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Hiding in the Shadows: When Sex Abuse Lingers

By HERWriter
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Emotional Health related image Photo: Getty Images

There are many ways that sexual abuse can affect a person’s ability to live long after the abuse has stopped. Some women are unable to have a healthy, normal sexual relationship with a man. Some women can’t have any kind of relationship with a man, period. Some women become afraid of things – parking garages, elevators, basements.

One of the ways my sexual abuse history lingered on was through the fear of the dark and shadows.

My Story

By fear of the dark and shadows, it wasn’t so much fear of the darkness outside, as it was fear of the darkness and shadows inside. There were so many places for someone to hide and attack from.

But then, there are shadows in daytime too…light doesn’t always reach everywhere. It became my habit to have the radio or television on constantly if I was at home by myself. It was white noise or company which contradicted my obsession with at least being able to hear everything going on around me even if I couldn’t see.

Once the sky darkened and evening came, I would have all the lights on. If I didn’t turn on the lights “in time” and the light switches didn’t create a direct line from one room to the other (in other words, I would have to walk across the room to reach the light switch) I would stay where I was.

The interesting thing was there was nothing in my recollection about my sexual abuse happening under such circumstances – someone jumping out from behind a corner, or out of an alley or something. It didn’t help that I was someone with an active imagination either!

This fear affected me way into my marriage and took nearly 10 years to really “conquer”. To be able to walk through a house or darkened place comfortably without fear almost overwhelming me and paralyzing me.

I have another fear as well, but I’ll deal with that in another article.

As for how I dealt with it, I had a man whom I knew I could trust with my life. I had a faith that said, “God is bigger than my fears.” And I coached myself similarly to what I would have told my sons about monsters in the closet…there’s nothing there that you don’t know about.

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HERWriter Guide

Thanks for this great post, Darlene.

I wonder, too, why abuse manifests itself in seemingly "odd" ways, years after it stopped. I think it may be that even though it stops physically, or we are removed from it, it continues on with a different kind of "abuser". It may be the dark, or water, or a fear of corners. Even a fear of something really innocent like a color, or a scent. These entities that are innocuous to most, turn into a new version of an old abuser, and like the old abuser, we have to stand up to them and face them, in order to make them stop.

I'm glad you are dealing with your abuse, Darlene, although I know it's hard.


March 9, 2011 - 1:11pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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