Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse | Orlando Sexual Abuse Counseling
Do you struggle with shame over memories of sexual encounters or embraces that felt imposed on you? Do you hesitate to label yourself as a victim because on some level you feel as though you might have been too willing a participant? Do you find yourself avoiding memories and feeling sick at the thought of the person who touched you? Are you struggling in your life with a guilt and hurt that manifests itself in challenges you face in your most intimate relationships?
Survivors of childhood sexual abuse do not always consider themselves to have been sexually abused. In fact, many victims of sexual abuse do not seek help because secretly they believe that they somehow invited or asked for the unwanted sexual attention. The survivor of sexual abuse may feel ashamed that they had a bodily response of pleasure and feel that this response discredits them from being able to feel as though they were a victim. Often, the perpetrator has groomed the victim in such a way that the shame and fear they feel is overwhelming. Men and women who have been sexually abused as children may grow up to question their sexuality and spend a lifetime trying to reverse, cover over, protect themselves from or re-create the shame they feel over the abuse. Even when the abuse becomes a faded memory, the effects of rage, fear, and confusion over the abuse continue to have power over the victims of childhood sexual abuse.
Dr. Dan Allendar, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, author, counselor, professor, and speaker, says “At times, I wonder if every person in the world, male and female, young and old, has been sexually abused….for so many (of my clients) a history of sexual abuse lingers like a chronic toothache, so familiar that it is no longer recognized, dulling the senses but not interfering with the capacity to perform routine tasks of life.” (Allendar – The Wounded Heart, pg. 43)
Adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse understandably go through quite a lot during their life as adults. There are resources for those who are bold enough to seek help and support for their wounds, but many survivors suffer in silence and experience a deep shame that impacts how they are able to manage life and relationships. Sexual abuse survivors may struggle in these and other areas:
- Low self-esteem and sense of worth
- Intense feelings of shame and guilt
- Compulsion to bond with people who betray and mistreat them
- Depression which may result to complications if left unmanaged
- Issues of trust that lead to an overpowering need to control
- Body Image issues and physiological symptoms
- Challenges with sex, including extremes ranging from sexual anorexia to promiscuity
- Struggle with intimate relationships, including marriage and friendship
It is quite common that the shame that adult survivors experience compels them to figure out a means to escape their pain. Survivors may embrace destructive coping patterns to cut short depression that results from their childhood abuse. Addiction, self-harm, and grief may be familiar cycles the abused will turn to when the pain gets to be too much. While these may provide some temporary relief, it is short lived.
RAINN – The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network posts the following current statistics (www.rainn.org):
- 44% of victims are under age 18.
- 80% of victims are under the age of 30.
- Every 107 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted.
- Each year, there are about 293,000 victims of sexual assault.
- 68% of sexual assaults are not reported to police.
- 98% of rapists will never spend a day in jail or prison
- Approximately 4/5 of assaults are committed by someone known to the victim
- 47% of rapists are a friend or acquaintance
The National Center for Victims of Crime posts the following current statistics about childhood sexual abuse (victimsofcrime.org):
- 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse
- Self report studies show that 20% of adult females and 5-10% of adult males recall a childhood sexual assault or sexual abuse incident
- During a one year period in the US, 16% of youth ages 14 to 17 have been sexually victimized
- Over the course of their lifetime, 28% of US youth ages 14 to 17 have been sexually victimized
- Children are most vulnerable to childhood sexual abuse between the ages of 7 and 13
Victims of sexual abuse face a complex battle for healing, but there is help and hope and support. Life Counseling Solutions offers both individual and group counseling for the adult victims of childhood sexual abuse. If you suspect that you may be suffering in your life because of the trauma of childhood sexual abuse, know that you do not have to face your shame alone. Call Life Counseling Solutions today so that our trained and supportive counselors can help you on your journey to healing and your freedom from shame.