I hope you will read this with an open mind and respect for me the survivor.
I was 6 years old when the abuse started, and it went on until I was 10, was not a family member but someone whom my family trusted. When this came out my father couldn’t live with the shame so he committed suicide, my mother never recovered and spent the rest of her life in and out of psychiatric hospitals. I didn’t receive any help as it wasn’t around in those days, and only got help about 15 years ago when I came to a crossroads in my life. The person who abused me, was never brought to justice. Talking about the abuse in my family was a big NO NO, so I felt that I was not wanted, not loved and not accepted. This feeling I carried with me all my life I never spoke about my abuse to anyone until I reached out after a failed attempt to end my life:
Child sexual abuse has lifelong effects. Adults who are survivors of often report a feeling of being “stuck”. Their efforts to build and manage their lives often seem fruitless, hollow, or even hopeless. There can be a persistent perception that they are somehow different from others. They commonly report feeling that they are on the outside looking in or believe that they just don’t belong.
Often, these symptoms are a mystery to the sufferers. They may not understand the connection between their childhood situation and their adult experience. Generally, the abuse has either been accepted by the survivor as “normal” or is viewed as something that is better left in the past. In some cases, the abuse may not be remembered. Consequently, the significance of symptoms and problems arising from the abuse is often not recognized.
- Find it difficult to develop or maintain close personal relationships.
- Have a strong desire to live in isolation or to “hide out” from life.
- Endure physical ailments like neck, back, stomach and gynecological problems that persist despite efforts at good self-care.
- Experience feelings of sadness, fear and anger that often seem unmanageable or overwhelming.
- Undergo panics, rages, depressions, sleep disorders, or self-mutilation or have suicidal thoughts.
- Find themselves depending on alcohol, other drugs, or may develop eating disorders to cover feelings of humiliation, shame and low self-esteem.
- Experience problems like low self-esteem, avoidance of sex, promiscuity, or inability to experience orgasms or erections.
- Exhibit signs of trauma like panic attacks, numbing of body areas, and feeling of being disconnected from their bodies.
Some survivors compensate for their feelings of shame or inadequacy by becoming “over-achievers.” They frequently mask their pain or feelings of fragility so successfully that it becomes all the more important to the survivors that others around them do not discover that they are not really who they pretend to be. Having not been given appropriate levels of love, care, or attention when they were their true selves as children, they might feel that they will not be given love, care, and attention if they allow their true selves to be seen as adults
Furthermore, the effects of childhood abuse also tend to recur at important junctions throughout survivors’ lives. Symptoms undisturbed for years may flare as they enter serious romances, consider marriage, or become the parent of a child. Adult survivors may fear the intimacy and responsibility of committed relationships. Caring for children may arouse memories of the survivors’ unmet childhood needs and lead to sadness and/or depression. They may fear that they may abuse children the way they were abused.
Because our culture regards sexual contact between children and adults as taboo, sexual abuse usually takes place in secret and is kept secret. Denial of sexual abuse is much stronger than denial of physical or emotional abuse. Because of the silence surrounding most sexual abuse, children are forced to endure the abuse and it’s effects alone. As adults, survivors often continue to feel alone and isolated. They fear exposing the shame, rage, and hurt connected to their childhood experiences. They tend to blame themselves for the abuse, especially if there was pleasure, comfort, or a sense of caring attached to the incident. They frequently feel ashamed by the fact that they could not stop they abuse. In many instances, adult survivors do not have the words to talk about the sexual abuse. They often do not remember the details but have only a vague feeling of discontent with another family member or friend of the family. Adult survivors frequently report childhood blackouts in which large chunks of time are forgotten. The denial of sexual abuse may cause total blocking of the experience, leaving only an intuitive sense that something wrong has happened
Sexual abuse survivors commonly live with a deep sense of shame. They may blame themselves for the abuse and fear being blamed by others if they ask for help. This self-blame is often exacerbated because it is not experienced as a guilty sense of having done wrong, but as a shameful sense of being wrong.
Survivors deal with the sexual abuse in a variety of ways. They may become over-responsible, believing that they are accountable for everything and must take care of others, often meeting the needs of others before their own. On the other hand, they may act out against others in manipulative or abusive ways, especially if that is the only way they have learned to get their needs met. Moreover, the survivor may have developed self-destructive behaviors (substance abuse, eating disorders, acting out sexually, self-mutilation, etc.) as ways to escape from or as attempts to gain control over the pain that stems from the abuse. Survivors who did not have the resources or opportunities to work through the trauma they experienced are frequently prone to self-hate, self-destructiveness, and feelings of hopelessness.