Betrayed and Violated.
Catherine, a 40 year-old investment banker, was the oldest of three siblings, and from her own description, came from a very wealthy family. Her absent father was an extremely successful businessman, and because the family’s palatial home was in the grounds of a factory, they felt that it was not the best place to raise their children. So, Catherine and her siblings were separated, and sent to live with different grandparents and relatives; she spent the first ten years of her childhood with her maternal grandparents. Catherine recounted that she had vague memories prior to seven years old, but she recalled distinct occasions when her uncle, who had been staying at the same house, used to walk her to a large shed on the huge estate, and repeatedly sexualised her. He also came into her bedroom when everyone else was asleep and abused her. He was never rough with her. These abuses went on for 4 years. Changes in Catherine’s behaviours soon alerted her mother to suspect that something was amiss. She was brought home, and a medical check-up followed soon after, but no further actions were taken. The horror of those years would continue to haunt Catherine, but at times she would also doubt whether she had made it all up, and it was all just a bad dream. She related how relieved she had felt when her mother brought her home.
By 18 years old, she had attempted suicide on more than a dozen occasions. Hospitalisations after each attempt were a common occurrence. The diagnostic interviews with her took a few sessions, and were peppered with periods of laughter, crying, anger, swearing, and bad headaches, as her moods would swing widely. “I just know I don’t like it intensely. I really hated it, and I don’t know why talking about it, I feel like crying. Just angry, but I wasn’t hurt. Put it this way, my uncle wasn’t rough. It’s just like what you see on the television. The father comes, lies next to you. Just tells you what to do. You just do it. You just obey, just act accordingly,” she reflected. She had stopped reading newspapers, watching television, and going to the cinemas, for fears of being triggered by sexual or rape scenes. Catherine suffered from major depression, with posttraumatic stress. Whenever someone was interested in her to commence a relationship, she found herself overeating, until it necessitated a change in her wardrobe. Catherine just could not bare to have any guy touch her. Her weight gain, she said, made her feel ‘powerful.’ Then she would diet again when the relationship terminated. The years of stress from her past abuses and suicide attempts, together with her high intensity job, had also brought on a serious diabetic condition. However, apart from depressive days, she was a top performer at her job.
Catherine never forgave her uncle even after he passed on a few years prior to her sessions with me, nor her grandparents and parents for not protecting her. As a result, her relationship with her younger siblings were enmeshed, co-dependent and over-protective – over-compensating for her own unfortunate experiences. She has few friends, as they would understandably distance themselves from her in her attempts at enmeshment. It took years for Catherine to unpack her baggage, and to develop a balanced confidence to move on in life.