Therapy Adult Survivors of Child Abuse


….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…?

If the above statements resonate with you and have prompted you to read on, then you might have been feeling like this for a while. You may be wondering why that is but have been unable to pinpoint the reasons behind it. Following are a few more statements or questions that may ring true…

….Do you feel lonely, isolated and withdrawn…?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?

By now you might be seeing a link between your feelings, state of mind and your past experiences, particularly your childhood. It could be that you don’t have clear memories about what happened but recall feeling uncomfortable, anxious or frightened when you were in the presence of a parent, sibling, relative or acquaintance. 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.


Have you been wondering whether or not you are a survivor of sexual abuse?

Were other family members sexually abused during childhood?

My name is Flavio Cernotta. I’m a sexual abuse survivor therapist with several years of experience supporting survivors of childhood sexual abuse. I am fully qualified, BACP registered and happy to support you.


The First Step to Recovery

If you think you have an issue you would like to talk about then please contact me with a brief description of the problem. The first conversation is FREE OF CHARGE


West London, East London, Online Therapy, telephone counselling - please enter above
Please specify if you are looking for daytime, evening or weekend appointments


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 what you have read so far has triggered flashbacks or panic or you are feeling overwhelmed  then you can use the following exercise to ground yourself . The exercise is about :

  • Touching up to 5 different surfaces/ objects and become aware of how the texture/ materials feel
  • Observing up to 4 things (different shapes, colours) and describe them to yourself
  • Listening out for up to 3 different sounds and become fully aware of them
  • Finding up to 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.


Survivors/ victims of sexual abuse by a family member

When picturing an adult abuser, many people tend to think of a paedophile coming from outside the neighbourhood or family. Statistics show a different picture: 86% of aggressors are family members. The vast majority are male and their behaviour is not sexually motivated: power and aggression is what drives their motivation. These men have little control in their lives, feel inadequate and turn to children to experience control and power they lack elsewhere. They are stimulated by being in charge and are excited by the vulnerability and fear of the child. On occasions when the child reacts to the sexual stimulation and makes a pass on the abuser, the latter will loose interest and reject the child. The abuser is not after the sexual interest of the child but is excited by his/ her vulnerability and fear. Clients can feel very guilty, confused and shameful about it because they think that the abuser want the child to show interest in them when in fact that’s not the case.

Survivors of Physical Sexual Abuse

There are many cases were 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 abuse that you endured when you were little.

On the other hand, you may have little or no recollection of what happened to you 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 frightened, 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.

Survivors of Physical sexual abuse have often experienced the following:

  • Forced sexual behaviour without consent
  • Touching that is unwanted and unwelcome
  • Kissing and stroking which is inappropriate
  • Being exposed to genitalia
  • Exhibitionism
  • Using power, authority or trust to force a child to take part into sexual activity
  • Incest

Have you been wondering whether or not you are a survivor of sexual abuse?

Were other family members sexually abused during childhood?

My name is Flavio Cernotta. I’m a sexual abuse survivor counsellor with several years of experience supporting survivors of childhood sexual abuse. I am fully qualified, BACP registered and happy to support you.


The First Step to Recovery

If you think you have an issue you would like to talk about then please contact me with a brief description of the problem. The first conversation is FREE OF CHARGE


West London, East London, Online Therapy, telephone counselling - please enter above
Please specify if you are looking for daytime, evening or weekend appointments

Survivors of Overt Sexual Abuse

It is possible that no physical 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 wondering about whether or not they experienced sexual abuse.

Survivors of Overt Sexual Abuse have often experienced the following:

  • exposure to pornography
  • being subjected to sexually suggestive statements (also known as child molestation)
  • unwanted sexual advances or obscene remarks

What is emotional abuse?

