The Continual Effect of Child Abuse

Stephanie and I met in November at a gallery where we were both showing images. I looked at her for the first time, fell in love and knew we would be fast friends. She is beautiful inside and out. In March I found out about Stephanie’s biggest secret – she was sexually abused by her father from the ages of 6 to 16. I was only the third person in her 56 years that she told this to. I was honored.
She had images and feelings inside that she finally had to get out so we worked together for six weeks creating images with the hopes they would help her to finally get a footing to continue her healing. She explained how she felt, what she went through (bit by bit), instances that kept coming back, and I had to translate that into an image that made sense for her and told her story. This started as a project just for Stephanie to see. Being the most amazing lady that she is, she went from not telling anyone about this to wanting to show the images hoping that it might be helpful to others. (She did, and still does, have a fear that whoever sees the images would judge her in a negative light. So far that has never happened.) She wants to show others that were abused, or went through any trauma, that they too should speak up. That they too are not alone and that they too are not the only one that has gone through the “unspeakable”. She wants to show that it is always possible to heal regardless of your age or time away from the events. We shot from the end of March through the beginning of June. We would shoot and then have to stop for we both needed time to recover. There were tears and hugs. This went on session after session, six in all.

Half way though, on April 15th, I received this email from Stephanie –

“My Dear Gary

I havn’t been able to go to sleep – must be the coffee, wine, the emotion.

I looked at some of the images.

I have always felt so ashamed about the binding, my memories of being bound.  It’s been so awful.

When I look at the images, I don’t feel ashamed.

I just feel sad and horrified.

I don’t know how I lived through it.  It wasn’t something that I did.

I can see that now.

I don’t know how these images will read to anyone else.  It doesn’t matter.

Thank you for helping me see this.

I am going to try to sleep now.”

April 16th

“These images are about being quietly and calmly and gently entangled in the effects of the peversion that has been wrought on you.  The fighting is over.  It is just there, is familiar, it is cocoon-like, it surrounds you, it wraps itself into you, it is over you, it becomes you.  That is your sense of self, what you fear others will see, the blackness, the oddness.  You look out at the world from behind the veil of it. It is one sort of aftermath. I don’t know how often this is talked about, but I know it is there, not just for me.

So those last odd images that I wanted are about the quiet peversion that happens as a result of the abuse – the meaning of it – the body becomes a place of peversion, the bed becomes a place of peversion, the bedroom becomes a place of peversion.  There is nothing normal here.

As I was in the shower today I thought that looking at the images we made yesterday, perhaps I can begin to feel this:

That the peversion touched me, was on me, was in me, surrounded me – but it isn’t me. That I am separate from it.”

…The images shown are a small selection from the project.
…The first image of the project “The Continual Effect of Child Abuse” shows Stephanie’s last year of innocence.

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