abusive. Low self-esteem often prevents one from leaving a dysfunctional relationship, but the dynamics are very complex, even beyond esteem and self-worth. There is a time of grieving the loss of dignity, ability to feel safe, feeling abandoned, and so many other feelings and experiences.

Perfect and complete healing, is it possible? The more one does the needed inner and outer work with competent support, yes, it is possible. Self respect, self love and acceptance begin to blossom. Participating in mutually caring relationships and spiritual practices contribute. Getting a clearer sense of one's emotional and physical boundaries are the result and produce greater inner peace and strengthening. One lifts even higher when realizing that giving and receiving love is possible. At some point, if ready, one can be there to support and assist others in speaking and healing.