I want to start by saying that any kind of sexual abuse is NEVER the survivor’s fault. There is no excuse for it and there are no “factors” that play a part. Childhood sexual abuse is a crime, plain and simple. Only, for the survivor’s, it’s not plain or simple.
It is something that has the potential to continuously shape people and haunt them well into adulthood. It can take over people’s whole lives and there is no shame in that. It doesn’t mean they have “won.” It simply means that you’re struggling to cope.
Nobody wants it to take over their lives, but changing the way you think about something that happened so long ago can be hard. The behaviours and coping mechanisms you’ve put in place are so deeply ingrained that the idea of changing them is enough to worry you.
There Are Things You Have To Accept And Grieve
You were robbed of your innocence and of your childhood. Your trust in certain people was destroyed at a time when you should be able to trust everyone you meet. It doesn’t matter how long ago these things happened. You need to be able to express your feelings about having been robbed of these things.
Don’t Bury Your Emotions
I know it’s easy to say, but it’s the worst possible thing you could do. Trying to suppress or ignore your emotions can lead to them intensifying. There’s no point in trying to fight the way you feel about anything. It’s the same principle as if someone told you not to focus on your breathing. It suddenly becomes the only thing that you can think about. Suppressing your emotions can also put your physical health at risk. It can lead to blood pressure problems and memory loss.
You Don’t Always Need To Be On Your Guard
But it feels like you do. You feel unable to let your guard down around certain people for fear that you’ll get hurt again. Try to find someone you feel comfortable enough with to just be yourself around. It doesn’t have to be a romantic partner. It can just be a close friend. Having someone you can be yourself with will do wonders for your self esteem and general confidence levels. It will also remind you that not everyone is going to hurt you.It’s horrible, feeling as though you have to be on your guard all the time. But it’s a kind of fear and anxiety that make you feel this way. Both of these feelings are totally normal after what happened. What you experienced was a trauma and fear and anxiety are perfectly normal responses to trauma. And it’s also completely normal for those feelings to last for many years.
People assume pictures, videos and words are the only things that can “trigger” someone who experienced trauma. But unfortunately it’s more far-reaching than that. The simplest of things can often act as a “trigger.” Smells, sounds, the feel of something (like a material) or even something as simple as a colour can trigger memories of the event(s). And sometimes these triggers can’t be avoided. For example, if the abuse happened in a car, the survivor would not be able to avoid cars for the rest of their lives.In these cases behavioural therapy is needed to change the association of these triggers and remodel them into something less negative.
Toxic Family Members
If the abuser was a family member and you’ve cut them out of your life, then well done. But the chances are at least one person has played the family card. “But she’s your aunt,” “he’s your dad.” None of that matters. What matters is what they did and who they are. You’re under no obligation to speak to them again as long as you live. And if people try to pressure you into forming a relationship with them again, then I would cut them out of your life too. They clearly don’t understand the devastating impact it had on you. And they’re not even concerned that the abuser committed a hideous crime. Those aren’t people you want or need in your life.
Counselling Or Therapy
It’s something I would always recommend for anyone who experienced childhood sexual abuse. It’s such a huge amount to process that sometimes you need help and there’s nothing wrong with that. If you’re looking for counselling or therapy, then there are resources available online. You will be able to find available help in your area.