If you have been sexually abused in your childhood or as a grown-up, it can affect your life in many different ways. Many require psychological treatments to be able to feel good again. Sometimes all you need is counseling and sometimes you need several years of different treatments to heal all wounds.
No one knows how you will react. It depends on how old you were when it happened, how many times it happened, who assaulted or assaults you, how threatening it was and how your overall life situation is.
When you have been exposed to sexual abuse, rape or domestic violence, your boundaries have been violated. The person who assaulted you is often someone close to you, someone that you once trusted. In this case, you have also been a victim to a trust crime. This can be scary and even make you fear for your life. Sometimes you get physical scars, and sometimes there’s nothing to tell that anything has happened. Sometimes someone saw and helped, and sometimes, someone saw and didn’t help. The circumstances differ as often as the number of assaults.
But almost everyone feels and experiences certain things at some point. When your boundaries have been violated or the people you trust let you down, it can create insecurity, sadness and rage, or a paralyzing frustration. It’s also common to feel ashamed of yourself. That feeling often makes it harder to talk about what has happened. But telling someone usually makes this feeling dissipate and the shame goes where it belongs – with the one who assaulted you. It’s never your fault that you have been sexually abused.
The experience of the assault often remains in the body – thoughts, feelings, someone’s touch or different types of movement can evoke discomfort and difficult feelings. If the incident was frightening, the memory is often stored in the body and the brain in a way that makes it feel like the incident repeats itself over and over again. Images and feelings can suddenly pop up in your memory when you least expect it, without you understanding why. This is called PTSD – post-traumatic stress disorder. Nowadays, there are very effective treatments to help those with PTSD.
Sometimes the incidents can be so painful that you protect yourself by pretending it didn’t happen, or by shutting off emotions or memories in different ways. This is called dissociation, and it’s a common and effective defense if you were abused as a child. As the time goes on, this defense can make your everyday life difficult in many different ways. Some develop DID – dissociative identity disorder, which is the most extreme of the dissociative disorders. There are treatments for this as well.
Other common symptoms
It’s common to experience chronic pains in the body after sexual abuse and domestic violence. It’s also normal to feel low or have anxiety attacks. Many people become depressed, feel constantly exhausted, can’t sleep or have a hard time concentrating.
Sometimes you are injured in your anal muscles or you have pain after fractures. It’s important that you tell someone about the symptoms you have so you can receive the right help.
Signs of sexual abuse in children
Children always feel bad having been subjected to sexual abuse and violence, and without help they risk getting deep wounds that continue to inflict pain throughout life. Children show that they feel bad in many different ways, which is why it’s almost impossible to point out any particular symptoms that indicate sexual abuse or violence specifically.
If you notice that a child around you isn’t feeling well, take the time to listen and show that you are interested. Don’t be afraid to ask if there is something that the child wants to tell you about, or if there is something that the child is afraid of. Even if you won’t find out what’s going on, the child knows that someone cares. And that makes a big difference to a vulnerable child.
If you discover physical injuries they should always be taken seriously. It can be bruises on the body or damage of the skin and genital organs, sexually transmitted diseases, bleeding or discharge from the vagina or anus. Then a doctor should always examine the child and all findings should be documented, regardless if the child has said anything or not. It’s important if a police report comes into question at some point in the future. It’s important that someone the child is comfortable with is present during the entire visit to the doctor.
Believe in your gut feeling when you hear or see something. Don’t judge yourself or the one who tells you. But carry the story to someone who can help. You don’t have to give your name if you want to remain anonymous.
During ongoing crime always contact your country’s emergency number!