and our proactive confrontational approach to the topic.
We have been thinking for a long time whether and how we can make the topic of family sexualised violence, i.e. incest, more understandable and tangible for helpers and interested people. Out of our personal experience and the general attitude towards the topic, there is of course also a big "But...", a "That's not possible!" and "Do I even want to know?" in the air and of course we have to face exactly these questions from the people who discover our exhibition in the House of Incest in Leese for themselves. There is especially an understandable concern about the possible danger of re-traumatisation.
How much may and how much must?
Which approach to the topic is appropriate for trauma, protects against re-traumatisation, is easy to assimilate and at the same time makes the extent of the victims' suffering clear, so that those affected are understood in their distress at the appropriate points?
Is it permissible to speak, write, report and educate about this perversion in all clarity? And if so, how much can people be expected to bear, even though those affected have to cope with the images, feelings, flashbacks, everyday triggers and pain for the rest of their lives and, in the worst case, experience renewed violence through re-victimisation and stigmatisation - not to mention the frequent further threat of perpetration?
Affected people demand visibility, clarity and the breaking of taboos
We have chosen a clear, proactive and confrontational approach because we dedicate our work to those affected, who need not just one, but many people who can see and understand their suffering, pain and distress.
We experience clear encouragement from the victims who want clarity so that they no longer have to hide and thus take away the power of the perpetrators.
As long as the victims of the past do not speak up, the unwritten law "The powerlessness of the victims is the power of the perpetrators" will have its effect, because the victims of family sexualised violence are often forced into adulthood by the perpetrators, circles of perpetrators and their freeloaders to live in an "underground war" - unseen and unheard. This situation is comparable to the "cold war" at the incest level.
Mutual respect for individual interaction
But of course we also respect those who are afraid of dealing with this explosive topic in an proactive and confrontational way and who claim their right to choose a different approach. We can empathise with this very well from our own personal experience and hope, however, that the same respect will be shown to us when we raise our voices for all those who cannot and thus will continue to be caught in the spiral of violence and victimisation without it.
Realistic education to improve the support network for affected people
Of course, our goal is to improve the basic conditions for the survivors and those affected in a sustainable way, but this is not possible in its sustainability without pointing out the reality.
Precisely because people who are not affected cannot imagine the extent of the violence and the resulting damage to people, it is important to create clarity. After all, they are often professionally involved in interfaces to help those affected and thus also bear a great responsibility in how they set the course for the lives of those seeking help.
Understanding and expertise are the key to responding to the personal life situation in a trauma-sensitive and, if necessary, uncomplicated way. Not infrequently, this person is also still in acute distress, but cannot express this.
Change of perspective leads to more credibility of those concerned
Our educational work is not about provoking or scandalising, but rather about achieving a change of perspective in order to better perceive and understand the causal suffering from the perspective of the victims. This usually leads to greater credibility for those affected.
After all, it is the same people who cannot explain their behaviour, their illness, their symptoms and the corresponding psychological injuries to the doctor, the expert, in the protection of minors or in court because of the inexpressibility of what they have experienced as a result of their traumatisation. This is because they had to repress the atrocities committed against them in order to survive.
Deeper understanding of trauma sequelae creates improved therapeutic interventions
As a result, their credibility and state of health is called into question. Their fears as well as feelings of shame and guilt are often immeasurably high and it is up to the level of education and professional competence of the helpers to make it possible to deal with the affected people in a trauma-sensitive and non-violent way so as not to reduce them to their symptoms. It is in their hands to improve the health, aid and justice network in the future so that those affected lose their inhibition to dock into the help network.
A voice for the victims, those affected and survivors who are still caught in the spiral of violence
Our educational work is therefore directed at the victims who still have to remain silent, who are held captive in perpetrator networks and corresponding family structures and who wish someone would hear their cry for help and provide unconventional assistance.
Since people from all social classes and of all ages can be affected by this, the traumatisation and the ongoing violence in which the victims live before our eyes is all the more difficult for an outsider to recognise.
