Content note: I am discussing the semantics of abuse language, so could be triggering for abuse survivors.
It occurred to me yesterday why I find it hard to talk about childhood trauma. There is a very interesting and disturbing semantic difference between the ways in which different sorts of abuse of children are described. ‘Emotional’ abuse is the abuse which affects a child emotionally (not the adult), ‘physical’ abuse is the abuse which affects the child physically (not the adult), ‘sexual’ abuse is…….. the abuse which…. wait! It is *not* sexual for the child, it is uncomfortable, it is painful… the adult doing it might see this as sexual, but the child usually does not (and if they do it is usually due to abusive manipulations). So why does the term imply that this affects the child sexually? Either it is labelled from the point of view of the abuser (gross!), or it is inherently victim blaming/shaming. So I propose a change in terminology. “genital abuse”, or “emotional/physical abuse for the sexual gratification of an abuser”. I personally am now for the term “being punched in the vagina” to describe what happened to me. That feels much less shame-ridden, and I feel much more able to “punch back” that shame where it belongs. I kind of feel like having a campaign around this. It might really help people to talk about their experiences if they are not wading through language which already is set up to mean something about their experience which is victim-blaming or from the perspective of an abuser.