- Louise Wisechild has to work through a lot of body shame. What was it about abuse that caused her so much shame and disconnect from her body? –
In The Missing Piece: Bodywork for Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse, Shirley Vanderbilt states that during the mid-1970s into the 1980s there was an influx of child abuse identification and reporting. Not all of these disclosures came from children but from adult survivors. These adults were accessing memories from their childhoods that had been previously locked away. Scientific research has shown evidence of “a neurobiological response to trauma and the fragmentary way in which trauma memory is stored in the body”. According to Christine Courtois, Ph.D., clinical director of The Center: Post-traumatic Disorders Program at the Psychiatric Institute of Washington in Washington D.C, particular types of trauma past the elements of violation and control that also add a betrayed relationship to the situation, someone the child or victim trusted and intensified entrapment over time, can lead to responses of “repression, denial, or dissociation. The victim in turn makes a psychological escape whereas the body remembers the traumas it has experienced. This can cause a great amount of turmoil for the individual who is wanting to feel as what we would describe as “normal” but the memories held within the body disallow this unity my mind and body.
Louise Wisechild was not only sexually abused at a very young age beginning with her grandfather’s years of molestation when she was just 5 years old, she was also continuously, repeatedly sexually assaulted and raped by her Uncle Kevin and stepfather Don throughout her adolescent and teenage life. The coping patterns that form due to young age and repeated frequent abuse according to Psychiatrist Judith Herman caused Louise to form and deform her personality while she was still a child. Louise never internalized a healthy understanding of sex because of the abuse she endured. She was taught to believe she could to be used, and to never speak for what they they molesters the rapists insisted she liked. She came from a family who treated female sexuality as “bad”. Bad, being the term she continuously uses against herself as her memories written by her in her book The Obsidian Mirror, relive childhood experiences for her that she now looking back has the chance to understand. She never expressed a love for her body because she was never taught to by her mother and the other adults in her life. She was shown that her body was hers, not for the use of others. Louise also struggled with seeing her lack of agency in a situation when she was being abused. As a child her agency was not hers yet. Later as an adult she internalizes that choices people are because they want to make them. She feels as if, because it happened to her, such a horrible experience and repeated by multiple men in her life, that there must have been something she did to cause it. Through teachings of her grandmother and mother women were always responsible for the bad things that happened, no matter what.
The shame Louise felt was greatest when she recounted that one morning she had an organism while Don was rapping her. She felt the burst of sensation met with confusion. To Louise this meant war against a body, a body that expressed desire for something that was bad. Her body responded in a way that she did not agree with. Louise’s experiences taught her that her sexuality was bad. Louise never understood how to be in charge of her sexuality because she was never given the tools to accomplish this in a healthy way, to be confident in her sexuality, and to view her sexuality for herself. Until she could relearn through bodywork and therapy that the actions taken against her were not her fault that they were in fact the crimes of the adults in charge of her care was she able to start the healing process of releases pains where memories were demanding to be understood.
[WS201 – 7]