Childhood sexual abuse impacts the victim in the adult age. Childhood is the age of learning and developing character where a child learns to understand the meaning of being protected. According to Herman, (1992) having stability and a childhood healthy environment allow you to form solid and safe relationships later in life, however, this is the ideal definition of an experience of childhood. In the reality, we have many children who experience sexual abuse and harassment in their childhood. As the character of Grace symbolizes one of them who faces trauma, she has experienced sexual abuse and harassment in her childhood which impact the development of her character. Grace is a disturbing character who was controlled and exploited while working in Hollywood by her director. This exploitation Impacts the development of Grace’s character.
The very abnormal decision she makes is when she has the fame of her career, she disappears from the public eye. The trauma of all events impacts the development of Grace’s character. Trauma theory has also helped to recognize the fact that women are more prone to get affected by traumas and develop psychiatric reactions to them as compared to men. This claim has been justified by a history of feminist concerns of oppression, gaslighting, and lack of acceptance. Trauma theory has created a language that has been effective for the interpretation of reactions due to abuse such as nightmares and traumatic flashbacks which was previously not acknowledged as having psychological implications. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was also included in the list of psychological disorders as a result of the expansion of trauma theory.
This is now being incorporated in feminist literature as in Grace’s character.
“On the day of the Independent Film Awards, I wake in the middle of the night sweating, my pillow soaked. I dreamed Able was in the room with me while I slept, but I couldn’t move or call out because his hands were around my neck, pinning me down all over again. I reach for my painkillers before remembering I left them at Laurel’s. after that, I sob into my pillow until I can hardly breathe, while the sky lightens around me. I don’t know how to be normal, how to stop him from being able to reach me. “(The Comeback, Berman,2020).
Because of sexual abuse and its impact on her life, she starts using alcohol and drugs. she has complex character development as she has a complicated relationship with everyone and everything: these are the aftereffect of sexual abuse. The feeling is primitive, raw, unlike anything she has ever felt before. She is up again and running into the icy water as thick raindrops continue falling from the sky. Able Yorke’s manipulation gets more worst as the only person she had in the world is Able, In the start, he was only emotionally abusive. But with time,
Able’s motives become more sexual. She wants to get rid of this life but she couldn’t because she is controlled by Able psychologically as well as physically, and that controlled life provides a sketch how she is reacting towards people and things after that incident of sexual abuse.
“I have spent years trying to work out what I could have done differently, or maybe what my parents could have done differently. I should have told someone after the first time he made me touch him, or when he told me I was mentally unstable for the hundredth time. Maybe I shouldn’t have waited until every part of my life was already destroyed before I tried to kill myself. Maybe
I shouldn’t have worked so hard to become, as I was told just this morning, such an unreliable witness. But it was never really up to me, was it?” (The Comeback, Berman,2020).
She has a miserable life in Hollywood, as Able York abuses her mentally as well as physically.
In the start, Grace praises Able and considers him a good person. But after a year, when Grace meets Able, she is terrified and seems to have developed a complex personality disorder. Borderline personality disorder has also been identified as a mental disorder that is the result of chronic child abuse (Herman, 1992). That has led to the reinterpretation and progress in the development of understanding of generalized female hysterical conditions.
“Why are you so scared of everything?” Esme asks, looking at me as if I’m a stranger. Every emotion I am feeling is reflected in such excruciating detail on her face that I have to turn away. “You know that I didn’t ask for you to follow me around, right? I have never invited you over, not even once. I don’t know how to help you and I can’t tell you that everything works out in the end, because it doesn’t, and the truth is that you will never get what you want, because, by the time you do, you won’t want it anymore. That’s the secret of the fucking universe that nobody wants to admit to themselves. Do you feel better for knowing it?” She takes a step back, leaving me and Able staring at each other. Each synapse in my body is firing, screaming at me to get away from him, but I force myself to step toward him instead because Emilia is watching and I don’t want her to see how scared I am. I kiss Able stiffly on the cheek, and his golden skin is still papery and rough up close, just like it is in my nightmares.” (The Comeback, Berman 2020).
