Childhood Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse happens to far more children than most people ever believe or want to believe. In fact, around 65% of women who contact Rape Crisis Centres are adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
Sexual abuse of children is an abuse of power and of trust. Abusers take advantage of the natural trust children have for their elders, and for their own pleasure, power and control coerce them into sexual situations. Abusers can be male or female.
The physical and psychological reactions of adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse vary from person to person. Some are listed below. Remember, whatever you are feeling is a result of what you have been through.
Common reactions to childhood sexual abuse can include:
- panic attacks, phobias and/or flashbacks
- feelings of anger, shame and worthlessness
- crying a lot
- finding it difficult to show emotion and feeling numb
- disturbing thought patterns and intrusive memories
- physical symptoms, such as unexplained illnesses
- finding it difficult to trust other people
- finding it difficult to form intimate relationships
- feeling sick or afraid when you hear the abuser's voice or a similar voice or when you see an object or place that reminds you of the abuse
- blaming yourself
This last reaction of blaming yourself is very common. But whatever the circumstances of the abuse you experienced, you must try to remember that it is never your fault – the blame and responsibility always lie with the abuser.
Some people cope with these feelings by self harming, self injuring, drinking too much, using drugs or controlling their eating habits.
If you were abused as a child, you may be experiencing some of these or other reactions. Coming to terms with them and with your own feelings about the abuse is part of the healing process.
The first step in the process, possibly the most important step, is to speak out, to tell someone who will understand what you are going through. Abuse thrives on secrecy, so if you are ready to talk and would like information, counselling or support of any kind, please ring the helpline.