They are forced into internal surrender by the abuse martyrdom that often lasts for years and decades, they suffer from fear of death and their faith in themselves continues to crumble. At the same time, they are forced from an early age to maintain the illusion to the outside world that everything is fine in their family. After all, they have had near-death experiences more than once in their lives when they have attempted to escape. In this paradoxical way, the victims are forced to protect the perpetrators and thus their own lives.
Revictimisation, stigmatisation, victim blaming, as well as renewed violence of all kinds and the ever-increasing doubts about their own credibility do the rest, not least because, in addition to the physical symptoms and psychosomatic illnesses, psychological conspicuousness is often already apparent due to the never-ending brutal violence. The perpetrators' seeds are sown and the vicious circle becomes more and more impenetrable for the victims.
Therefore, there is a need for clarity about the suffering - a wake-up call to make effective and adequate help concepts accessible to the people, which first enable them to get out and offer them the security they need to take back their lives. This is the basis for good prevention.
Breaking contact with offenders as a first step
Often the first step to break off contact with the perpetrator, especially if it comes from family structures, is not alone the guarantee of safety. The perpetrators do not act alone in such circles and benefit from the network they have built up over many years and deliberately exploit the victims' repression and shutdown mechanisms.
If the helpers lack the imagination or the expert knowledge of the threat posed by the perpetrators, who, the more the victims turn to the public and seek help, have the goal of silencing them, the help and protection offered cannot be effective.
Visibility of perpetrator strategies for more effective help
Perpetrators feel safe in our world because no one is able to bear the bitter and painful truth and their deviant actions and brutal procedures, since they are one' s own parents - the victims, those affected and survivors, however, are forced to live a lifetime - at least with the memories, the late effects and the pain.
At this point, please keep in mind that we are talking about family sexualised violence - incest - and thus about the fact that infants, children and adolescents endure this hell every day and that we as adults must not give in to the weakness of not wanting to endure what victims have to go through.
The real problem is not the organisations and the survivors who relentlessly inform the public - the problem is the perpetrators and the fact that such a thing is possible at all!
Recognising the connections between the present and imprinting from the past
Without the connection to the actual cause of the family sexualised violence, how can a person understand how a victim develops such psychological, physical and mental wounds, such as a dissociative disorder, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, addictions, psychotic states, as well as psychosomatic illnesses, but also self-destructive illnesses - which also include depression with subsequent suicidal thoughts or other auto-aggression illnesses?
If external escape is not possible, the only option is to flee inwards and the pent-up emotional worlds turn against themselves.
There are quite obvious illnesses that allow conclusions to be drawn about experiences of violence and sexualised violence. But we often don't look at them because they go beyond any natural and healthy limits of our imagination.
How can a person understand that he is not crazy in his feelings and thoughts if he is expected to identify with the insanity of his abusive parents, family and other perpetrators?
Not everything can be repressed and even the strongest protective mechanism of the soul breaks down at some point under this inhuman pressure.
And how is a person supposed to convey this artificially created chaos, for which he or she lacks the connection to the cause due to repression, to a doctor or a helper in such a way that he or she does not appear chaotic or even mentally ill? What help is offered to him with a mental illness? Will he be seen in his causal agony, which he cannot express?
An unspeakable suffering, as it is inconceivable and at the same time triggers mortal fears in him, should the perpetrators find out about his search for help and have access to him again?
Victims need role models, as the "trigger" for victims is life and everyday routine itself
From our experience, the actual re-traumatisation is not the education work of the helpers, as it speaks from the depths of people's souls and gives them relief to finally be seen and understood in their endless suffering. They now have role models, as there are others who can speak and fight for them, as they would like to be able to do someday.
We ask all those who cannot understand our proactive confrontational approach for understanding and respect for this way of dealing with the issue as a victim of early childhood sexualised violence by parents, family and social environment.
After all, each person is individual in his or her personal processing and has the right to deal with the experience in his or her own personal way. And sometimes, as a victim who continues to be threatened and persecuted by the perpetrators, one is forced to face the horror if one wants to survive.
