Overcoming Long-Lasting Impacts Of Childhood Sexual Abuse

I was sexually abused as a child. My mom did not believe me.

Activist Tarana Burke discovered the #MeToo movement in 2006. It started to go viral in 2017 as courageous women came forward to share their experiences with sexual abuse and assault. Click here to see the timeline of events.

Many female survivors came forward sharing about the long-lasting impacts from the sexual abuse/sexual assault they endured.

The sleepless nights from nightmares. The anxiety and panic attacks they experienced throughout the day. The constant overwhelm of worry that their abuser may find them.

For years these women lived in fear, always looking over their back shoulder and sometimes even getting money as a write-off.

They never really felt like they were living.

As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I have also felt this way. Much like the survivors who came forward in solidarity, I found the long-lasting impacts of childhood sexual abuse overwhelming, daunting and soul sucking.

While well-known government officials, politicians, influencers, coaches, high ranking CEOs, medical specialists, and religious organizations started to get convicted for the misconduct of women and girls.

Female survivors having to live with the long-lasting impacts of the abuse did not think the sentencing of the perpetrator was enough.

As survivors of sexual abuse and assault our lives has been turned upside down. I get it. Many of us are tired of being mistreated and misused. We are tired of feeling this way.

Throughout my journey of healing and recovery, my experience working in Child Welfare and now owning my own business helping women with their own healing I have worked with childhood sexual abuse in several different capacities.

This article will help you:

  1. To walk through step by step tools and techniques that teach you how to overcome the long-lasting symptoms of sexual abuse/assault
  2. To recognize the misconceptions when it comes to reporting childhood sexual abuse.
  3. To help raise awareness for parents to talk to their children about body safety by addressing the proper terminology of body parts.

For years survivors of sexual abuse and assault have been left to experience severe psychological impacts such as:

  • Fear
  • Nightmares
  • Dissociation
  • Flashbacks
  • Addiction
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Self-harm
  • Feeling dirty all the time
  • Unhealthy relationships
  • Isolation
  • Suicide thoughts and attempts
  • Death

The list goes on.

For minors who have experienced childhood sexual abuse, these symptoms often begin even earlier. Judith A. Cohen, M.D., Esther Deblinger, M.D., Anthony P. Mannarino, Ph.D., and Robert Steer Ed.D. did a study about children who experienced childhood sexual abuse entitled “A Multi-Site, Randomized Controlled Trial for Children With Abuse-Related PTSD Symptoms”

The study included 229 8–14 year olds. 89% of the children in the study had symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

I also experienced many of these symptoms. Living with the psychological toll of sexual abuse/sexual assault can be extremely challenging.

I was a Social Worker, working in Child Welfare at the time I was experiencing many of the psychological symptoms. I had:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Flashbacks
  • Thoughts of suicide.

I was in denial that these symptoms were related to PTSD.

Sometimes female survivors live for decades being unaware or in denial that these symptoms are signs they experienced historical childhood sexual abuse. They may not even feel that it is worth coming forward. They are often worried they will not be believed.

Given the length of the sentence an offender can receive can sometimes seem like a write-off. Often after the initial investigation is complete they may not even get convicted. Survivors are left re-traumatized.

That happened to me.

I reported my Uncle to the police in my late 20s. I felt traumatized having to tell the abuse over and over again. The investigator concluded that there was not enough factual evidence and decided to close the case.

The process of reporting child sexual abuse as an adult vs. a child is a bit different. During the time I worked in Child Welfare, I did several joint forensic interviews/child abuse investigations with detectives. According to Children’s National Alliance, Childhood Sexual Abuse is the most commonly reported type of abuse.

For a child’s account of sexual abuse to be considered true, the forensic interview needs to be comprehendible, have a timeline, replayed action, and enough clarification throughout to carry forward an investigation.

The human brain becomes fully developed at 25 years old. In the early stages of childhood, we process events out of the emotional side of the brain. When a child experiences a repetitive amount of trauma, their brain can become overstimulated. Overstimulation can impact the child’s response to the event.

Children will then create their own survival and coping skills. These are often carried into adulthood. Common coping skills among children who experience sexual abuse include dissociation and memory repression.

This can be problematic when it comes to reporting childhood abuse. I cannot explain to you countless joint forensic interviews I have done were the child does not know the proper name of their private parts. W get words such as “cookie” or “bird”. Hence why we often need clarification when it comes to deciding if the account is variable or not.

It is never to early to start talking to your child about body safety. Jayneen Sanders has written an excellent article in HuffPost that talks more in depth about this. We talk to our children very early on about “stranger danger” but forget to leave out or turn a blind eye to the fact that perpetrators can be family or those close to the family.

I was 4 1/2 when my Uncle started to groom me. The abuse lasted on and off until I was 8. I was never taught about body safety, good touches, bad touches anything like that. I was confused about what was happening but went along with it anyway. I was more afraid of what would happen if anyone found out more than anything.

My Uncle would say the following threats to me:

“You and I will go to jail if you tell.”

“I will kill and hurt your family.”

“Your Mom would never believe you. Besides, you do not want to see her hurt.”

He would then proceed to tell me how he would kill my family or what prison would be like. Or all the reasons why my Mom would not believe me even if I told. And he was right. I attempted to tell her at different times and did not have the proper words to explain what was happening. I ended up repressing the memories and not coming forward until I was in my late 20s.

