I shared a post on my Facebook page yesterday about a woman (a celebrity) who claims to have been sexually abused as a child. She says that she was “with” a 26-year old man when she was 14 years of age, and “wanted the relationship” at the time, but now realizes she was being sexually abused.

She is right.

As I stated on the post I shared, For the record: Hebephilia is the strong and persistent adult sexual interest in pubescent (early adolescent) individuals, typically ages 11–14 (see the Tanner stage). It differs from ephebophilia, which is the strong and persistent sexual interest to those in later adolescence, approximately 15–19 years old, and differs from pedophilia, which is the primary or exclusive sexual attraction to prepubescent children.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hebephilia

The responses on my page to the post were an eye-opener.  While the majority of responses were from supportive voices agreeing that she was sexually abused, there were a few males that responded in opposition, claiming that “she was not a child at age 14”, that “she asked for the relationship”, and one offended man did not appreciate the “offhand” definition of hebephilia, stating that “it is not abnormal for men to feel attracted to pubescent girls due to the biological directive.”

woman looking at the sky

This pissed me right off, and sparked a day of some serious soul-searching.  I have been very open about my sexual abuse history, never wanting it to be hidden as a shameful part of my past because it is not me who should be ashamed.  I have been transparent about my healing and recovery because I have wanted others to know they CAN heal and recover, and lead a beautiful, joyful life.  I’ve been willing to bare my soul so that women could free themselves from their own chains of shame they carry if they’ve been sexually violated.

But I have been avoiding stepping into the role of advocate because I didn’t want my life to be defined by my sexual abuse history.  As I’ve healed over the 25+ years since I began my recovery, I’ve wanted to distance myself from this painful part of my life.  I have not wanted to “identify with my story” or be “perceived as a victim”, as some people say; I have wondered why people are so harsh with people who have experienced sexual abuse, and the only thing I can imagine is that they are survivors of sexual violence themselves and don’t want to acknowledge the painful truth that anyone who is sexually violated as a child is indeed a victim.  We really need to GET THIS, people.  A 14 year old girl can no more “decide” to be sexual with an adult than she can proficiently drive a car, do her taxes, vote or navigate other adult decisions that adults must make every day.

At the time, she felt that she was “in a relationship”; this does not negate the psychological and sexual abuse inherent in this type of “relationship.” The one with the power was the adult, and is the one who should be making adult choices.  Instead, the adult male involved chose to engage a 14 year old girl in sex, which is a crime. Regardless of the child’s appearance or “willingness” to participate, it is always morally, ethically and criminally wrong to engage in sexual activity with a child. It is always 100% the adult’s responsibility to not have sex with a child…to keep the child safe. A 14 year old cannot make these mature decisions. Our culture has supported sexual predation for too long.

This recent interchange has brought back to my consciousness that it is my role to advocate for the safety of children from sexual violation and to advocate for the sanctity of women’s bodies.

The Sanctity of Women

Nude Alfred Stieglitz

My interest in the female figure came early.  My first awareness of this was my paper doll. Handmade by my grandmother; I made her clothes and imagined myself as dressed as beautifully as she was.  This was in the same time period that I was looking at my father’s Playboy/Penthouse magazines.  I asked him for them, and he made them available to me.  I was 9 years old.  I’d been groomed for sexual violation already at this age.  When I was a teen, I drew fashions for women, still viewing them as a beauty standard that I would never attain.  Then in college, I studied life drawing for my art degree; my only interest was the female figure.  My years of making Goddess art since then make sense now.

As I wrote in my 2012 memoir of recovery from sexual abuse, SOUL COMPOST:

“The body of a woman is extraordinary. Our capacity to grow life, to recover after birthing it, to nourish it, to love and teach it, and then to let it go is astounding. It seems more than should be expected of any living creature. And yet we do it. It could be said that women are born, create life, and die as a continual expression of the generosity of the Divine.

“Our bodies are indeed expressions of the Divine. A sacred temple in living flesh, a woman’s body is a doorway into the Great Mystery, a physical entry into the void of eternity through her womb. The holy nature of our womb is what draws both the reverent and the ill to us for blessing. When someone forcibly takes that blessing from our body, we are left broken; and no wonder, any act of sexual violence is a desecration of holy ground.”

Nude Edward Weston

I see now that all of my life I have seen the female as sacred, as a subject of interest and intrigue.  The great mystery which is housed in a woman’s body seems nothing less than the holiest evidence of the sacredness of women.  Our culture lost sight of this a long time ago.  Here is what I know:

  • The TAKING of sex from a female’s body (whether as a girl or as a woman) is the most unholy act, akin to murder (the taking of life)
  • The stealing of what is sacred is the absconding of the precious and holy light in the body of a female
  • That this light must be protected, honored, cherished, revered
  • That when a woman or girl has been sexually violated, this wound must be healed or else the woman will not understand her sacredness
  • That this is why women and girls turn on other women and girls…they have been taught they are not sacred.

Our sanctity as women is something we must awaken to, and then insist upon in a world that continues to denigrate us; we must resist the shame and guilt that are foisted upon us by the predators who took from us what they wanted without regard to our holy nature or our sovereignty.  We must refuse the mantle of blame and put it squarely back on those who acted against the most basic of protections.  We must honor women’s bodies as the sacred vessels that they are.

“What would men be without women? Scarce, sir, mighty scarce.” ~Mark Twain

Soul Compost Cover

You can purchase SOUL COMPOST, by Licia Berry 2012 in ebook HERE or print HERE