Journal of a 16 year-old Victim of Incest

raped

credits to Tulisan Murtad for the image

This is a seven days journal entry of a 16 year-old victim of incestuous rape. Her perpetrator – her own father was already sentenced to jail. Her mother has been dead for years, and she lives with her 21 year-old brother (Paul) and 12 year-old sister (Mary) in their old house. She is experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder and her psychologist – Kathy, guides her through the process of overcoming it.

Monday Night

Dear Diary,

I was so scared. I was doing our weekly groceries earlier when I saw him. I knew it was him. I felt sick and threw up all over the floor. The manager tried to hold me and assist me but I felt sicker and the revulsion that surfaced from the pits of my stomach was one that I could no longer control with good manners. I threw up a lot more. When I look up, I saw his figure – he drew closer to me for he seemed to grow curious. When I looked again, I realized that it was not him, just a shopper with his height and built. Still, I was scared. Peter brought me home. He had to leave his work in the nearby restaurant early to bring me home. He assured me that I do not have to be scared anymore because Father was already in prison, but even that could not bring me much consolation. He might escape. Even if Peter is taller than he is, he might not be able to protect me. After all, he was not able to protect me before.

Tuesday Night

Dear Diary,

I had an appointment with Kathy earlier. I told her that I followed her advice in writing a journal. She seemed pleased. I told her of the incident yesterday and my hardening resolve to not to do the groceries anymore. Paul should be able to figure doing the groceries without my help. He doesn’t seem to be that scared of Father. Kathy said that Paul might find it hard – with his job in the restaurant but she did not press further. That’s what I like about Kathy. She doesn’t force me to do things that I really don’t want. She often points out the things that I did and challenges me – like why should I believe that Father would be able to escape. She also taught me to think of pleasant thoughts whenever I am on the verge of being sick all over again. Hopefully, that would be helpful next time.

Wednesday Night

Dear Diary,

I burned the couch. I could not stomach seeing it. I always feel dirty when I see it and I was afraid before because I know Paul would be extremely angry. But he’s not here today and Mary was in school. I felt like I was transported back in time. Being always alone with that hideous couch brought back memories that I have been trying to forget. I have made people around me – especially Paul and Mary, to believe that I have forgotten everything. I believe that I did – but that couch was such a nuisance. It was difficult but I was able to manage to push the couch outside the house without even touching it that much. I poured petrol and started a fire. Good thing that our neighbors are far-off; they would not be alarmed by my actions. But even if they are near, I really don’t care. I stopped caring for a long time that the word itself seemed foreign to me. After burning the couch, I took a bath. I scrubbed really hard and I soaped my entire body a dozen times. I felt dirty after touching the couch. I felt refreshed, but not entirely clean.

Thursday Afternoon

Dear Diary,

Paul nearly hit me when he went home today. He was angry and he looked at me so badly that I fled to the bathroom and took a bath once again. He knocked at my room after a while. He asked me to come out – because he knows that I would never let him in. He cooked pasta for lunch and even asked if I’d like some salad. He told me that we would have to endure sitting on the floor while watching TV because he has to raise some money to buy a new couch. I told him that he’s getting unpredictable and maybe he needs to see Kathy too.

Friday Morning

Dear Diary,

I had a nightmare. I am so upset that I could not write.

Saturday Night

Dear Diary,

Paul treated me and Mary to the movies. I got spooked because it was dark. It did not occur to me that the movie house could be that dark. I felt unprotected so I begged Paul to take me home. We just watched DVD instead. Watching was difficult because we do not have a couch. But I guess its okay too.

Sunday Afternoon

Dear Diary

Mary went to attend the Sunday service and Paul is on his job in the restaurant. I made some cereal for myself and fried some hotdogs. I ate outside on the porch. Sometimes, I feel even more secure when I am on the porch than inside my room or even in our house. Sometimes, I could not abide being inside without Paul and Mary around. Good thing the weather is fine. Maybe I’ll ask Paul to transfer the TV in here.

References

Adams, Kenneth (1991). Silently Seduced: Understanding Covert Incest.Florida: Health Communications, Inc.

