by Teresia Smith
You Are Not Alone
Child sexual abuse is horrifyingly common and immensely damaging. If you are an adult who was abused as a child, we want you to know you are not alone.
Rainn.org reports that statistically, every nine minutes a child is sexually assaulted in the U.S; about 93% of the victims know the perpetrator. Many perpetrators of sexual abuse are in a position of trust such as a family member, teacher, religious leader or team coach, and the child relies on them for leadership.
We often teach our children “stranger danger,” but as statistics prove, the abuse is most often committed by someone we have naively given access to our child.
No matter what, the abuse you suffered was not your fault. It’s never too late to start healing from this experience. As an adult survivor, you have been living with these memories for a long time. Some survivors keep it a secret for many years and resist talking about the abuse. As a child, you may have tried to tell an adult and were not believed or felt there was no one you could trust. For these reasons and many others, the effects of sexual abuse can occur many years after the abuse has ended. Remember that there is no set timeline for dealing with and recovering from this experience.
As an older adult, you may be able to look back through your life and start to realize that many of your choices were affected by your pent-up feelings from the abuse.
There are no set rules for how the childhood abuse may affect you. Some survivors experience few or no mental health issues while others are plagued by many such as depression, anxiety, negative coping skills, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, etc. Some have physical problems that cannot be explained until the trauma they experienced is disclosed. Many times survivors experience broken marriages and relationship issues throughout life. Everyone reacts differently and the response can be affected by the severity of the abuse, how long you were abused, how close you were to the person who abused you and how the people you tried to tell reacted to your disclosure.
Adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse often feel the world is not a safe place, and the ability to trust others is impaired, especially if there was a close relationship with the abuser. Many times, survivors blame themselves and have a difficult time with self-esteem. They tend to feel hopeless about the future and live with a negative life view. These negative feelings make it hard to cope with life’s normal everyday stresses. Not having healthy coping skills sometimes leads to acting impulsively and engaging in risky activities. All of these feelings lead to an anger that can be hard to deal with or control because the source of the anger has not been examined. Often, this leads to a substance abuse problem as a survivor struggles to find a way to cope with all the pent-up feelings and a rigid negative belief about themselves.
Many times an adult survivor is still vulnerable to predators as they have a deep desire to feel loved.
At Crisis Services of North Alabama, our desire is to give adult survivors back control over their life. They get to choose when and how they wish to talk about their experiences. A survivor is never pressured to do anything. They can choose how often or even if they wish to meet with a crisis counselor and they lead the conversation. Feeling connected to a community of people who care, having someone you can trust, relax, and talk to, working to see a pathway to your chosen destiny all work to counteract the effects of the abuse.
The abuse you suffered may have imprisoned you for a long time, but we are here to help you find your way forward.
If you have experienced intimate partner domestic violence or sexual assault, we can help. You may reach Crisis Services of North Alabama at 256.574.5826 or our 24/7 HELPline at 256.716.1000.