Statistics[i] show that one fourth of the women in America have been sexually molested as children. Though nowadays there are laws and groups that are supposed to protect children from such abuse, it is still rampant primarily because most children do not tell anyone about it – ever. Sometimes there is disclosure but many years later – too late to stop the abuser before he (or she) has found other victims.
A girl who has been sexually abused will most likely have some adverse effects from it. A distorted body image will likely be one of them. The girl might hate her body and sometimes abuse it in her self-loathing. She might have low self-esteem because of the shame the abuse caused. Or a girl might start to believe that her self-worth is tied closely to her ability to please a sexual partner. Therefore, she may allow herself to go on “clearance” or “free to any taker.” Conversely, she may feel so devalued that she will take herself “off the market.” Her virtue has been exploited, but so has her self-esteem. We are now aware that girls and women are being sold into sexual slavery all over the world, so the sexual exploitation of females ranges from inappropriate touching to the marketing of females as property.
In any case, a woman’s sense of worth can be shaped and disfigured by psychological damage caused by an abuser. I borrow from the book Becoming a Woman of Worth, where the author explains a lie she calls a “weed” of doubt and self-loathing that sends this message:
Since I am no good—I might as well be bad.
Since I am trash—I might as well act like it.
Since I will never measure up—I might as well give up now.[ii]
An abused female can have these messages running in her head for the rest of her life if the lies or “weeds” aren’t exposed, plucked out, and destroyed.
I’ve never shared my own experience with sexual abuse until now, mostly because I didn’t feel as though it served a positive purpose. However, now I feel led to open the wound a little if it will help my readers who have had similar occurrences come to terms with their secret pain. My experience is limited to two events from two different males within a few months of each other. I was eight years old. I didn’t know what to do. Should I tell somebody about it, chancing that no one would believe me? Or place the blame on myself figuring I had done something to provoke these invasions? Now that I look back on these incidents I realize that I buried them deep within, but they did have some effect on my feelings about myself. How can something like this NOT affect a child sooner or later? I’m still trying to figure out what part these events have played in my struggles about self-worth.
A 1988 TV commercial advertising pantyhose used a ZZ Top song that said, “She’s got legs, she knows how to use them.” That message didn’t imply that a woman could run fast or jump high. Rather the woman should consider using her legs as a seductive device. Body image for most women takes on the appearance found in a carnival hall of mirrors. Many times, a girl’s body is nothing like the distorted one in her mind and the reasons for that distortion lies within…well, lies that she has believed throughout her life.
A good friend of mine recently recommended a book that addresses these questions of value. It is from the author’s experience who bore the shame of sexual abuse and other “recordings” playing in her head. I just finished reading it and, without hesitation, I highly recommend it to you. The author is Christine Caine and the title is Unashamed: Drop the Baggage. Pick Up Your Freedom. Fulfill Your Destiny published by Zondervan. It’s been a long time since a book has moved me this deeply.
[i] Excerpt From: James C. Dobson. What Wives Wish Their Husbands Knew About Women. iBooks.
[ii] Clark, Kristen Becoming Women of Worth: Stories of Hope & Faith, 2014