Abuse & Sexual Violence

The legacy of abuse and sexual violence can be devastating, and often makes itself felt years after the abuse itself has stopped. If you're wondering whether something that happened such a long time ago could be the cause of problems you're experiencing now, you could be right. If someone else has suggested this to you, it can be very hard to accept, but they too could be right.

Looking at the issue of child sexual abuse is never easy. Even though we know it happens, most people would prefer not to think about it. If you were sexually abused yourself, you may be only too aware of this. You've probably already come across people who didn't want to know, didn't understand, or didn't believe your experiences. But things have changed. Nowadays it is possible to find people to talk to about it, and to find help and support to resolve its effects on you.

People, both male and female, who have been raped or abused during childhood, can lose all sense of self-worth. They may refuse to believe that anyone will love them no matter what they are told and however much others may value them.

Some find it difficult to take care of themselves and often hate their own bodies.

Some adults who were abused as children go for years, even their whole lives, without telling anyone about what happened to them. As a child they may have been threatened with frightening consequences if they did speak out, and even now, as adults, they still believe they would only be condemned or accused of lying and then rejected.

Fear, shame, blame and guilt plague all those who have experienced childhood abuse. Those who have suffered rape and sexual abuse may also feel dirty and ruined; and often sabotage any happiness in their lives because deep inside they feel unworthy. Sadly it is those same feelings of worthlessness that can prevent them from coming forward for help ~ for they feel they don't deserve to be happy.

Others that were abused needed to suppress and block out the memories to survive. They are often left with painful feelings and unwanted behaviours that they can't explain, and for these, a particular life event, like having a child or losing a loved one, can spark a flashback from their past. Sometimes childhood abuse is discovered when the adult survivor seeks help for another, seemingly unrelated problem.

The ways that a child develops to survive abuse can subsequently be destructive in their adult lives. Not feeling anything is one way of surviving abuse, but there comes a time when a person wants to feel - to feel joy, love, and anger - to live. Acting and pretending that everything is fine, wearing a 'mask' of normality, is another survival technique. This may work well as a child, but in later life it can become too much of a strain. Many victims of rape and childhood abuse will try    everything else, and only when it is unavoidable, will they consider dealing with their mistreatment. It is a  difficult and brave step. For people who already feel so isolated and mismatched in life, it's easy for them to think: "Yes, but it won't be able to help me".

This is tragic because a great deal of help is available now.