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Learning about life in a cauldron of childhood sexual abuse leaves survivors with simmering confusion. Many of our impressions and beliefs about ourselves were born in psychological chaos. We arrived at adulthood too wise and achingly innocent. We began traveling down that path carrying a backpack of misconceptions.

Our sexuality was surely twisted and often crumbled into pieces. What should have been left for our own exploration, timing, and choices was ripped out of our control. Many of us were required to participate before we could fathom adult physical intimacy. Some of us were trapped by fear or the power and authority of our abuser. Others had their very innocent, normal desire for affection exploited.

All of us were tossed into deep, stormy waters before we knew how to swim. We didn’t know how we got there or why. We didn’t know how to reach shore. And so we did what we could; we swam in circles of confusion trying to stay afloat.

Our bodies also held a mountain of confusion. Some of us were taught our looks caused the distorted attention we received. Others learned they were powerless to save themselves. We hated our abusers and, just as often, hated our bodies for being the object that caused so much pain. In the bewildering world of our abuse, we didn’t have the opportunity to learn how to take care of ‘the house’ we live in.

Love was another casualty of the confusion we experienced. Our abusers might not have been part of our family, but 90% of them were known and trusted. Where we should have found safety, care, celebration, and protection, we experienced betrayal and being used under the banner of affection. As a child, it became part of the flavor we associated with love. Then it often soured into repeating, perplexing choices we made in the years that followed.

Our childhood sexual abuse set the stage for a confusing cast of characters and dramas. Our healing journeys offer us insights so we can re-write our play.