How did our proactive confrontational approach to the issue come about?
Many people rightly ask us why we have chosen to deal with the topic in a pro-active and confrontational way. Due to the constant threat of perpetrators, which does not stop even when we break off contact with them, we as survivors and volunteers of the Victim Protection Association were forced to live in a permanent state of preparedness.
Thus, we must and had to always be prepared to become victims of their underhanded and insidious attacks again and to deal with the issue in a way that automatically led us to the pro-active confrontational way of dealing with it.
Since we all had to repress what we had experienced because of its horror, there was only one viable way to confront the perpetrators: The renewed confrontation with the experienced horror of our childhood and youth and the resulting events.
Only when the victim is aware of what has really been done to him by his abusive parents or by those close to him, can he act accordingly and defend himself against them. However, if the victim does not succeed in becoming aware of the repressed images of his past, he will inevitably remain a victim for life of all those who want to continue abusing him.
Thus, we had to come to terms with our trauma in such a way that, with the help of others who went through a similar experience, we once again directly recall the horrors of our childhood and youth that we experienced and at the same time repressed.
In this context, please let us not forget that the perpetrator always has an advantage over his victim, as he effortlessly remembers all the acts he has committed.
Knowledge is empowerment - understanding the root cause makes new approaches possible
Our work includes, among other things, dealing with the atrocities experienced in childhood and adolescence and the resulting repressions.
Our concept provides for the victims to come to terms with these repressed experiences in order to show them that, as survivors who have long since grown up, they can endure the acts of violence they had experienced in childhood and work on them on the inner adult level.
Once the survivors realise that they can actually endure the acts of violence committed against them, they will, as experience shows, look for ways and possibilities to come to terms with the trauma they have experienced.
After all, they sense that the repressed experiences of the past can now no longer harm them.
This is the approach of confrontational therapy of childhood and adolescence abuse survivors , who in this way find their way back to themselves.
From victim to helper: experience-based expertise for victims
We, the volunteers of the Association for Victims of Sexual Abuse and Violence, have all, without exception, gone this way and were thus able to return to an independent, free life, which also explains why we, who have been victims of sexual violence, see ourselves in a position to help other people find theirs on this admittedly not entirely harmless path, through the constant threat of perpetration.
It goes without saying that this path is not suitable for everyone, since only those who still have the inherent desire to be saved can be saved in this way.
Of course, there are infinite ways open to those affected to overcome their trauma and so everyone must decide for themselves which path is the right one for them.
Transparency makes perpetrator strategies visible and protects against renewed attacks
The concept of our educational work results from this approach, insofar as we openly and transparently present everything that constitutes sexualised violence in all its forms and facets. We are well aware that this way of dealing with the explosive topic can lead to people being triggered who, as we have already said, have long since grown up and, due to their inner maturity and the strength they have gained from it, are able to endure what they could not endure as children and adolescents.
This also results in the repression of the experience, which is now no longer necessary because they are on the same adult level as their former perpetrators and can stand up to them if they are attacked again.
Living with the trauma
To the often asked question whether one can endure as an adult what one experienced during developmental age, the answer is: Yes, because, as already mentioned, one now has the maturation of one's personality, and the mental and emotional strength necessary to deal with such heinous experiences, which one also had to endure on one's own body.
It is therefore more the childlike feelings and the memories of earlier days still stored in us, in which we were a helpless victim of our tormentors, that give us the feeling of not being able to bear it. This is especially true of all the sad and painful images that force themselves into our consciousness and that we inevitably have to deal with.
In this way, however, everyone who carries the feeling of being overwhelmed should listen to their inner voice and only deal with what has happened if they feel able to do so.
Thus, no one should face this challenge of coming to terms with what undoubtedly pushed them to their limits and beyond without the support of an experienced helper who has been through this process themselves.
Basically, this path can be followed by anyone who still has the desire to overcome the trauma they have suffered and to follow their destiny to live a free and self-determined life.