Frequently Asked Questions
What is childhood sexual abuse?
When you are a child any of the following things are considered sexual abuse. ANY kind of touch on your buttocks or genitalia is abusive. If you are a girl that includes your breast area. It does not need to include penetration. Having those parts of your body rubbed through your clothes is abusive. Being fondled or groped in those body areas in any way is abusive. When someone kisses you and puts his/her tongue in your mouth that is abusive. When someone speaks to you in a graphic, sexual way that is abusive.
Are there other kinds of childhood abuse?
Children who are sexually abused are often exposed to other kinds of abuse as well. They can be physically abused in many ways, such as being hit, kicked, burned, shaken, pushed, and dragged. Emotional and verbal abuse is also prevalent. Examples of emotional and verbal abuse are being mocked, humiliated, put down, yelled at, cursed at, and called names. Neglect is also abusive. Leaving a child alone for long periods of time, not providing safe housing or enough food are all examples of neglectful abuse.
How long does recovery take?
There is no set timetable. Different people recover at different rates. It depends on a variety of things, such as: the severity of the abuse, involvement of mental health issues such as depression and substance abuse addictions, supportiveness of friends and family, and quality/type of treatment that you receive while in recovery.
I didn’t remember many of the details of my abuse until years after it happened. Why is that?
The brain is a powerful thing. It often sequesters memories that it considers dangerous to our wellbeing. We can only cope with so much trauma. When our brain perceives that we are reaching a point of dangerous overload it puts memories away in storage. Usually, years later when our brain perceives that it is safe, those memories come out in small snippets at a time.
What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (commonly known as PTSD) is a mental illness that many survivors of childhood abuse experience. It is characterized by symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, trauma related triggers, self blame for the trauma, inability to experience positive emotions, isolation and social withdrawal, hypervigilance, exaggerated startle response, difficulty concentrating, inability to sleep restfully or at all, and irritability. If an individual experienced abuse over a long period of time as a child they could develop what is referred to as Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This so disrupts a child’s normal development that their capacity to attach to others in healthy ways and their sense of self is markedly disturbed. Recovery from Complex PTSD takes more time and is more complicated than recovery from class PTSD.
I’ve struggled with depression/anxiety/a substance abuse addiction/an eating disorder. Are those related to my abuse?
Yes! Survivors of childhood abuse have a significant risk of developing mood and anxiety disorders because abuse alters the way our brains processes the chemicals that effect mood. Survivors develop substance abuse addictions and eating disorders as they try to self-medicate their PTSD or distract themselves from their emotional pain. If a survivor has any of these problems it is wise to seek treatment for them along with treatment for the child abuse.
Sometimes I feel disconnected from my body, like I’m not really here. What is that?
That is dissociation. A coping technique our brain often uses to handle trauma is to dissociate during the trauma. Dissociation is when our mind separates from our body. Sometimes survivors have memories of watching what is happening to them from a distance. Others have no memory of what happens when they dissociated. Once our brain learns to dissociate during the abuse it often turns to dissociation as a coping technique throughout a survivor’s life. Every time something distressing happens the survivor is at risk of dissociating.
Every time I smell a particular scent or hear a particular sound I have memories of my abuse and feel very upset. Why is that?
Those are what we call triggers. Our brain associates certain smells, behaviors, sounds and sights with memories of our abuse. For example, the scent of a particular after shave might remind us of our abuser because he always wore that after shave. Seeing a man sitting with a small girl on his lap might remind us of how our abuser would touch us when we sat on his lap. When we experience these familiar events it brings back memories and feelings associated with the abuse. As part of your treatment it’s important to identify your triggers and learn how to cope with them when you encounter them.
Do I need to remember all of my abuse to recover?
You will hear varying responses about this in the trauma recovery professional community. Some believe yes, this needs to happen. Others believe that isn’t necessary. Each of us is different and our recovery needs are different. We firmly believe that once you are well into your recovery journey you will be able to answer this question for yourself in regards to what is best for you.
Do I have to see a therapist to recover?
No, you don’t have to. Would it help, especially in the first stages of your recovery? Yes, we believe so. But it certainly is not required. We are strong advocates of your being in control of every aspect of your recovery. Childhood abuse takes so much power from us, we are helpless in the hands of our abusers. One of the most powerful things we can do is take control of our recovery. The only time we recommend against this is when you are at danger of hurting yourself or others. At that time someone may need to step in and take control to protect you and others you might harm.
Do I have to take medication to recover?
No, absolutely not. Many survivors go through recovery without taking medication. Many others, though, find it very helpful to manage their symptoms so that they can function well in their recovery. Some survivors have experienced significant alterations in their brain chemistry due to their abuse. In this case anti-depressants and/or anti-anxiety medications are very effective in rebalancing their brain chemistry.
I am in so much emotional pain from my abuse. How can I feel better quickly?
The most significant thing we think you can do when you are in extreme emotional pain is connect with a supportive community of survivors. <– By clicking there and emailing us, you are taking a healthy step towards feeling better now. Simply click here. and remember the words: “I would like to connect with your supportive community of survivors in one of your private/secret Facebook groups or online forums. Follow the easy four step process and feel better now.
A supportive community of survivors who have “been there” can help you quickly come to understand that you are not alone in what you’re enduring.
They can also provide significant support and encouragement. Online communities are often available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week which makes them invaluable during those difficult nights and on weekends when your therapist/helping professional often isn’t available.
Don’t wait click here now.