Healing from Child Sexual Assault
Did you suffer a traumatic experience of molestation or sexual assault as a child? Child Sexual Assault (Molestation) is when an adult uses their power or influence to touch you in an inappropriate way, groom you, indecently expose themselves, or force you to participate in child pornography.
If you never told anyone or didn’t seek help, it is possible you are still suffering with the effects of such a traumatic experience as an adult. Most children feel as though they cannot or should not talk about what happened to them, and this attitude often carries over into adulthood. It is okay to find help.
If you are an Adult Survivor of child sexual abuse, there may be a lot of different feelings to sort through. Guilt, fear, denial, anger, and many other emotions can sometimes prevent us from seeking the treatment that can heal us and lead us to a more fulfilling, satisfying life.
Don’t worry, you are not alone. Through counseling, you can continue your journey of healing with a personal therapist. It may be difficult sometimes, and may take long time, but seeking help means a dedicated professional will guide you through the healing process according to your timeline. No one else can make you heal, it is your choice.
You Are Not Alone
You don’t have to worry that you are alone, or that no one can understand your experience. Nearly 20% of girls, and 5% of boys have suffered sexual abuse as a child. Many of those still have memories of the incident. With nearly 25% of people living daily with these memories, support, help, and healing are readily available.
Many support groups exist, and can be beneficial, but it is still important to find a mental health professional to help you overcome difficulties that are specific to you! It might be hard to overcome the shame, fear, or denial you feel, but taking that first step to reach out to someone may be the most important choice of your life. Twenty seconds of courage may be all you need to start the healing process.
Long Term Effects
If you experienced child sexual abuse, there is a chance you may be experiencing one or more of the following effects:
Depression: feelings of sadness and loss of interest in things you love. Other symptoms include extreme tiredness anddifficulty making decisions.
Anxiety: extreme nervousness, focusing on negative or worrying thoughts, physical feelings of panic, and frequent irritability.
Eating Disorders: problems with eating too much, too little, or other unhealthy ways of controlling your food, weight, or body image.
Poor Self-Esteem: feeling worthless, unlovable, incapable of completing easy tasks, or thinking you’re a burden to others.
Sleep Disturbances: Bad dreams, difficulty falling or staying asleep, or always feeling tired.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder:flashbacks, nightmares, or hallucinations, especially during sleep. You may also avoid being around people that remind you of the event.
Self-Harm:Cutting of wrists, pulling out hair, or other things that cause you to hurt yourself when you’re feeling stressed, scared, or out of control.
Substance Abuse:Alcohol and other drugs that are affecting the quality of your life may have their cause in your traumatic experience.
Relationship Problems:The inability for you to trust another person, engage in intimate or sexual relationships, lashing out for little reason, or being unusually scared of vulnerability could prevent you from having a full life of loving relationships.
If you are experiencing any of these, it may be beneficial to seek out help. There may be other difficulties you are having in life. They are not your fault. Seeking help for the childhood abuse you suffered, and talk with them about your struggles, can help heal you from any number of issues you have and lead you to a more fulfilling, happy life. They are there to listen, not judge, and will be able to help you deal with any problem you have.
It is possible you do not think these difficulties are related to your experience as a child. Still, the best thing you can do is approach a professional.
If you are seeking help for any of the above issues (depression, substance abuse, PTSD, etc.) your psychologist may help you overcome those issues first. This will help you to function more fully in the present moment while equipping you with the tools to deal with all your trauma, not just a single issue.
It is important that you develop a relationship of mutual trust with your counselor. Open up and be honest with them so they can best know how to help you. It is likely this will be painful and difficult at times, but they are there to help you, support you, and heal in your own time.
Your treatment method will depend on your individual challenges, your therapist’s training and preferred method, and your receptiveness to such methods. While your mental health professional may treat your more immediate struggles first, emphasis may include any of the following methods:
Normalization: Your therapist may help you realize how your current issues are connected to your traumatic experience. You will learn to identify the patterns you’ve developed to cope with the anxiety and stress this experience has caused in your every day life. Often these coping mechanisms are not healthy and prevent you from living a better life. Your therapist will help you develop tools to overcome these habits and replace them with healthier ones.
Education: Your mental health professional may educate you on how frequently childhood sexual abuse occurs. They may help you realize the effect this has had on your life and outline the road to healing these memories. The memories will not go away, but your therapist will be able to give you hope that you can move past them. This step is often important in establishing a relationship with your counselor.
Cognitive Restructuring: In treating your issues, your therapist may help you identify harmful or unhelpful patterns of thinking. Often,these thoughts feed patterns of anxiety, depression, or anger. Your counselor will help train you to catch these thoughts early, be mindful of their harm, and choose a different thought or perspective to focus on. Not only can this help your secondary issues like depression and other struggles, but it may help you choose to heal from the difficult experience of abuse you suffered.
Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR): EMDR is a groundbreaking (but proven effective) method of promoting natural healing from traumatic memories. Like any part of the healing experience, EMDR can be emotionally painful and may take some time.But having a trusted professional to guide you through the process will give you the tools and support you need to overcome and conquer your past pain.
You Can Move On!
Sometimes healing from emotional and sexual abuse can be more difficult and take longer than healing from physical scars. There is hope, though! If you seek help, establish a relationship with a mental health professional you trust, and give the healing process the time it needs, you will get better.
Call Dr. Clare Albright, Psy. D., Psychologist, CA License PSY11660 at (949) 454-0996 at http://DrCAlbright.com