….Do you sometimes feel like you are living life as a victim…?
…..Have you lost interest in life…?
…Do you often wish you were invisible…?
…Do you sometimes feel soiled, flawed and defective as a human being…?
….Do you feel lonely, isolated and withdrawn…?
…Do you feel helpless, victimized and stressed….?
…. Do you struggle to understand why people are interested in the things they are interested in….?
Do these statements sound familiar? Yes? Not sure? Do they sound partially true?
If they resonate with you and have prompted you to read on, then you might have been feeling like this for a while. You may have been wondering why that is but have been unable to pinpoint the reasons behind it. On the other hand you may have started to see a link between your feelings and state of mind and your past experiences, particularly your childhood. It could be that you don’t have clear memories about what happened and that all you remember is feeling uncomfortable, anxious or frightened when you were in the presence of a given family member. This may be accompanied by hazy memories, fleeting flashbacks or intrusive thoughts and images all without apparent reason. Or perhaps you have memories of being abused as a child but have put them at the back of your mind and reading the above statements has prompted you to reflect and enabled you to link your memories with your present feelings and state of mind for the first time.
Looking after yourself: Grounding
Before continuing, I would like to give you an opportunity to pause and check with yourself how you are feeling . If you have read this far and are starting to feel upset, frightened or anxious then you might want to pause and do the following grounding exercise before continuing. The exercise is about :
- Touching 5 different surfaces/ objects and become aware of how the texture/ materials feel
- Observing 4 things (different shapes, colours) and describe them to yourself
- Listening out for 3 different sounds and become fully aware of them
- Finding 2 smells (flowers & plants, food in the fridge/ pantry, the fruit bowl or spray your favourite perfume
- Focusing on 1 thing to taste
The purpose of this exercise is to bring you back to the present moment and to the adult self.
If you are ok, then you can carry on reading. You can always refer to the grounding exercise later down the line if need be.
Physical Sexual Abuse
There are many cases were child sexual abuse survivors remember exactly how the horrific abuse played out, how they felt when it was happening, who the perpetrator is and how family members reacted. Maybe the memories have been lingering at the back of your mind and you have only just started to realise recently how the abuse has been affecting your well being: bursts of anger without apparent reason, mood swings, depression, a feeling of being persecuted by people in authority, feeling dirty or ashamed of yourself. These symptoms may have been bothering you for sometime but you might have connected them only recently to the child sexual abuse that you endured when you were little.
Other survivors of child sexual abuse might have little or no recollection of what happened to them as a child. If that is the case then you may have odd memories of feeling very uncomfortable around certain family members like mum or dad, a sibling or perhaps an uncle or grandmother. If that is you then you might have felt a lot of fear being around those people as a child and you might even feel afraid now as an adult as you think back to what it was like to be in their presence. If you feel frighted, upset or anxious as your read this, take a moment to pause and remember: you are an adult now and you can protect yourself now in a way that you could not back then.
“The abused children are alone, with their suffering, not only within the family, but also within themselves. They can not share their pain with anyone. They cannot create a place in their own soul where they could cry their heart out”
Alice Miller (Bradshaw, 1995)F
Being sexually abused by your parents or sibling, the very people whom you trusted to look out for you, would have been an horrific experience as you were growing up. The powerlessness, overwhelming fear and anxiety that you would have felt when you could not escape the abuse or cry for help, are harrowing and might still affect you in the present day.
Physical sexual abuse includes:
- Forced sexual behaviour without consent
- Touching that is unwanted and unwelcome
- Kissing and stroking which is inappropriate
- Being exposed to genitalia
- Using power, authority or trust to force a child to take part into sexual activity
Overt Sexual Abuse
It is possible that no physical child sexual abuse took place and that you fear having been physically abused because of the way in which a family member behaved towards you. You might have memories of your mother, father or sister exposing themselves to you. If they were aroused by their exhibitionism then that would count as overt sexual abuse. The same criteria applies to acts of voyeurism by a family member. Even if parents are not feeling sexually aroused, it can be very frightening for a child to see the genitals of an adult male or female when the children’s age level is no appropriate. The fear can stay with children for some time to come and later on might lead them to wonder about whether or not they experienced child sexual abuse.
Overt Sexual Abuse includes:
- Exposing children to pornography
- Making sexually suggestive statements towards children (also known as child molestation)
- Making unwanted sexual advances or obscene remarks
Feeling sexual around adults
What might also be very confusing for you are any sexual feelings you might have had towards your parents or sibling. It is important to remember that children can feel sexual around parents or siblings. This is not child sexual abuse unless the parents or sibling did something that caused the child to feel sexual. This is not about parents having a fleeting sexual thought or feeling but about them using their children for their own sexual gratification. If you were feeling sexual around your parents or siblings and feeling guilty about it or, worse blaming yourself for the child sexual abuse that you endured, then please remember that children feeling sexual around parents is no justification for parents to interfere with them sexually. The responsibility for the abuse lies solely with the abuser and any shame you might be feeling about the abuse belongs to the abuser and not to you.
Was I molested as a child?
Is there a test to find out if I was exposed to child sexual abuse?
It is very difficult to know for sure when emerging memories point to actual child sexual abuse and when they are less so. Just as it is difficult to establish whether feelings or behaviours you are experiencing are actually linked to a history of child sexual abuse which you are now unable to recall.
However, the likely hood of child sexual abuse increases based on certain behaviours within the context you were raised in. Here are a few things to consider.
- were other family members physically or sexually abused?
- was your family violent and unstable?
- was there drug and alcohol abuse in your family
Based on the extent of these behaviour in your family, the possibility of child sexual abuse increases to the same. Whilst the chances decrease based on the likely hood of having experienced a loving, caring and supportive upbringing.
Another factor to bear in mind is any relatives that you felt or feel uncomfortable around but can’t identify any apparent reason as to why you feel that way. A further option could be for you to look up the signs and symptoms used by parents or healthcare professionals to monitor whether child abuse is happening. You could look up the signs and check what your response is to them over a period of time.
Finally it may be worth reflecting on whether we actually do need to recall or whether it is best to start by looking at the problems we experience today, which seem to emerge from the possibility that you are a survivor of child sexual abuse.
Child sexual abuse counselling London
My name is Flavio and I am a trained therapist who has experience of working with adults who are child sexual abuse survivors. Combining my experience with warmth and empathy, I aim to offer you a supportive and safe space where you can gently work on yourself. My approach to therapy is holistic, which means that I take into the account the whole of your person and not just the symptoms that you are presenting. Clients are more than their symptoms and difficulties. This belief is at the core of my work with people. Surviving child sexual abuse takes resilience, courage and strength and you will have fought to survive sometimes even by acting out behaviours that hurt you. Working together we can tailor the therapy to suit your needs and work at a pace that is right for you so you can heal from the effects of child sexual abuse. I believe that it is possible to outgrow the trauma you have endured so that it no longer conditions the choice you make. Therapy can help you find the willingness and energy to move forward. The work we will be doing is supportive, encouraging and empowering so that you can free yourself from shame, anxiety and fear and reclaim your confidence and self esteem.
Child sexual abuse counselling can help you with concerns which include but are not limited to: depression, low self-esteem, anger, shame, flashbacks, dreams/ nightmares, feeling powerless or helpless, anxiety, unmet needs from childhood, relationship problems.
Contact me today to make an appointment and start the process of healing the effects of child sexual abuse and reclaiming your self esteem.