Her poor and pathetic connection with her parents, and with her sister, she was too young when she left home shows the weakness of her character development. On the other side, When Grace returns to Los Angeles after a year, she struggles with her future, which again symbolizes the negative impact of sexual abuse on her development of a character.
“I was untouchable, unstoppable, hurtling down a path to immortality so rapidly, so immaculately, that not one person stopped to question how it all worked so well, a fortysomething man and a teenager being so inextricably linked. I know the power imbalance that exists every time you meet someone who’s seen you at your most vulnerable, whether or not it was your choice in the first place. How you have to hope that they don’t use it against you in some way, or say something flippant that might burn its way into your sense of self, resurfacing every time you look at your body in the mirror or undress in front of your partner.” (The Comeback, Berman,2020).
She wanders from place to place and then reaches her parents’ home in Anaheim, London.
which shows that something very complex is disturbing her life. “Maybe my mom was right about me when she said I wasn’t happy, but what she doesn’t understand is that since the age of fifteen, I’ve never even dared to want to be happy. I’m just trying to stay alive”. (The Comeback, Berman,2020).
Isolation is one of the parts of Psychological Defense Mechanisms. This mechanism of isolation is created by ego which deals with reality. When there is a conflict between the conscious and unconscious mind, a person suppresses his painful feelings. But it does not end here, the mind always finds another way to express emotions through mechanisms. Here this thing is evident that Grace is suppressing her painful emotions, as there is a conflict between her conscious and unconscious mind.
“Do you want to know why I left you? I left because you never wanted to see who I was. You had this image of me as this little lost girl who you could rescue with your love, and you panicked when it turned out not to be as simple as that. Your love suffocated me because it was a love for somebody else. You never took the time to get to know who I was, and the one night I tried to tell you, you didn’t want to know. That’s why I fucking left.” (The Comeback, Berman,2020).
She is using the mechanism of isolation to deal with her trauma. She isolates herself from her work and people.
She pulls up outside her parents’ house and makes her way to the front door as fast as she can. She rings the bell and her dads opens the door within seconds. When he sees Grace is standing there on her crutches, with her battered face, he takes a step back, gripping the wall to steady himself because Grace has been staying with a friend in Ojai, and then she came home in the morning.
“How did she seem when she got home?” He looks at my mom, but neither of them seems to know how to answer. “I think she seemed fine,” my mom says helplessly. “But maybe I don’t know her anymore. Do you think she’s at a friend’s house? Do I need to call the police?
How am I supposed to tell them we just, lost her?” (The Comeback, Berman,2020).
The character of Grace is not easy to understand. It’s a character who is trying not only to cope with all that has been taken away from her but also what has been done to her. The most vicious demons have always been her own, and she has never learned how to protect herself from them. As we have discussed she was exploited to the point where she could not trust anyone, even including her parents, her friends, her sister, and her husband. Thereupon, the development of Grace’s character can be figured out from her choices, her relationship with her younger sister, Esme, and her rocky marriage. She failed in all and chose drugs, fake friends, and other self-destructive behavior.
“So, you were just swimming, my mother says, frowning at my sister and me over a breakfast of Lucky Charms with diced strawberries. “I was just swimming,” Esme says
authoritatively. “In the torrential rain.” “In the torrential rain,” Esme repeats. “Like your sister was just driving off a mountain on Christmas Eve.” My sister and I exchange a look. I swallow a mouthful of milky, powdered chemicals. “Just like that,” I say, shrugging. “I don’t know how we raised two such thrill-seekers,” my dad says, pouring more cereal into Esme’s bowl, “when I’ve never even smoked a cigarette.” (The Comeback, Berman,2020)
In Short, the sexual abuse and its aftereffect badly impact the development of Grace’s character. Here we can see the traces of “parapraxis” (Barry 2002) in Grace’s character. The development of the character is full of flaws and complexity. Sometimes, she is self-absorbed and selfish, but at the same time, she is broken and careless. So, in Grace, the writer has created a complex and complicated character and the author has justified the impact of childhood sexual abuse. Sexual abuse badly affected the protagonist which leads her to abnormal behavior.