For me, the physical proceeds from the emotional and psychological. Everything that I experience today is seen through the lense of a childhood filled with sexual abuse, neglect, and fear. My primary abuser was the brother of my mother, my uncle, who was easily the most sadistic man ever born. Many abusers rely on coercion to gain access to their victims. This man used outright intimidation and brutality. Though I know that this behavior was a reflection of how he was raised, and the experiences he had growing up, there is no logical or emotional excuse for his long career of abuse. I am the youngest of seven children, and none of us escaped his attention. He perpetuated the tradition by training the boys to be just like him, and suppressed the girls to the point that we had no hope, no expectation of life ever being any different. Today, each of my sisters and I battle depression, PTSD, various personality disorders, suicidal ideation, and medical conditions that seem to be a direct physical expression of what we suffered through. My oldest sister died at 21, and we counted her lucky. Of the three remaining girls (including myself), all have had hysterectomies due to medical conditions. The oldest of us has had (and survived) throat cancer. We all struggle with obesity and eating disorders. We have all married for protection, and discovered to our dismay that we had married someone that was very like our uncle. We have lived our lives behind a veil of shame, unable to really connect to others, waiting for the relief of death. We watched as our mother walked that same path before us, and learned by observation that even adulthood did not bring safety. We still wonder how many of us are actually legitimate offspring of our father. We will never know.
My abuse at the hands of my uncle started around nine months of age. It continued until right before my sixth birthday. I witnessed my uncle abusing my mother and my siblings, and the violent encounter between my father and my uncle that brought it all to an end. The horrid things that I have seen are countless. When I was three, my uncle became enraged at my mother and broke her leg. Not only did I witness this, but I was forced to lie about what happened so that my father would not find out. One of the most twisted myths in my family is how my mother broke her leg in the snow, and how smart and brave I was when I called the operator to get help. (It is SO wrong that the only thing that I was praised for in my family was something that was a total fabrication!)
When this living hell finally came to an end, I should have been happy, relieved. Instead I was devastated. My father was always one of the kindest souls, always had a smile and a hug, even though he was dead tired from working full time in a steel mill and working a farm. My sweetest memory of my childhood was sitting on the front step of our farmhouse with my dad while he played the harmonica. But when he discovered what was going on between my mother and my uncle, he nearly beat my uncle to death. I was almost six, and to see my sweet calm father turn into this raging beast absolutely shattered any sense of safety I might ever have had. I can only imagine what would have happened if he had actually known that it wasn't just my mother that my uncle was using. I honestly do not believe that my father knew about what happened to us. What I do know is that we moved away from the farm to a house closer to civilization. (The farm was WAY back in the hills, in every sense of the term.)
After the move, life was very different. No uncle visits, no obvious threats, I began to relax just the tiniest bit. I really didn't trust that life could be something to enjoy, but I began to find happiness in the small things. I loved to catch little lizards, and make little beds for them using a matchbox and pieces of moss for the mattress, and a soft leaf for a cover. (if you turn a brown lizard over and stroke his tummy he will fall asleep). I could play for hours with one little lizard and my imagination, and turn him loose, good as new, when I had to go in. I enjoyed this idyllic life for most of a year, at which time my brother took over where my uncle left off. Of course, my brother could not even hope to be as sadistic and powerful as my uncle, but I was well trained, so he didn't have to be. Oddly enough, I had NO respect for my brother because he was just a pathetic shadow of my uncle. Even after years of practice he never attained the state of power over me that my uncle had.
History has a way of repeating itself if given an opportunity. I spent the next five years in a constant state of alert. Unlike my uncle, who came for visits, my brother was always there, and I had to guard against being caught in a place that afforded my brother some privacy. I learned to be invisible, and hyper-vigilant. When I was caught unaware, I endured, and learned to blame myself. Since my brother could not control me through sheer force, he resorted to coercion. I must cooperate, or he would tell our parents what I was doing, and they would send me "away". He would threaten my pets, my toys, and my security. In retrospect, I know that he would never have told my parents, but it seemed like a very serious threat at the time. It was enough to keep me outwardly compliant, regardless of the defiance in my heart. In the meantime, my mind began to knit a shroud over what I had suffered at the hands of my uncle.