Adults who have been sexually abused as children may not be able to see the road to recovery, but author Jun Hozumi says her own experiences are proof that victims can free themselves from the past and start a new life.
Hozumi, her pen name, won court approval in March 1997 to change her name in order to cut herself off from the past. It was the first time a court approved a name change for the sake of mitigating the aftereffects of child abuse. She was sexually abused by her brother when she was in elementary school.
“I want to say that even in this country, where the voice of victims has often been suppressed, they can free themselves from the spell of childhood suffering that is too painful to bear,” Hozumi said in her book, “Tokihanatareru Tamashii” (“A Released Soul”).
The 408-page book, published by Kobunken Co. in January, depicts how she recovered from the trauma of child abuse and gained a new life through her experiences in her four-year struggle to win the court-approved name change, during which she also survived the Great Hanshin Earthquake in January 1995.
Her book underscores what it means to be a human being.
Although she was too young to realize at that time that she was being assaulted by her brother, she felt something terrible was happening. She locked the matter up deep inside her subconscious. The aftereffects came out after she became an adult.
Hozumi, who declines to reveal her real name and age, suffered from a loss of self, family and society, a schism between reason and emotion and an inability to forge relationships with others.
She said few people understand the devastating impact abuse has on a child’s development. Specifically, she said, the abuse deprives the child of the ability to growing into a healthy human being. The child cannot nurture a sense of control, and thus becomes unable to function well socially.
After Hozumi was able to convince herself she was not to blame for what happened and could restore her hope, she was determined to change her name and start a new life.
But it was not an easy process. Lawyers representing her at first did not understand her need to have her name changed and said the chance of winning court approval would be of slim because there was no precedent and such approval would shake the Family Registration Law, the basis of which is a social system that places importance on the family.
Having gone through despair and depression, however, she gained experiences in relating to people and society.
Another major event that had a large impact on her was the Hanshin quake, which destroyed her apartment and forced her to leave Kobe for a while.
Before the quake hit, she thought society ignored people in need. But amid the chaos in the aftermath of the earthquake, she saw people helping one another and offering sympathy.
She also realized that many people worried about her — she was not alone.
To help forge relations with others, Hozumi formed a network of people, many of whom have also suffered abuse of some form. She first called on people who had contacted her after reading her first book, which describes her agony and a close analysis of the nature of child abuse.
Since the book was published in 1994, she received more than 60 letters from across Japan. Many were accounts by people with similar experiences.
She started publishing a periodic newsletter that includes letters from members of her network. She learned many people suffered similar abuse as children, and she was impressed by the courage of the survivors. She also gained a feeling of belonging to a group, a feeling she had lost many years earlier or had not been able to acquire.
Although for a long time she was unable to have certain feelings, including anger and happiness, she began to recover them as she adopted a new self.
“While I still cannot have pleasant feelings and a sense of safety, I believe now is the time when I can nurture these senses and feelings,” she said.
Because there is virtually no material that depicts the healing process of Japanese survivors of child sexual abuse, Hozumi is looking for somebody who can translate her book into English so more people in the world know about it.