A lady joked with me recently that she always thought she had some kind of super powers when it came to dealing with sexual abuse. She was molested as a young child for a number of years but somehow managed to keep it together and in fact, did quite well overall. She was very stable, very centered, raised the most awesome kids you’ve ever met, happily married and so on. She always wondered why she seemed able to deal with this when others were struggling so much.
But then something happened that seems to happen to the majority of folks who are survivors. An event in her life triggered all those packed away memories and forced open that door. And like most folks, once that door was opened, it seemed like she couldn’t get all the ‘stuff’ back in to shut it once again.
Sexual abuse / assault of children has some similarities to adult sexual assault. The perpetrator is often a family or friend or acquaintance in the community and is usually someone the child and / or family trusts. Most often, sexual violence against children is hidden from the public’s eye and when a disclosure does come forward, it is viewed with suspicion (who made you say that?!), and anxiety (you don’t want uncle Johnny to go to jail now do you?). Similar to domestic violence, it is an abuse of trust in a relationship and coercion, threats and intimidation can be more common than physical restraints or “beatings”.
44% of victims of sexual violence are under the age of 18.
Child sexual assault will often involve a grooming process where the perpetrator slowly conditions the child the accept their sexual advances without telling others. Part of this process is a level manipulation that convinces victims to remain quiet and not tell others usually due to a combination of feeling responsible, feeling guilty, feeling confused and an underlying threat or uneasiness of ‘bad things happening’.
This lady is now on a quest to find ways to deal with the abuse. No longer a super hero with super powers, she recognizes that she needs to figure out how to deal with the flashbacks, the memories, the emotional and physical pain of being a victim so that it doesn’t interfere with her life. Like many adult survivors in her shoes, as an adult, she needs to find ways to effectively deal with the abuse that are different from what she might have done as a child. In this particular case, that involves finding her voice and using it in a way that is her choice.