Recognizing Abuse

I never imagined myself needing to connect to other survivors of sexual abuse. One website (psychotherapist.net/adultsurvivors) had a very informative article on recognizing abuse.

I do not repost this to victimize or revictimize, or to define ourselves as victims, but rather so couple of things might happen.

If you are a victim, you can recognize the areas that you are having trouble in, and see how your abuse played a role in forming that, and know that as you heal, those areas may heal too. That gives me hope. Seeing the extensive list and even healing and removing one or two or ten would be a huge success, and rewarding.

Secondly, if you or someone you know has many of these symptoms it may not hurt to see a counselor. How is that for noncommittal advice?

The type of therapy I was in when I remembered my abuse was EDMR therapy. EDMR has helped many soliders with PTSD, but for me it too many memories came flooding in a short time. Just like one medication is not going to help everyone, neither will the same type of therapy. I did take some relaxation techniques from my therapist and a reminder that if “I can feel safe, if I am safe.” Which I repeat to myself quite often when I am anxious.

I explained that because the pyschotherapist website I copied this from practices EDMR therapy. I did not want anyone to link into the website and think that I was advertising EMDR. That is not my intent. I no longer attend EMDR therapy, and go a Psychologist who I feel better fits my situation. When looking for a therapist, make sure the fit is for you. Not for anyone else. It is so important that you are comfortable with them. I have also found that looking up doctors on Health Grades is really helpful.

Now to what this post is really about and a WARNING, though I will never get into the graphic deals that I remember about my own abuse, “The What Is Sexual Abuse” section of this post does use strong sexual language.

What Is Sexual Abuse?

Sexual abuse represents any kind of sexual contact between an adult or older teen and a child. This behavior is used to gain power over the child and often involves a betrayal of the child’s trust.

There are many types of sexual abuse, some include physical contact or touching offenses. This includes fondling, touching sexual organs, masturbation, making the child touch the adult sexually, and vaginal, oral, or anal penetration with self or objects. Non touching offenses include exposing a child to pornographic material, indecent exposure, leering and deliberately putting the child in the position of having to witness an act of sexual intercourse.

What Kind Of Person Would Victimize A Child?

People who sexually abuse suffer from emotional immaturity, low self-esteem, an inability to see harm in their actions and lack the knowledge to control their impulses. Often the offenders were victims of child sexual abuse themselves. Many abusers are not strangers, they are often people of position or power in our lives, such as, teachers, doctors, baby-sitters, neighbors, parents, peers, siblings, relatives and clergy.

How Common Is Child Sexual Abuse?

It has been shown that 3-7% of boys are sexually abused by the time they reach eighteen and 2-5% of girls, on the whole two out of ten children are victims of abuse. These averages are of course conservative since most occurrences are never reported.

Was I Sexually Abused?

Pay attention to your feelings and follow your gut. A lot of victims of sexual abuse tend to block out memories they have of the incident only to be triggered by painful reminders: specific sounds, smells, words and facial expressions. If you suspect that you were sexually abused, you probably were. Trust your feelings and memories.

What Are The Affects Of Sexual Abuse?

Being in your body

Do you feel at home in your body?
Do you feel comfortable expressing yourself sexually with another?
Do you feel that you are a part of your body or does your body feel like a separate entity?
Have you ever intentionally and physically hurt yourself?
Do you find it difficult to listen to your body?

Emotions

Do you feel out of control of your feelings?
Do you feel you sometimes don’t understand all the feelings you are experiencing?
Are you overwhelmed by the wide range of feelings you have?

Relationships

What are your expectations of your partner in a relationship?
Do you find it easy to trust others?
Do you find difficulty in making commitments?
Even though you’re in a relationship, are you still lonely?
Is it hard for you to allow others to get close to you?
Do you find yourself in relationships with people who remind you of your abuser, or you know is no good for you?

Self-Confidence

Do you find it difficult to love yourself?
Do you have a hard time accepting yourself?
Are you ashamed of yourself?
Do you have expectations of yourself that aren’t realistic?

Sexuality

Do you enjoy sex?
Do you find it difficult to express yourself sexually?
Do you find yourself using sex to get close to someone?
Does sex make you feel dirty?
Are you “present” during sex?

What Problems are Caused by Sexual Abuse?

Major Sexual Symptoms of Sexual Abuse

Difficulty with becoming aroused and feeling sensations
Sex feels like an obligation
Sexual thoughts and images that are disturbing
Inappropriate sexual behaviors or sexual compulsivity
Vaginal pain
Inability to achieve orgasm or other orgasmic difficulties
Erections problems or ejaculatory difficulty
Feeling dissociated while having sex
Detachment or emotional distance while having sex
Being afraid of sex or avoiding sex
Guilt, fear, anger, disgust or other negative feelings when being touched

Major Long-Term Medical Symptoms of Sexual Abuse

Insomnia
Vaginal or Pelvic Pain
Eating Disorders
Headaches
TMJ syndrome
Low back pain, chest pressure
Erection problems or ejaculatory difficulty
Asthma
Dizziness/fainting
Self harming/self-mutilation
Chronic physical complaints

Major Long-Term Psychological Symptoms of Sexual Abuse

Anxiety
Panic Attacks
Low self-esteem
Stress disorders – PTSD
Personality disorders
Substance abuse
Self-abuse behaviors

Why Do I Have To Deal With It Now, If It Happened Back Then?

There are many reasons why children do not deal with the abuse at the time of the incident: unconscious feelings of shame, disbelief, self blame. Abusers may also threaten or bribe children into not speaking up, convincing the child that it is indeed their fault, and that they will never be believed otherwise. These tactics are used to silence the child. Under no circumstances, is the child to blame for the abuse. Although, if the abuse is not dealt with in a therapeutic and healing setting, the effects of past abuse will remain and undermine the victim for years to come.

Does It Get Better?

The worst part, the abuse, is over. Now your next step is to surround yourself with supportive loving people, and focus on the desire you have to heal yourself. This is your process. You must be gentle and patient with yourself as your healing process gently unfolds. You are giving yourself the gift of coming to life, again.

Now What?

You are not alone, and in fact, in recognizing what has happened to you and speaking about your experience is one of the most vital components in the healing process. You have already taken a giant step. If you think that you have been a victim of sexual abuse, you need to take action immediately so your life will not be undermined by the past one day more. Get help.

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About Hope

I am forty year old survivor and a five year old victim of sexual abuse. I live with severe depression and anxiety, and in 2013 was diagnosed with DID and PTSD. My journey is to reintegrate my alter and the adult me into a whole person, healthy person, and one that can empathize with others.

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