I did not report my childhood sexual abuse until I was 27. I ended up spending the majority of my 20s going through countless hours of therapy and personal development work. Sometimes I found myself going multiple times a week. My coping skills sucked. I had severe trust issues and major codependency issues.

Coming forward to report childhood sexual abuse as an adult takes a lot of bravery and courage. It is also very complex.

It took the detective 6 months to carry out the initial investigation. I spent 6 months on edge, being unbelieved and not support my family.

My mother told me I had false memories.

The detective decided there was not enough evidence to charge my Uncle. She ended up closing my case.

I felt re-traumatized, unbelieved, ashamed, vulnerable, and raw. My suicidal thoughts and panic attacks started to increase. I wound up as an inpatient in a mental health facility for a month.

I consider myself be lucky and have gotten the support I needed. I did, however, end up getting diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder.

I spend time over the last little while taking care of my mental health. I attended therapy. I practiced mindset work and engaged in different healing modalities. I found that a combination of community, mindset, spirituality, therapy, and journaling helped give me to drive to move forward in my recovery.

Meditating

  • Meditation has helped me connect back to my body. For female survivors of sexual abuse, many of us find this so hard to do.
  • Guided meditations are super helpful for this.
  • Try putting a hand on your heart and your stomach. This helps you connect deeper to your breaths!
  • You can use YouTube, or Apps like Calm, Headspace, and Zen.

Guided journaling.

  • Guided journaling is so helpful when it comes to clearing your thoughts and mind.
  • It is a great way to process feelings by putting them into words.
  • Your journaling does not have to be positive.
  • Guided Journaling questions: What are you angry about? What would you say to the person who is upsetting you? How do you think your thoughts are stopping from getting what you want?

The belief “we are the co-creators of our reality”.

  • This belief has helped me to take charge of my own life.
  • It has given me the motivational power to change the outcome of things.
  • It has helped me to see how our thoughts and our feelings contribute to the present day.
  • Due to this belief, I feel more inclined to take action and work on my wellbeing.

Intuitive development.

  • Connecting to my intuition has taught me to develop a deeper trust in myself
  • Having a lack of trust in themself and others is a common symptom of female survivors of sexual abuse tend to have.
  • By taking intuitive development class, it taught me to learn to listen to myself.
  • I also learned how to ground and connected back to myself and energy.

Women circles and full moon rituals.

  • Another lesson I learned through healing is the power of a community.
  • Being surrounded by supportive women helps to increase your confidence and self-esteem.
  • It has given me a chance to focus on my energy and connect more to my body.
  • Moon rituals are such a fun way to get familiar with your mood and energy. They are great for setting intentions and doing releasing rituals.

Reframe the way you think.

  • Moon rituals are such a fun way to get familiar with your mood and energy. They are great for setting intentions and doing releasing rituals.
  • Mindset work has honestly changed the way I think.
  • When we doubt ourselves and feel that we are not good enough, we do not realize that we live in a very limiting mindset.
  • For female survivors of sexual abuse, we play it safe. We doubt ourselves and our potential at one end. At the other end, we can take risky behavior.
  • By reframing the way we think, we begin to reprogram our minds so that we can open up a new reality.

Remember to full your cup first.

If you find you are always giving to others and not to yourself it may be time to start working on developing some personal boundaries. Sometimes we have a hard time saying no to others. It is easier to say yes to avoid the conflict and make the other person happy.

You are giving your power away by doing this!

To start establishing your personal boundaries, start by giving back to yourself first.

Spend some time doing self care and connecting back to what you love.

Sometimes amongst the aftermath of the trauma, we lose sight of who we are and what we love. Many female survivors struggle with connecting back to themselves and allowing themselves the time to do what they love.

Here are some ways that you can incorporate self-care into your life:

Going outside or for a walk
Saying affirmations
Seeing a therapist
Working with a life coach
Reading a book
Painting your nails
Working out/exercise
Drinking enough water
Getting enough sleep
Nourishing your body
Hygiene care
Meditation
Journaling
Listening to a podcast
Socializing — going to a meetup, social event or group program
Getting together with friends or family (ones who are supportive of you)
Having a positive support system and asking for help at times
Being creative
Show kindness
Write yourself love notes
Be grateful
Do something that brings you joy
Take a break from social media
Take a class or program or course
Try something new
Sleep in
Treat yourself
Make time for yourself
Take a mental health day if needed

It is okay to not be okay at times. Recovery is not measured by a straight line.

To this day, the memories still tend to haunt me, they still impact me.

I have good days and bad days. We all do. We are human. That’s okay. When you find the bad days overpowering the good days it may be beneficial for you to reach out and get some support.

Overtime I had to relearn how to listen to my body. Overtime I had to relearn how to trust myself. Overtime I had to relearn how to connect back to myself. Recovery takes time and does not happen overnight.

My heart hurts for the female survivors out there who have not yet gotten the support they need. My heart hurts for the ones who are afraid to come forward. My heart hurts the women who have been disbelieved.

Childhood sexual abuse is happening right in front of us. It’s been happening for generations by those who often misuse their power. While the #MeToo has made some gains to bring justice and awareness there are still many who just cover it, who just deny it.

Why is it that as a society we would just rather turn a blind eye to it?

Entrepreneur & Freelance Writer. Owner of Julia Frances, helping women to heal, grow, and expand their intuition.

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