- Psychological Issues
Because of the social stigma that surrounds sexual abuse we do not know exactly how common it is. However, based off of statistics, child abuse articles and reported events it is estimated that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys have experienced some form of sexual abuse by their 18th birthday. Individuals who come into counseling for sexual abuse are often confused whether their experience was sexual abuse. For that reason, a clear definition of sexual abuse is necessary.
Girls and boys who experience sexual abuse feel a wide array of strong emotions including shame, secrecy, fear, disgust, confusion, and self-loathing. All of these emotions are natural, yet these individuals often feel helpless to express their emotions. They are afraid that if they tell anyone they may be misunderstood or blamed for the abuse.
The perpetrator will often use their age, authority, and the victim’s emotional vulnerability to further manipulate the child into thinking their deviant behavior is acceptable. Some molesters may say things like “I will hurt you; I will say you wanted it,” or “If you loved me, you would comply.” The perpetrator may even manipulate the victim enough whereby the victim responds physically and experiences sexual pleasure during the abuse. This can cause confusion for the victim on whether or not it was actually abuse. Hear me loud and clear—if a violation took place based off of the above definition, it is abuse.
People who have experienced sexual abuse typically feel a tremendous amount of shame and embarrassment, especially if the physical abuse has not been worked through in therapy. These hidden feelings can manifest themselves in other interpersonal problems such as promiscuity, low self-esteem, isolation, co-dependency, sexual confusion, a tendency towards unhealthy relationships, perfectionism, drug use, alcoholism, and body image issues.
In sexual abuse counseling all of the above areas are addressed with the utmost compassion, respect, and sensitivity to help the individual towards emotional integration and wholeness resulting in a restored identity and a new perspective on relationships. Help is out there; start by talking to people you trust and speak with a professional counselor in your area who specializes in sexual abuse. Do it for yourself; you are worth it.
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Kelly Johnson is the founding therapist with the Colorado Center for Healing and Change in Aurora, CO. Kelly sees people for a wide variety of issues, but has a special passion for empowering people with a strong sense of self esteem and identity which results in healthier relationships and families.