The Truth About Childhood Sexual Abuse…..
Elizabeth Sullivan, CPSP
The truth about childhood sexual abuse and trauma is that far too many children are affected by this terrible crime and crisis. Crises you may ask? Yes, a crisis indeed. The truth of this situation is far too many children are sexually abused at the hands of those they have trusted and loved.
In our culture, there are far too many that believe this crime is perpetrated by strangers. We believe that this crime is perpetrated outside of friendships, churches, institutions, coaches, teachers, groups, family, close and trusted individuals. Sadly, in most cases, the crime of sexual abuse is perpetrated by those in our families and by society members that have groomed not only the child but everyone that surrounds that child.
So what then do we do about childhood sexual abuse? There is no easy answer for this question but we start by acknowledging that this crime exists, listening with a loving ear to those affected, learning about the effects, prevention, the healing process, and understanding that the reality of sexual abuse affects 1 out of 4 girls and 1 out of 6 boys. We also have to understand that there is no real way to measure how many children this crime is perpetrated against because most children never tell. The statistics only measure those that were able to break their silences, most keep this secret deep inside of themselves only to have it rear its ugly head when the child is grown and in their 40’s, 50’s on up.
How then do we support those that come forward with their abuse and break their silences?
We start by listening with a non-judgemental, loving ear. We listen. We love each other. We give survivors safe spaces to express their grief, loss, heartache, and all the rest. Again we listen.
Sadly in a lot of cases, a survivor who breaks their silence is not shown this loving support. Those surrounding the individual may not know what to say, may not acknowledge the abuse ever happened, may blame the survivor for not “ getting over it” or “moving on”, or may even tell this person that the abuse was “their fault”. This only adds to the betrayal, shame, and deep pain that these survivors already may feel.
It is never a child’s fault for abuse, it is never a child’s fault for not disclosing, it is never a child’s fault for trusting an adult, and it is never the child’s responsibility to save themselves. We can educate our children on this crime, aid in prevention, but ultimately it is up to all of us to protect children.
Childhood sexual abuse affects the whole person, mind, body, and spirit. It can crush the individual and lead to more childhood sexual abuse, teen pregnancies, miscarriage, academic issues, drug and alcohol addiction, poor attachments, domestic abuse, working abilities, authority issues, mental and medical health struggles, and more. This is why early detection and prevention are so crucial.
If a child or individual you know comes forward please respond with a loving heart. It is vital that this person have a safe space to tell their stories, get help and support. It is important that these individuals find good, trained professionals that have a background in childhood sexual abuse and trauma. These sexual assaults and rape victims deserve the support they often craved as children. Work with them, love them, and be the person that you would want if you were in crisis. Most of all do not tell them to get over it, suck it up, judge, or push the survivor for information. If a survivor discloses their abuse, you should know that it may have taken a lifetime to get to the point of disclosing. This is crucial as what you say or do will either empower the individual or cause more anguish, harm and betrayal.
Survivors of this crime can find healing. The process of healing can be incredibly difficult, painful, and at times overwhelming but with incredibly hard work and good support, healing does happen. Survivors will never forget the horrible injustices done to them but with good, solid, and loving support they can thrive. Many survivors will have to undo years of trauma, fix the cognitive distortions that originated from the abuse, suffer through flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, nightmares, anxiety, and self-hate. This is why your response will be so vital. A simple response would be “ I am so sorry this happened to you”, “thank you for trusting me with your painful story”, “ how can I help?”, or “ I am struggling with what to say but please know I love you and are here for you”.
Whether you yourself were sexually abused, your partner, your family member, your loved one, or you simply would like more information about our services please feel free to visit our website at www.EmpowerSurvivors.net
EmpowerSurvivors, established in 2014, is a peer-led nonprofit, operating out of Minnesota, that supports survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
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