Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Why Childhood Sexual Abuse is so thoroughly traumatising

*Trigger Warning*

Sexual abuse/ assault at any age in incredibly traumatising and some of these points are definitely interchangeable with adult sexual abuse; the post however focuses on the experience of children due to my professional and personal insight on the matter and determination to bring awareness to this horrific crime. 

  • Violation of your body: of-course one of the most difficult things about sexual abuse is having your personal body violated by someone without your consent. It's difficult to put this feeling into words but I feel ‘violation’ is pretty adequate. As a child, to begin with it may not feel like a violation due to the lack of understanding of appropriate physical boundaries. This being said, survivors report a moment of realisation or period whereby this understanding develops. Understandably, this is linked with feelings of disgust and shame. 
  • Feeling unsafe: Many cases of childhood sexual abuse occur with someone known to the family. Predators will make attempts to befriend and groom both the family and the child in order to gain access to the child without being found out. With this, abusers can become trusted members of the family which makes it even more confusing and traumatic if this trust is abused. Furthermore, it makes it more difficult to reach out for help/ share what is happening with a trusted person due to fear of not being believed. 

  • The 'secret': It's common for children to be asked to keep the event a secret for obvious reasons. Even if it's not said out loud it's insinuated and often, this comes with threats. As children, caregivers/ parents/ adults support us to make sense of the world and our experiences; carrying such a scary, confusing and unpleasant experience alone without an adult to help you make sense of it impacts the ability to function and develop as a child. Worry and stress about threats made to your family on top of this will make it incredibly hard for a child to cope. 

  • Lack of trust with your body: As a child, the physical body may not have yet reached puberty and typically has not reached a stage of development whereby sexual/ intimate acts are appropriate or desired. This being said, the body responds how the body responds and such responses are not always in our control; thus, experiencing physical changes and responses that are not understood, expected or wanted can be incredibly disconcerting and create a sense of distrust with your body. 

  • Skewed views on sexual relationships: Naturally, sexual abuse does not follow the usual social constructs that are involved in sexual relationships. As we grow and develop, so do our instincts and desires and with this, young adults begin to form relationships and explore the physical act of sex in a healthy way. Abusive relationships often do not fit this construct and include an abuse of power (such as being older, bigger), which introduces sex to an individual in an imbalanced manor.  These misconceptions may continue into adult sexual relationships. Alternatively, some victims report difficulty enjoying or engaging in sexual acts following CSA due to feelings of disgust, reliving elements of the abuse or genital pain when engaging in the act. 

I recognise that this post is deep, disturbing and likely difficult to read however I believe it important to cover such uncomfortable topics so as to make people aware of the adverse effects of such abuse. The psychological and physical impacts of childhood abuse can be long standing, continue way into adulthood and can impact one's ability to to maintain mental health, interpersonal relationships and quality lives. The more we talk about it hopefully the easier it is to spot, prevent and reduce instances of it happening. 

If this post has been triggering for you, please engage in a relaxing or pleasant activity to take care of yourself or reach out for help if needed x

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2 comments

  1. Awesome post. Such an important topic. Love the secret aspect. Not a fan of using the acronym CSA - not everyone is a professional reading this, and I think people who aren't used to the acronym, but more have just suffered from going through it, may find it hard reading their experience defined with 3 letters. Wonder if the following are also relevant - maybe this is just my view though - but feel its important to say anyway:
    1) impact on development of sexual identity! E.g. who am I sexually, what do I want or like, how do I figure out if my current desires are mine or influenced by these events that I didn't consent to.
    2) how trusted family and friends respond to the abuse if they know - do they call it out? Do they show emption about it? DO they ignore jt? So many people do not know how to act in this situation. Sometimes it might blow a family apart. These consequences are extremely hard to deal with for anyone, let alone someone who has experienced sexual abuse as a child.

    Interested to hear your views :)

    Thanks for a great post, this has affected my family (not myself) but just think god if only there was more guidance and conversation about It.

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    Replies
    1. You make brilliant points and yes, I am probably too used to using acronyms due to my professional work!
      The impact on the wider family and how they respond to such incidents is a very significant also i can't believe i didn't think of that. I think it's difficult as for some its triggering, for others hard to understand/ possibly believe and i imagine many individuals would not know how to respond - possibly some may ignore the situation due to the uncomfortable feelings it brings up for them!
      I think whats important is minimising shame for victims, providing emotional support and practical support i.e. legal reporting and doing whatever is needed to make that child feel safe! Safety is key for recovery.
      Perhaps will do a full post on this specific aspect in the future.
      Thank you so much for your feedback! :) Mayowa xx

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