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Sexual Abuse

A history of being abused sexually is often a root cause of emotional and psychological difficulties later in life. Abuse by a parent or trusted adult can lead to severe issues with:

Blocks to Intimacy

Most people who are abused as children manage to function just fine as adults, but maintaining a sense of peace and happiness can be quite challenging. Often, memories will arise most dramatically when people who have been abused begin to form intimate relationships.

Psychological Issues and Sexual Abuse

Since sexual abuse is usually committed not by a stranger but by someone but by someone known to and trusted by the child, it brings with it a great sense of confusion, betrayal, and, often, guilt – for having experienced any pleasurable feelings (young victims do not always immediately experience fear or pain during abuse, and may experience moments of pleasure), or for having trusted the abuser or, conversely, for having gotten the person in trouble by revealing the abuse. Abusers often threaten, lie to, or reward their victims, adding yet another layer to the emotional trauma.

Can You Just “Forget” About Sexual Abuse?

Sometimes people get advice – from others, or from their own internal voice – to just “move  on,” “forget the past,” or “let go of negative memories.” Such advice may be well-intended (although, if it comes from the abuser, it may be quite self-serving) but it is not easy to accomplish, and may not be healthful at first. While letting go and practicing forgiveness is a good eventually goal for a survivor of abuse, dealing first with feelings of anger, grief, guilt, anxiety and other painful emotions resulting from the abuse is likely necessary before trying to “move on.”

How Can Therapy Help Childhood Sexual Abuse Issues?

Therapy can help in a number of ways, including increasing insight into the nature of feelings that are arising, clarifying values and choices, helping with anger management and communication skills, uncovering and working through shame, and facilitating emotional catharsis. In situations where symptoms of post traumatic stress are present, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing has been shown to be very effective.

Medical Disorders That Can Result from Sexual Abuse

If memories of abuse are intense and interfere with one’s life in significant ways, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder may be diagnosed. Depression, Anxiety, and some Personality Disorders (particularly if abuse is persistent and severe) are all possible outcomes of physical abuse. Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder) rarely occurs unless there is a history of severe abuse. For children, Oppositional Defiant Disorder and Conduct Disorder sometimes develop in the aftermath of serious abuse.