Barlow, David (2002). Anxiety and Its Disorders: The Nature and Treatment of Anxiety and Panic, 2nd edition.New York: theGuilford Press.

Foa, Edna B. & Andrews, Linda Wasmer (2006). If Your Adolescent has an Anxiety Disorder: An Essential Resource for Parents.New York: Oxford University Press

Ford, Emily, Leibowitz, Michael R. & Andrews, Linda Wasmer (2007). What You Must Think of Me.New York:OxfordUniversity Press

Kirschner, Sam, Kirschner, Diana Adile & Rappaport, Richard (1993). Working with Adult Incest Survivors: The Healing Journey.New York: Brunner/ Mazel, Inc.

Noyes, Russell Jr. & Saric, Rudolph Hoehn (1998). The Anxiety Disorders. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Sophie in “Sophie’s Choice”

Meryl Streep plays the role of Sophie in an adaptation of William Styron's novel, "Sophie's Choice."

Sophie’s Choice (1982) was a movie adaptation of a novel with the same title. It talked of Sophie – the main character, in the perspectives of a confidant and observer – her friend Stingo. Sophie was a Polish survivor from the Nazi concentration camps during the Second World War – and her traumatic experiences, including the choices that she had to take brought her in the throes of a passionate love-hate relationship with an equally unstable “biologist,” whom she regarded as her “savior.” Sophie had post-traumatic stress disorder, an anxiety disorder which had resulted from her sufferings and moral failings, which she perceived as the cause of the atrocities that she had witnessed, perpetrated to the people that she most loved. Her most prominent symptom was that of avoidance; she had repressed all her painful memories in the past, not only in an effort to survive, but more importantly, in a struggle to get over from the guilt that she was experiencing. She tried to numb herself, through a physically dependent and masochistic relationship with her partner, who has been revealed in the latter part of the movie to be a paranoid-schizophrenic.

Sophie did not see herself as a victim of the events that transpired in the camp. Rather, she attributed all her misfortunes to her faulty decisions in life – her refusal to translate Gestapo documents in an effort to save her children, yet was not so, her failure to steal the radio that the Resistance badly needed, and ultimately, her decision of allowing her daughter to be exterminated by the Nazi soldiers in an effort to save her son. Sophie did not recognize the aggression of the larger system which led her into such violent crossroads with both losing ends. She bore all the guilt and the fact the she had been unable to see her only surviving child after the war seemed to her – a testament to the “follies” on her decisions.

Sophie was aware of her problem. She was in fact actively forgetting her guilt through the lies that she concocted. Her lies about her father and her struggle to mask her pains by engaging in a violent relationship proved of her self-reproach. She was aware that years after the war, she was still suffering the agony of the terror of the time when she was led to make a choice. Yet, she did not have the violent enmity that other people would have directed towards the Nazis. She just felt that all of her misfortunes were very much deserved. She received no psychological treatment, only empathetic listening from her friend, Stingo – who was at that time also coping with his own emotional battles.

The Holocaust is a grim period in the history of nations. I believe that Sophie’s character and the movie in itself depicted it appropriately. The Nazis were undeniably guilty of several atrocities to the Jews and to the people who, at the very least were suspected of betraying them. Though filled with complexities and strange turn of events, I believe that Sophie’s character successfully depicted the struggles of one with post-traumatic stress disorder, particularly in the given period. Her final choice – of going back to her partner Nathan and their consequent suicide attempt reflected her final effort of self-recrimination. She did not “atone” in this sense, for in her anxious thoughts, she knew that no action from her was necessary to bring back everything that she had lost. Rather, she punished herself, precisely for this powerlessness, and for a guilt that was so massive, kept on streaming on the surface of her consciousness, in spite of efforts to submerge them through the lies that she had made.

References

Pakula, Alan (Director and Producer). (1982). Sophie’s Choice. (DVD). Lions Gate

Wilson, John P. (2001). “An Overview of Clinical Considerations and Principles in the Treatment of PTSD.” Treating Psychological Trauma and PTSD. New York: The GuilfordPress