Getting tattooed is the marginally socially acceptable way to cut.

Since I couldn’t sleep last night I was pondering an e-mail I received from a non-priest friend of mine.  The e-mail was in reference to my latest tattoo, (I have seven, number four and number six combine to be one large tattoo on my back.) Why? I pondered that question.

Often times, when someone survives sexual abuse, they shut down in every way possible. This includes their, “feelings”.  In order to feel something many people who have been abused will, “cut”.  Cutting is a person’s very unhealthy way to feel something. Getting tattooed is the marginally socially acceptable way to cut.

But tattooing oneself has another purpose, some would go as far as to say benefit, it is a way to render yourself unattractive or untouchable to your abuser and any would-be abusers.  I would lay odds that a lot of the women you see that have radically changed their appearance through tattooing and body modification have been victimized by abuse.  There is a power that is reclaimed by rendering yourself untouchable to those who are like/in the same class as, the person who first perpetrated the abuse.

In my own case the tattoos that I have gotten are on my; butt (a spade), chest (angel), back/including lower back (The crucified Christ & the universe, and a heart with the phrase LOVE IS THE MEANING OF LIFE), bicep (fleur-de-lis representing the Virgin Mary),  and calf (a carpenters square and three Easter Lilies representing St. Joseph the Worker) .  All but the one on my butt have some connection with religion.  Since my abuser was a priest one would hope that the tattoos would render me verboten. (Of course his being a priest should have done that.)  None of this is conscious.  

One more thing that I think may have been influenced by my own abuse is my ileostomy.  After suffering with Crone’s Disease for 29 years and having pre-cancerous cells in my colon diagnosed twice in a three month span I was given three options.  Option one was to do nothing.  Option two was to have a bowel resection taking out the section of bowel with the pre-cancerous cells. Option three was the removal of my colon, rectum and anus.  I didn’t even have to think about it, I chose option number three.

Why? The two conscious reasons I made the choice that I did were; I would kick myself if I got colon cancer at a later date and not being married the two possible side effects, (incontinence & impotency), did not matter to me.  The possible unconscious reason is/was if I don’t have an anus I can’t be anally raped and impotency would mean I could not be betrayed by my body. 


Forget that at 51 I really don’t need to worry about this kind of thing anymore and even if the very slim possibility of rape and/or molestation happened to me I am now well equipped to fight back. That is my rational and conscious thought process.  Unconsciously there is obviously still some fear hence socially acceptable cutting, (tattoos), and no hesitation at all for the most radical colon surgery for pre-cancer. 

Molestation really does effect every aspect of the lives of survivors and apparently for a very long time.   

About follow1in3

I am a Roman Catholic priest ordained for the Diocese of Wilmington, DE who is also a victim of clergy sexual abuse. I am often angered by the insensitiviy and hostility of other clergy, the hierarchy and the so-called people-of-God. If clergy, bishops included, really and truly understood abuse, (any kind of abuse), I would not feel the need to blog on occasion. It is very frustraing.
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