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Hi Dr Saltzman,

My name is Sonia and I am from India. I am not sure what I should classify as molestation. I have very few memories of my childhood most of which are very depressing.

When I was four, a neighbor touched my vagina... it must have felt nice cause I remember that when I went back to the same place I did look for him.

A year later the shopkeeper of a little shop near my home did the same.

Next was a cousin. he was about the same age as me and it was like a game we played..

My uncle... who made me touch him...also tried smooching me...all this when I was maybe twelve..

The worst was when my dad did it.. he was a bit drunk and he was lying next to me and he touched me too.

I know there were times when I liked it... I allowed it to happen again too.. that hurts me the most..knowing that I enjoyed it.

All through my school and college I kept as far away as possible from anyone from the opposite sex. My family life was no better. My mom was beaten up by my dad many times..he abused her and was all the time drunk..gambling.. never there for my mom or for me and my two brothers.

My mom has spent her entire life working very hard just to send us kids to good schools and see that we got a good education.

Somehow I feel like the best years of my life have passed me by and I have lost so much. I had to grow up very early as I watched my mom struggle and since she had no other friends I was the only one she spoke to.

Everything in life for me was a compromise. I had to tell myself everyday that all men were not the same so that I would be able to let one of the men love me one day. I did not know what it was to have anyone from the opposite sex as a friend. My mom was never there for me emotionally cause she was very busy working. I had no one..absolutely no one to talk share things with.. I was all alone. My brothers and me were never really close either. I guess my reservations with men took a toll on my relationship with my brothers too.

Finally at the age of 20 I allowed myself to have a crush on my class mate. He already had a girlfriend so that remained just a crush. Later I went out after a lot of convincing with a guy... he really liked me but somehow I could not accept the fact that a guy could be so nice so we broke up.

Finally there was a colleague at work.. big flirt ..but gave me a lot of attention (as he gave other girls too, though I ignored that). We got a bit physical. Never went all the way. But he was two timing me. Kept saying he loved me but actually just used me. Though there were many times when I knew this was wrong and that it would not last I did not want to give me it meant that he picked the other girl over me..I wondered what I did not have... what was it that was missing in me.. in the process gave up so much of what was me just to please him...he too just used me....

I came away to another country.. hoping to run away from my past..from my horrible life.... came here and was lonely... started to drink a bit .... then a guy showed interest in me... I did not want anything to do with men...but again he was really sweet.... I thought I would move on and give him a chance... but my share of pain never seemed to end... I thought we were doing fine and was all ready to be married to him... he did seem a bit undecided but whenever I told him we could break up he would ask me to come back... I was in love with him... he said he was too..spoke about kids and all.. and then one fine day he said his family may not accept me.. I thought he needed time but it got worse... I asked him to decide what he wanted for himself ...and he decided it was him mothers wish that he would respect....he never even spoke to me about it..just told a friend that he wanted to move on… again I could not let go... I cried ..cried a lot... like the so many times before I cried again... I hated myself but just could not get angry with him... I kept wondering what was wrong...what was wrong with me.. Its been a year now since we broke up but I still want him in my life.. maybe I just want to be loved.. I feel so helpless.. please tell me what is wrong with me...

I have the done the most horrible things just to get a few minutes of attention from men... I have gotten drunk and danced with a man I did not even know..let him touch me all over while dancing.. I have made out with a guy I hardly knew .... I knew he too just wanted to use me but somehow I had convinced myself that he was interested in me... I am in the middle of this vicious circle that I cannot get out of. I hate men cause they use my search for one man who loves me I make the wrong decisions taking attention for love... and end up getting more hurt... I hate who I am today... I have no one but myself to blame and feel so helpless....

Please tell me what I should do doctor...


Dear Sonia--

Thank you for writing.

As I have written elsewhere, victims of childhood sexual abuse often enjoyed the purely physical sensations of sex that they felt when being used by older people for sexual gratification. This is entirely normal and expected since the pleasure of sexual stimulation is deeply programmed into all of the higher animals, including human beings. The pleasure connected with sexual stimulation is nature's way of ensuring the reproduction of new bodies in order to preserve and continue the species. In other words, that you enjoyed having your vagina touched should not be a cause for guilt or shame, since any healthy child would feel pleasant sensations when her vagina were touched in a more or less gentle way.

The other problems you mention in your letter such as desiring sex with men, but hating yourself when you engage in it, and the difficulties you have in establishing a satisfactory relationship with a man--a relationship which includes both sex and love--are the expected after-effects of having been abused as a child (particularly the abuse by your father), and you will require good professional help to get over them. The good news is that modalities (methods) of treatment for survivors of childhood sexual abuse are well understood, and most often very successful in helping. Therefore, I strongly suggest that you find a counselor with extensive experience in treating your kind of situation, and devote yourself to work with that person.

In the meantime, please try to understand that children bear no responsibility whatsoever for the sexual abuse directed at them, nor for the pleasure which they may have felt at the time, and that survivors of such abuse need to learn to forgive themselves for their conflicted feelings (both loving it and hating it) toward sexuality.

I hope this will help you.

Be well.

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