Emotional abuse if often also referred to as psychological abuse. You will have experienced emotional neglect or abuse in childhood if you have been exposed repeatedly to one or more of the following:

  • deprivation of physical or emotional affection
  • exposure to demands that were either unrealistic or excessive
  • being isolated, degraded or threatened
  • being shunned, ridiculed, scapegoated or insulted

You may have experienced other forms of psychological/ emotional abuse, which were much more subtle and are more difficult to identify at first. They most likely included:

  • belittling or ignoring your efforts as a child
  • blackmail or sabotaging
  • invading or denying your personal space as a child or interfering with your belongings
  • manipulation
  • being exposed to negative comparisons with your siblings or other children around you

These more subtle abusive behaviours are often referred to as narcissistic abuse. The abuser displaying these behaviours towards you, whilst you were growing up, will have had narcissistic traits. This means they will have used or manipulated you to fulfil their own needs and made any care, love an attention towards you conditional to you behaving in any way they expected you to. However not all emotional abuse or neglect can be traced back to the narcissism of caregivers.

As emotional abuse is less visible than physical or sexual abuse, it may be harder for you to define and this is also what might make it more difficult for you to heal. For many survivors neglect emotional abuse was part of every day life in childhood so you will have grown up feeling that it was normal and this can also make it difficult to identify emotional abuse later in life.

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 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 sexual abuse that you endured, then please remember that children feeling sexual around parents is no justification for parents, caregivers or older siblings 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 the survivor.

Why do I feel guilt and shame?

The vast majority of survivors report being abused either by a relative or someone they knew. This means  that you probably already had a close connection with the abuser or that the abuser developed an emotional connection with you so that they could win your trust and abuse you. The latter is known as grooming and would have involved the abuser identifying your unmet needs and fulfilling them so that you would feel drawn to them. Grooming can take place over several months or years and often involves parents and care givers being groomed too. As a child it would have been very natural – even essential – for you to feel drawn to an adult that could fulfil any unmet needs. This is completely normal. However the abuser will have intentionally manipulated your longing to have your needs met, to get physically close to you, gain your trust and ultimately sexualise the relationship.  This emotional manipulation is likely to have led you to believe that you chose to go along with the abuse. Over time this belief can result in you feeling overwhelming guilt, shame and self blame. The confusion that you may be experiencing as a result of the abuse and manipulation may have completely destroyed your ability to trust anyone who offers attention, care and love. This can lead to isolation and deprive you of the beneficial effects of a supportive relationships. It can take a long time to free yourself from the confusion resulting from the abuse but many survivors find they can free themselves of the confusion and self blame when they start connecting with a therapist or a supportive or trusted other.

Was I molested as a child? Is there a test to find out if I am a survivor of sexual abuse?

It is very difficult to know for sure when emerging memories point to being a survivor 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 sexual abuse which you are now unable to recall.

However, the likely hood of 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 behaviours in your family, the possibility of you being a survivor of sexual abuse increases to the same. Whilst the chances of being a survivor of sexual abuse 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 sexual abuse.

Survivors usually experience symptoms which will manifest in many different ways.

Symptoms experienced by survivors of sexual abuse can include, but are not limited to:

  • Unreality
  • Loneliness, isolation
  • Terrors, excessive fears, hyper-vigilance
  • Internalised shame
  • Underlying depression
  • Intimacy problems
  • Aggressive and seductive behaviour

These symptoms are also relevant for people who are survivors of physical abuse.

Therapy can help you find the courage to confront your pain, address unhelpful patterns and learn to manage unbearable emotions.

Email me (flavio @ or phone me (07413 465 168) to discuss this issue in confidence.


  • “…We have achieved so much over the last two years. I have had therapy before but never thought it would be possible to come this far in my journey as survivor of sexual abuse. Thanks for your patience and perseverance. We have worked very well together…” (Elizabeth, West London)


Signs of Sexual Abuse in Adulthood

What are the signs of sexual abuse in adult survivors?

