[CW: CSA] Children are influenced by the subtle and loud alike. Most adults are aware of this powerful adaptive energy, the vulnerability of such malleability, and some use it to their sickening advantage. Children don’t understand. Without their own experience of the world, children are heavily influenced by their guardians and caretakers. Parents, relatives, teachers, babysitters, counselors, tutors, these people have a control over youth that few other human beings have over each other. This control easily turns into abuse.
My paternal grandfather has been dead many years but the lessons he taught me still have a severely detrimental impact on my adult life. Before I could even speak, I was learning that men exposing themself to me was ordinary and that there was no boundary dividing sexual and non sexual touch. All children are groomed in some way by the people who define life for them, but many are groomed to become compliant, quiet, to relinquish control, to accept any and all behaviour.
Cycles of revictimization often manifest due to sexual grooming. Certain traumas become expected and acceptable, as victims of grooming find abuse familiar and are less likely to understand the danger and severity of traumatic experiences that occur with other people throughout life. When I was ten I was raped at a summer camp and I didn’t recognize my experiences as traumatic. The violence, threats, power imbalance, these had been normalized to me.
I probably would have been assaulted whether I’d grown up with my grandfather or not, but my reactions to being traumatized and my continuous two decade long downward spiral are undeniably influenced by the grooming I experienced in early childhood.
In my recent poetry, I’ve been exploring the vulnerable nature of being a child in relation to existing as a seemingly powerless entity, and the ways I and others can heal childhood wounds. My writing has been reminding me that children who aren’t respected have to reclaim self respect in adulthood.
To learn responsibility for the control we have over our lives after being degraded and shamed, we must accept that we didn’t have control as children and so when we got the control back, we didn’t know what to do with it so we assumed it was useless.
Grooming and other childhood traumas leave us feeling powerless as adults. The more I’ve taken responsibility for my behaviour and struggles, the more control I’ve gained over them. I do my best to honour myself and my needs while owning up my mistakes.
Victims of grooming must first learn autonomy before all else, must feel as though our bodies, minds, and lives truly belong to us. This need for control may come about in self destructive ways but as the world grows wider than the constraints of our abuse, so vastly does our awareness of our capabilities grow. Our potential for healing is hinted to us and it’s our choice to take them or ignore them.
Healing is scary, but the cycle is scarier. A lifetime of abuse isn’t sustainable, self-abuse included. At some point we become conscious of the patterns and in that moment, we’ve regained our control. What we do with it is up to us.