An Adult Survivor of Childhood Sexual Abuse:
What We Want You to Know About Us
- We grew up feeling very isolated and vulnerable, a feeling that continues into our adult lives.
- Our early development has been interrupted by abuse, which either holds us back or pushes us ahead developmentally.
- Sexual abuse has influenced all parts of our lives. Not dealing with it is like ignoring an open wound. Our communication style, our self-confidence, and our trust levels are affected.
- Putting thoughts and feelings related to our abuse “on the back burner” does not make them go away. The only way out is to go through these emotions and process them.
- Our interest in sexual activity will usually decline while we are dealing with this early trauma. This is because:
- We are working on separating the past from the present.
- Pleasure and pain can sometimes be experienced simultaneously.
- It is important for us to be in control, since control is what we lacked as children.
- Sometimes we need a lot of space. Pressuring us to have sex will only increase our tension.
- We often experience physical discomforts, pains, and disorders that are related to our emotions.
- We often appear to be extremely strong while we are falling apart inside.
- There is nothing wrong with us as survivors — something wrong was DONE to us.
- Sometimes others get impatient with us for not “getting past it” sooner. Remember, we are feeling overwhelmed, and what we need is your patience and support. Right now, it is very important for us to concentrate on the past. We are trying to reorganize our whole outlook on the world; this won’t happen overnight.
- Your support is extremely important to us. Remember; we have been trained to hold things in. We have been trained NOT to tell about the abuse. We did not tell sooner for a variety of reasons: we were fearful about how you would react, what might happen, etc. We have been threatened verbally and/or nonverbally to keep us quiet, and we live with that fear.
- Feeling sorry for us does not really help because we add your pain to our own.
- There are many different kinds of people who are offenders. It does not matter that they are charming or attractive or wealthy. Anybody — from any social class or ethnic background, with any level of education– may be an offender. Sexual abuse is repetitive, so be aware of offenders with whom you have contact. Do not let them continue the cycle of abuse with the next generation of children.
- We might not want or be able to talk with you about our therapy.
- We are afraid we might push you away with all our emotional reactions. You can help by: listening, reassuring us that you are not leaving, not pressuring us, touching (WITH PERMISSION) in a nonsexual way.
- Our therapy does not break up relationships – it sometimes causes them to change as we change. Therapy often brings issues to the surface that were already present.
- Grieving is a part of our healing process as we say goodbye to parts of ourselves.
From Triumph over Darkness by Wendy Ann Wood, M.A.
© Wendy Ann Wood 1993