Any amount of touching inside or outside of intimacy can be triggering to me, and I have discovered the root cause. I used to think it was just from all the times I was molested, and it is, yet it is more than that too.
My brother was very abusive to me growing up. It never stopped and drove me to near insanity by age sixteen. I was exasperated beyond what I could handle, so I dissociated a lot. He abused me physically, sexually, mentally, and psychologically. The physical abuse was daily and started when I was a baby. It seemed to just get worse as I grew and got older. He would kick me when I walked by him. We would wrestle a lot. We fought a lot and I clawed him with my nails. We couldn’t do a task together because he would hit me and we’d start fighting. I cannot put into words my feelings of exasperation. I had no control over his behavior. I could only control myself, but at that age I did not know that. I wish I could have ignored him, but he instigated my anger, and no one was helping me. In Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, next to basics of food and water, our next need is of safety and security. This played out by me making a hiding place under my bed. I spent a lot of time there because it was the only place that I felt any safety. I would push my back to the wall and lay there hoping not to be found.
Another dynamic to that was my brother’s invasion of my privacy. Our bathroom door had a basic door knob lock on it, but my brother knew how to unlock it. So, he often burst in on me when I was using the toilet.
My brother had some wicked sexually oriented nick names for me and often would run around outside with the neighbors I played with shouting “Joyce is……….”. I would run after him, hoping to catch him and beat the tar out of him, but he was always faster than me. At some point I quit trying and just let him call me those names.
One time when we were fighting, he pinned me to the ground, unzipped his pants, pulled out his penis and attempted to push it in my mouth. Thankfully my other brother came along and pulled him off me. I was petrified being held down and could not escape.
My brother was very destructive to my personal property. I never had anything new because he destroyed my belongings. Not my clothing or shoes, but anything else was game for him. One Christmas when I was about age eight, I got a stuffed Odie dog and was so excited. He grabbed it from me and twisted its neck, basically breaking his neck so his head hung. I was devastated. I felt so proud to have this new stuffed toy and then he put his hands on it and wrung its neck. Odie reminded me of myself in that he looked sad with his head down. This reinforced the negative image I had of myself. I was feeling unworthy and like a horrible person, and now that Odie’s head hung, I believed that mine would always hang too. I believed I would always be sad and that I was worthless.
When I was fifteen, I got a Springer Spaniel and named her Roxy. I was so excited because I love dogs and our previous dog, an Irish Setter had passed from a turned stomach. I would play with Roxy in the back yard every day I could. She loved the water. If we went to the lake she would jump in and come back up with a rock in her mouth. She was a true retriever. She would never come to me unless she got something in her mouth first to bring to me.
My brother called her Pluto, out of spite. I had a bit of a reprieve from my brother when he had to go to a foster home because he’d been threatening to rape a friend of mine. At the time I didn’t know that. I thought he was going to foster care because he was unmanageable at home. It was much, much later that I was told the truth. I felt stupid because I had no clue. I knew he went window peeking, but I had no idea about the phone calls to mt best friend. The neighbors had pulled together and filed charges against him causing him to be removed not by my family’s choice, but from the courts.
All I knew at the time that it was the happiest time of my life when he was gone. It gave me a reprieve that saved my sanity for a short time anyways. Unfortunately, he was only gone about six months then turned eighteen and was removed from the foster care system. He returned home and lived in the back yard shed. I told my mom he was back there. She looked out the window and said, “I don’t see him”. Not only had she not protected me all my life, but now she wouldn’t believe me. I was shocked because it seemed she always believed my brothers. I was being rejected by my own mother, and this really stung.
Mom and I never had a great relationship. She insulted me, made fun of hair; always referring to it as a “mop”. I’m surprised I even got vaccinated. When I was thirteen, my Aunt Joan, mom’s sister and my favorite Aunt, commented on my teeth needing to be cleaned. I could easily scape gunk off my tooth with my fingernail. So, I mentioned to mom that I needed to go to the dentist and she told me I had just been. I told her I couldn’t remember and asked her to call and see when my last visit was. Fortunately, that time she did listen to me. It is possible also that Aunt Joan said something to her. It turned out it had been five years. Last time I was at the dentist was when I was eight years old. I was floored. Sadly, this reinforced the belief in myself that I was bad, and unworthy of love and care.
I was even afraid to ask my mom for a snack, I think partly because she was tedious about when we were allowed a snack, but also, I didn’t trust her. She had made comments about me not needing snacks and eating too much. No way was I overweight at all, but her words effected my self-image.
By age thirteen, my routine became one of invasion from my brother, not sexually any more, but personally tormenting me. For example, when it was nice out, Roxy stayed outside which gave my brother free reign with her. When I came home from school he would be in the backyard with Roxy. When I tried to enter, he would throw rocks at me to prevent me from entering. He made sure he always called her Pluto. I would give up and go downstairs to my bedroom, turn on some music and try to block him from my mind. Then he would slam himself against my door and come crashing into my room. The door was homemade and the lock was just a small rod. There was no safety or security for me.
The agony of my daily routine led me to drink before I left for school and when I got home. Of course, I reacted to the abuse by drinking and getting high when I could. I was traumatized beyond what I could handle. By this time in my life, I’d been drinking for over four years. I didn’t know what else to do.
When I was sixteen and in eleventh grade, I went with my parents to California to visit my mom’s cousin. I sat in the warm sun and felt free. We picked fresh oranges and ate them immediately. We ate sausage and egg burrito for the first time. We even went to Disneyland even though it rained. While we were gone having fun in the California sun, someone broke into our home, rummaged through my underwear drawer and set our house on fire. It may have been more than one person, since there were several fires set, one of those was in the basement in my bedroom. I was sixteen years old being interrogated by the Fire Chief wanting to know if I left my underwear drawer open or left a candle lit. Officially, no one was ever caught, but I believed it was my brother. There was one other possibility in a guy named Mike that I dated for a short while.
Mike had set fire to our school’s gymnastic matts one day when I was in gym class. We were trapped in the lower enclosed gym. We were only found because one brave student made it up the stairs and out through the thick, dark, toxic smoke. That student ran to a fireman and told him we were trapped but they didn’t believe her. She had to convince them. Finally, they put fans in the hallway to the exit and got the smoke out and came in to get us. I was so scared, and no one ever said sorry or oops, we forgot you. My brave classmate saved us and never got any recognition for that.
That’s a lot to deal with in my first sixteen years of life. And now I also suffer the effects of Military Sexual Trauma (MST) from my time in the Marine Corps. Both ex-husband’s humiliated and abused me. In 2008, my divorce attorney sexually attacked me in his office and my neighbor locked me in his house to sexually expose himself. The common factor in all this was the touching. It is embarrassing, but my neighbor was relentless in asking me if he could touch my boobs. So much so that I thought if I just let him, he will stop. I let him touch me, but that just increased his desires.
I like touching during romance to a degree, but outside of that I’m like, “no thanks”. After being hit, fondled, attacked and abused most of my growing up years, then when I was a young adult, and even into adulthood, it’s understandable that I don’t like to be touched a lot or in certain ways.