Part 1 of a 2-part series
Child sexual abuse is a significant problem. In fact, 25 percent of girls and 17 percent of boys are sexually abused before the age of 18. (WCSAP) Child sexual abuse affects people from various backgrounds, races, genders, faiths, and socioeconomic statuses. Children are be abused by parents, stepparents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, neighbors, coaches, babysitters, and teachers.
What is the Impact of Sexual Abuse?
If you have experienced sexual abuse, you will understand that its impact is significant. Sexual abuse can affect your emotions, self-esteem, and capacity for intimacy. It can also affect your sexuality, your parenting, and your family relations. You may be experiencing symptoms that include shame, guilt, sadness, anger, anxiety, and hyper-vigilance. In addition, issues concerning trust and boundaries will arise. These symptoms can significantly impact your daily functioning, yet many survivors of abuse will go for years without speaking out about their abuse.
Why is it Difficult to Speak Up about Sexual Abuse?
Survivors of sexual abuse are easily silenced because speaking out about the abuse can be considered taboo. Sometimes a survivor will be threatened or manipulated into keeping it a secret. Speaking out about abuse could mean the loss of a relationship, one’s security, or even one’s life. For those who have tried to speak out about abuse, it is quite possible that you received a reaction that left you with feelings of guilt, blame, and rejection. This kind of response reinforced the message telling you to keep the secret in hiding. It is quite common for people to adopt certain beliefs, which can make speaking up about your abuse difficult. Some of these beliefs may include:
- They’ll use it against me.
- They won’t believe me.
- My abuser will come and get me.
- I’m the one to blame because it was my fault.
- It doesn’t matter anyway.
Why is it Important to Break the Silence?
Speaking out about sexual abuse is a powerful step in the healing process. Talking about your sexual abuse will help you to:
- Move through the guilt and secrecy that keeps you isolated.
- Move through denial and acknowledge the truth.
- Get the proper help.
- Get in touch with your feelings.
- See your situation through the eyes of a supportive friend.
- Live in the present while retelling the stories of the past.
- Reclaim your voice.
- Join others who are no longer suffering in silence.
- End child sexual abuse by speaking up for others.
- Become a model for other survivors.
Speaking up will help you to feel proud and strong, even if it takes a while.
Who Should I Talk To?
A skilled counselor or support group can provide a safe place in which you can talk about your abuse and share your story. This won’t take a lot of preparation, as these types of settings will be safe and supportive. If you are telling a friend or family member, you may need to do some planning before you start. Make sure you know that the person you are telling is caring and has your best interest in mind. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Does this person care for me?
- Have I been able to safely share my feelings with this person before?
- Do I trust this person?
- Do I usually feel safe with this person?
- Is this person generally comfortable talking about personal issues?
If you answer yes to all of these, you can most likely confide in this person. When you tell someone who loves you and cares about you, that person will react with proper care and skilled support. They will have a non-judgmental and empathetic ear. They should also encourage you and support you in finding an experienced counselor or supportive recovery group.
Christian Counseling Can Help You Heal from Child Sexual Abuse
You deserve to be free from the impact of sexual abuse. For more information on how Christian counseling can help your recovery from sexual abuse, please look out for the following article in this series.