The signs of child sexual abuse can take many forms. Many adult survivors may experience the following:


  • Experiencing panic attacks, numb body areas, feeling disconnected from their bodies (these are usually signs of trauma)
  • Difficult to experience orgasms or erections.
  • Experiencing persistent physical pain (stomach, neck or back and andrological/ gynaecological problems, for example) despite good self-care.
  • Water splashing in the face feels unbearable
  • very low physical boundaries
  • Numb body parts, unaware of body or bodily felt sensations,
  • unable to trust their own body


  • a deep sense of shame leading to a feeling of being wrong
  • an intuition that something wrong has happened without the recollection of any experience
  • A fear that they might abuse children the way they were abused
  • low self-esteem, feeling unworthy and dirty
  • Sadness, fear and anger that feel overwhelming and difficult to control
  • A strong desire to live in isolation, feeling lonely
  • Panics, rages, depressions
  • Low emotional and spiritual boundaries
  • Arousal when reading about child being abused

Thoughts/ Memory/ Intellect

  • suicidal thoughts
  • memories of unmet childhood needs might surface when caring for children causing depression and sadness
  • Childhood blackouts where large chunks of time are forgotten.
  • Unable to recall periods of their childhood
  • Repeatedly spotting double meaning in conversations
  • Re-experiencing emotions of the abuse when faced with specific smell, taste, image, noise, touch.


  • a lack of emotional and practical skills for dealing with their present “grown-up” world
  • Compensating for shame or inadequacy by becoming “over-achievers.”
  • Avoiding promiscuity, sex or specific sexual positions
  • struggling to develop or maintain close relationships.
  • sleep disorders, or self-harm
  • Alcohol and drug dependency or any other addiction, eating disorders and obesity
  • Personal hygiene is either too challenging or is carried out excessively
  • Wearing inappropriate clothing
  • Scalding, cutting and picking skin

Whilst the symptoms listed in this article are usually common among adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, they are not a tool or test to help you diagnose yourself. This list is not designed to tell you for sure whether or not you were abused as a child. These are usually behaviours which prompt people to seek therapy. Please do not treat this list as tick box exercise and tell yourself “if I have ticked all the boxes I must have been abused in childhood”. This would be a premature conclusion and might not be as helpful as initially thought.

If you think that you might have been sexually abused as a child and wish to discuss this please contact me in confidence.

How do you recover from an abusive childhood

There is no hard and fast rule about recovery and that’s because recovery looks different to every survivor. There are a range of approaches such as those outlined by Penny Parks or Judith Herman, which can provide structure and direction if needed. You may find it helpful to remember that very few survivors progress through recovery in a straight line. More often than not you might feel like you are taking two steps forward and one back.

Penny Parks includes the following steps in her recovery process:

  • Hearing out, soothing and rescuing the abused child that is still in you
  • Overcoming guilt and anger
  • Releasing bitterness
  • Improving Self Image
  • Stepping into your Adult self

These aspects can be worked through by using a combination of written, creative and practical exercises, which support the abused part in you to find a voice and feel safe. Many of these exercises are part of my core training as therapist and I use them extensively and successfully with many clients, including those recovering from abuse. My experience and training mean that I can provide a safe space and guide you through these exercises step by step at a pace that is beneficial and timely. How long it will take you to work through these steps depends on where you are in your journey of recovery and how challenging each of the exercises might feel. It is important to work with any resistance skilfully and to resource you adequately to avoid retraumatising you.

Therapy for survivors of sexual abuse

My name is Flavio and I am a trained therapist who has experience of working with survivors of sexual abuse. 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. Being a survivor of sexual abuse takes resilience, courage and strength. 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 sexual abuse. I believe that it is possible to outgrow the trauma you have endured so that it no longer conditions the choices you make.

Have you been wondering whether or not you are a survivor of sexual abuse?

Were other family members sexually abused during childhood?

My name is Flavio Cernotta. I’m a sexual abuse survivor therapist with several years of experience supporting survivors of childhood sexual abuse. I am fully qualified, BACP registered and happy to support you.


The First Step to Recovery

If you think you have an issue you would like to talk about then please contact me with a brief description of the problem. The first conversation is FREE OF CHARGE


West London, East London, Online Therapy, telephone counselling - please enter above
Please specify if you are looking for daytime, evening or weekend appointments

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.

Therapy for survivors of sexual abuse 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.


Signs of child sexual abuse

Effects of child sexual abuse in adults



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