Trigger warnings: Discussion of childhood sexual abuse and trauma (although no specifics), mention of abusive parents
I’ve known I was a survivour of childhood sexual abuse (csa) since before I knew words for or even a concept of asexuality or aromanticism. I was 19 and my first trauma memories resurfaced. I was terrified and I didn’t dare talk to anyone, not even my therapist at the time. But I also had an explanation for myself, for why I never had a relationship and didn’t even want one. I needed one and the “excuse” of still being too young for relationships and dating didn’t work anymore at that age.
So a part of me was relieved to find out that I’m a csa survivour. (But aro/aces aren’t oppressed and don’t need safer spaces, no, a mainstream society that makes someone feel like this sure is totally a-ok and safe for aro/ace spectrum people, sure…)
I also didn’t doubt the causality, I didn’t doubt that the trauma had caused me to be temporarily unable to have sexual relationships. I didn’t even consider this could be more than a phase and I grew more and more uneasy the longer this “phase” lasted (I’m ~30 now), I didn’t know romantic relationships without sexuality could exist and I sure as heck didn’t consider that it wasn’t me being injured (broken) and unable to have a sexual relationship – but that I might simply not want one. Like I said, it wasn’t just the words I didn’t have, I didn’t have the concepts of asexuality and aromanticism either. I blame compulsory heterosexuality and heteronormativity.
I often wonder what it would have changed to have words and concepts of aro- and aceness back then. How much easier it would have been to deal with my denial about the csa, how much easier it might have been to avoid further conflicts with my (abusive) parents, how I could have avoided unintentionally reinforcing stereotypes about “broken” trauma survivours had I known csa doesn’t always or even usually cause aro/aceness. How much easier trauma recovery would have been had I not been so scared about having to become sexual or had I even just been able to talk about my feelings and fears regarding sexuality to my therapists.
I think about the chicken and the egg question a lot, because I just don’t know if the trauma caused my aro-aceness (or one or the other of them, or pushed me further along a spectrum I would have always fallen on, or…) or if I would have always ended up being aro ace. Was it just (heteronormative) circumstance that made me discover concepts and words for being a csa survivour first and did that make me center these experiences or would I have identified as an asexual person first and survivour second had I discovered the words and concepts of asexuality and aromanticism earlier? So am I an ace survivour or a survivour ace?
All I know is that I had no other way to frame my experiences but to think that it was all caused by the trauma – I even feared I might be traumatised before I remembered anything, simply because I didn’t know my aro-aceness could have been “caused” by anything else. Which made me terrified anyone could “find out” about my secret, thinking that if people knew I’d never been in a relationship, they’d know I must have been traumatised. I was NOT ready to face that at the time, much less lose control over who does or doesn’t know that I’m a csa survivour.
Thank you for reading!