When I was sexually abused when I was quite young, my world changed. I lost things I didn’t know I had. There was a new sense that my body was not my own and my feelings and reactions weren’t, either. They had been superseded by other people’s wants—not only my father’s blind, willful desire, but my mother’s need to deny and conceal, not to rock the family boat.
After the memories came back I undertook a long, difficult, and rewarding therapy. I first had to find and let out my feelings of shame and confusion and betrayal. There were layers upon layers, and it took years of listening to my Inner Child and learning how to comfort her. Then I began to regain trust, beginning with trusting my therapist and then myself.
And then, innocence. What I mean by innocence is not only a child’s concept of the world as being safe and parents as people you can trust. It’s also the child’s sense that she has a right to have space in the world, boundaries and her own desires. It’s a fundamental autonomy and sense of rightness. Losing that meant losing the right to protest, the right to assert my being in the world, and this carried over into adult relationships. At work, I could be forceful and vocal, but in personal relationships, I shrank myself and gave in to others’ desires.
We all suffer hurts as children and our selves are diminished by the rubs and demands of the world. We all develop defenses and coping strategies that serve survival but limit our possibilities.
To me, innocence regained is learning how to trust self and others, combined with seeing clearly how relationships are imperfect. There’s a growing sense that I have a right to be in the world in my own particular, peculiar way.