Most of us agree that sexual abuse of a child is horrible and should not happen.

Unfortunately, it does happen way too often. Child sexual abuse occurs when a child is used for the sexual gratification of an older adolescent or adult. It also involves the abuse of power that an adult has over a child. Sexual abuse can strike regardless of sexual orientation, race, religion, cultural heritage, social or economic status. What should we know about these child victims as they grow to adulthood?
An adult survivor of child sexual abuse suffers long term effects throughout their life. In the majority of instances, as a child they never told anyone of the abuse while it was happening. Now, as an adult, they are left to deal with the effects.
As adults, each individual’s reaction to their abuse is unique. However, with so many now coming forward and breaking the silence about their abuse, their reactions are eerily similar.
•One of the most common responses is feelings of very low self-esteem or even self-hatred.
•Many survivors battle severe depression throughout adulthood.
•Childhood sexual abuse victims often suffer from nightmares and other sleep disturbances. This has been thought to occur because frequently children are sexually abused in their beds at night.
•Many survivors struggle with trust issues. The very people who were supposed to be those who cared for them most, loved them most and who are supposed to protect them are the ones who abused them and betrayed them.
•Many adult victims of childhood sexual abuse are re-victimized as adults.  They frequently find themselves in abusive, dangerous relationships as adults.
It is not easy for someone to disclose that they have been sexually assaulted, even if it happened years ago as a child. Disclosing their abuse can be very emotionally grueling, so we encourage you to be as supportive as possible.  Sometimes the best support you can give is to be aware of resources, such as Crisis Services of North Alabama. Often, just listening to them is a great way to support a survivor.
Other specific ways to be a supporter are to tell them:
•“I believe you.” “It took a lot of courage to tell me this.”
•“It’s not your fault.” “You didn’t do anything to deserve this.”
•“You are not alone.” “I care about you and I am here for you.”
•“I am sorry this happened to you.” “I am so glad you shared this with me.”
It can be extremely difficult for survivor to share their story. They may feel ashamed or concerned about how this will affect their family relationships. Though the abuse may have happened a long time ago, that doesn’t mean the pain is gone. Check in periodically and remind them you still care about their well-being. Encourage them to also practice good self-care.
One of the best ways to be a strong supporter is to know your resources. Be familiar with local resources you can recommend. Crisis Services of North Alabama Jackson County Office is here to help Jackson County residents who have experienced domestic or sexual abuse. We can be reached locally at 256.574.5826 or our 24/7 HELPline at 256.716.1000.

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