Now available on Amazon "Searching For Sunny Skies" by Mary M Beckman
First of all it is important for you to know that you are not alone! Ask yourself the following questions:
How am I doing in life?
Am I comfortable in my relationships?
Do I have the skills and tools I need to live the life I want?
Do I have people I can trust to go to when I have problems or just want to share what is going on in my life?
If you are feeling content with where you are in life, then you are in a good spot.
If you are feeling that you are not content in life and that you would like to have changes in your life, then you can choose to take steps to move toward that change.
This is very common among those who have been sexually abused. For some, shame about the experience kept the secret in. For others the abuser told the abused not to tell anyone as it was ‘their secret’, or the abuser threatened to harm an family member if the abused told anyone.
It is never too late to tell someone about what happened to you as a child. Just make sure that someone you tell is a safe person who you can trust.
Many persons who have been sexually abused think it was their fault. Some because they were told it was their fault. Others couldn’t figure out why it was happening to them and decided it must be their fault. The truth is that the sexual abuse was a decision made by the abuser to harm you - no matter what the details were.
Some children who were abused often told their parent that a person who the parent knew was touching them in a way that was hurtful or yucky. The parent may have not wanted to believe that it might have happened and told the child that it couldn’t have happened or that the child must have been making up stories or dreamed it. This only adds confusion for the abused child.
What you can do now is to know that what happened to you really did happen to you and that it doesn't matter if your parents didn't believe you.
Being in a constant state of fear is one of the results of being abused. Understanding where the fear originated helps to break down the power of fear in everyday life. A lot of fear is based on what happened in the past and perceived lack of control in one’s life.
At times people who were sexually abused as a child often think they weren’t affected by the experience. Minimizing what happened so that the presumed ‘thing that happened in the past stays in the past.’ On a timeline that might be true, however a part of the brain that stores memory has no sense of time and it is that part of the brain that holds on to possibly reliving the event.
Many who have been sexually abused as children experience a memory of the abuse later on as adults because of a ‘trigger’. This could be a sight, smell, sound, touch or taste of something that was part of the abuse. It is the brain’s way of separating the intensity of the abuse into different areas of the brain for survival. Flashbacks can happen and feel as if the event is happening in real time. Flashbacks can happen for any type of trauma that affected a person on a very intense emotional level.
Some adults have a sense or suspicion that they might have been sexually abused as a young child but can’t remember. They have behaviors that seem to match those who have experienced sexual abuse and remember it. In that instance reading ‘The Courage to Heal’ is a good starting point. There is a section in there that addresses this topic. Inner emotional healing can still happen even when there is no specific incident to address.
Not thinking about the past sexual abuse is okay for living and getting through the day as long as the resulting behaviors that were developed for coping with the abuse as a child are not interfering with adult life and relationships. If, however, those coping behaviors are more of a problem than help, it might be time to explore how to change those behaviors to healthier ones.
It really is up to you as to whether you should report it. If your desire is to make sure your abuser stops abusing others, then reporting it to the authorities can be an appropriate action. It can be done anonymously quite often if you don’t want your name associated with the report, however, if the desired outcome is to put the abuser in a place where the abuser can no longer abuse others, you may need to have your name associated with the report. Too often a person who abuses one child abuses many children. You may not be the only one abused by your abuser.
You do not ‘have’ to forgive our abuser. Often times a person who is on the path of healing from sexual abuse is told that they need to forgive their abuser. When the abused person first hears this, anger is a typical feeling because forgiveness means giving the abuser a ‘pass’. This is due to confusing forgiveness with no need for consequence. To clarify this a bit, it helps to remember that forgiveness is a mechanism to help the abused person let go of bitterness being held in. Holding onto bitterness and anger tends to cause further mental anxiety and physical problems. Forgiveness does not mean the abuser is ‘set free’ from consequence. Forgiveness does mean the abused is ‘set free’ from holding onto need for anger at abuser. Forgiveness is letting God or Higher Power take care of judgement.
Help is available in a number of ways. Just as the abuse was done to a child by an adult, the child as an adult can get help by another adult. Others who have gone through healing can help in a support group. Survivors of Incest Anonymous is one 12 step support group that is centered on those who were sexually abused as children, not only by incest. There are also some other support groups that have a focus on adults abused as children, such as Adult Children of Alcoholics Anonymous or Codependents Anonymous.
Therapists – good psychotherapists – can provide assistance in the healing process.