By Dan Blair, a marriage counselor and family counselor.
“Childhood abuse isn’t something you ‘get over.’ It is an evil that we must acknowledge and confront if we aim to do anything about the unchecked violence in this country” (Martin Teicher, MD, PhD, Scientific American).
Abuse occurs whenever anyone dominates, exploits or injures another. Abuse can be verbal, emotional, physical and sexual. It is a potent means which makes another feel demeaned, worthless, and hopeless. Survivors often feel to blame and can struggle for a lifetime. The effects of abuse include confused thinking, disrupted memory, regressive behavior, and inability to relate to others. Abuse could lead to chronic depression, anxiety, panic, anger, cutting or self-abuse, with lifetime social and sexual repercussions along with other disorders. Abuse is also linked to chronic addiction and medical issues.
When sexual activity or suggestion is involved, it is extremely harmful, particularly when it involves a trusted relationship. Sexual abuse involves inappropriate or obsessive questions, or controlling behavior, with or without actual physical contact. When confronted, perpetrators may try to explain away their actions. The process of “grooming” by a perpetrator gradually desensitizes a child to sexual misconduct, while offering some sort of incentive to the child that the child and maybe even the parents notice and appreciate without realizing it. During this process the perpetrator tests whether the child will make a complaint. At this point, complaints may not be identified as abuse because they do not meet a definition of sexual misconduct. Many kids won’t tell but will try to avoid perpetrator. Meanwhile academic work may take a downturn, or parents may see a withdrawal from friends and activities along with increased irritability.
A boy or girl may feel ashamed and confused, even to the point of self-loathing, which also may discourage them from alerting a trusted adult. Kids are often afraid to tell. Talk to a parent, counselor, school administration or other trusted adult. Seeing a counselor does not mean there is something wrong with you.
Do You Know What It’s Like?
This is me… for real:
- I have trouble going to sleep
- I get anxious in the evening
- Most days – waking up overwhelms me
- I want to help my children become healthy, real, safe adults
- I rarely feel real and safe
- I love being active, exercising, sports
- I have become increasingly stressed about my body size/type – which is not like me
- I am rather obsessive about normal bodily functions
- I am easily drawn to do things hurtful to my body (or destructive)
- If I feel body sensations – hunger, being full, needing to go to the bathroom, cold, hot, sexual attraction or sensations, loving feelings, anger, sadness, hyper-ness, shallow breathing, rapid heartbeat, sweaty, wet, tired or sick – I feel very stressed and a great deal of anger or anxiety wells up in me.
- When I think someone expects or wants something from me, I detach from my body
- When I get angry, especially at a person, I feel like I should be dead
- I think about other people dying every day
- I think about my own death several times a day
- I sometimes feel like my hair and scars are moving or “calling” me to “hurt” them.
- I like the feeling of barely breathing, especially in sexual involvement – like being under the weight of a man
- I am drawn to rough sex, “forbidden” sex, force, pain and extreme amounts of orgasms
- I have a knee jerk like response to stress – causing me to desire or feel blunt pressure in my [private parts]
- When someone hugs me I think of sex (almost always, but not always – thankfully)
- I feel like I am not human and I fear that people will notice
- I am both in and out of my body when I’m with a group of people or especially something new or stressful
- I love nature, I notice small details
- I hate the feeling of clothes – but especially the getting dressed or undressed part
- I hate the feeling of food in my stomach
- I love how I feel when I haven’t eaten in a long time (just a day, that’s not THAT long)
- I feel more real when I am curled up or on the floor
- I can “hear” peoples’ hearts
- I want to be really cared for by my husband
- I would probably do better in some ways not married
- I think “nice” sex is gross and a lie
- I need a safe and stable environment to help me stay sane
- I feel like I’m moments away from insanity – more than I’d like
- I’m afraid sometimes that I will split apart again
- I would like to be done
- I’m amazed and in awe that I have lived this long
- I’m thankful to God for what He has done in and through me
- I long to speak God’s Word and write and sing
- I love to show kids respect
- I like to be alone
- I long to be taken care of
- I don’t know what’s true
- I lie, but I don’t mean to, I just don’t trust myself to have the “right” answer
- I’ve worked really hard to have my life be good. It’s an amazing life and I’m ashamed that I am so unhappy
- Most days I long to sleep, just sleep. No food, no getting dressed, no people (not because life isn’t amazing – it is, and not because I’m depressed – I love being active) It’s just hard to be me.
- I’m amazed at how much of my life is in fear. I consider myself a fairly brave person, and I certainly challenge myself with new and challenging things… Yet I am afraid of myself. Rather afraid of other people. Afraid to lose people, any way, but mostly to dying. I’m apparently afraid to die. I have times when I feel fear about breathing, about eating, about not eating, about getting dressed, about going to bed. About getting lost in a mirror or the TV, or lost while out alone, or with many people.