Child sexual abuse involves another person (adult, sibling, peer) who forces or coerces a child into sexual activity. This activity may include fondling of a child’s genitals, masturbation, oral-genital contact, digital penetration, vaginal and anal intercourse. It’s important to note that child sexual abuse is not restricted to physical contact – it may include exposure, voyeurism, and child pornography. Children who are sexually abused have a strikingly different developmental course than children who have not been abused. If left untreated, the scars of childhood sexual abuse will last a lifetime. When the abuse is revisited later in life, post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms may develop.Children who have been the victim of childhood sexual abuse often suffer a wide variety of psychological and behavioral problems that can range from mild to severe. Short term symptoms of childhood sexual abuse may include:
- Fear. The offender may swear the child to secrecy and say that if they tell something bad will happen. Sexual abuse is usually accompanied by coercion, bribery or threats. The child is afraid to tell because of what the consequences might be. e.g. punishment, blame, abandonment or not being believed.
- Helplessness/powerlessness. Children in this situation often feel that they have no control over their own lives or even over their own bodies. They feel that they have no choices available to them.
- Guilt and Shame. The child knows something is wrong and blames him or herself not others. The offender will often encourage the child to feel that the abuse is his or her fault and sometimes s/he will feel that s/he is a "bad" person.
- Responsibility. The offender often makes the child feel responsible for keeping the abuse a secret. Sometimes the child also feels responsible for keeping the family together and the burden of this responsibility interferes with experiencing a normal childhood.
- Isolation. Incest victims feel different from other children. They must usually be secretive. This even isolates them from non-offending parents and brothers and sisters.
- Betrayal. Children feel betrayed because they are dependent upon adults for nurturing and protection and the offender is someone who they should be able to love and trust. They may also feel betrayed by a non-offending parent who they feel has failed to protect them.
- Anger. Not surprisingly this is one of the strongest feelings which many children have about their sexual assault. Children may feel anger against the perpetrator and also against others who they feel failed to protect them.
- Sadness. Children may feel grief due to a sense of loss, especially if the perpetrator was loved and trusted by the child.
- Flashbacks. These can be like nightmares which happen while the child is awake. They are a re-experience of the sexual assault and the child may experience all the feelings a gain which they felt at the time.
These problems continue into adolescence, which is usually when the first symptoms of PTSD emerge. These boys and girls have a younger age of voluntary sexual intercourse compared to same-age peers. In later adolescence, patterns of disturbed sexuality also develop. At this stage, in addition to increasing symptoms of depression and PTSD, pathological levels of dissociative symptoms become apparent. Additional symptoms and effects seen in late adolescence to early adulthood include:
Digestive and gastrointestinal distress
Poor decision-making skills
Inability to concentrate or pay attention
Childhood sexual abuse victims are twice as likely to experience subsequent acts of abuse, rape, physical attacks, and domestic violence. Additionally, these children are four times as likely to engage in self-harm episodes or suicide attempts, and experience 20% more additional lifetime traumas, compared to their peers. Abused women also show a higher rate of teenage pregnancy and motherhood compared to women who were not victims of abuse. The severe consequences of childhood sexual abuse demonstrate the need for early intervention. However, many of these children do not disclose their abuse until adulthood, so few receive treatment until late adolescence or early adulthood. By that time, the symptoms of PTSD, depression, and additional life events have often taken their toll. Many believe that the childhood sexual abuse was their fault; that they deserve to live a life full of suffering. No child is to blame for child sexual abuse. Adults are supposed to protect children from harm, not harm them. Children are taught to do what adults tell them and believe that adults speak the truth. Even when the children begin to understand that the abuse is wrong, they are often dependent on the abuser and cannot escape. When the abuser is not in the home, they often go to great lengths to ensure the child won’t speak out and will continue to participate despite being fearful, hurt and, confused. At Trauma Recovery Institute we use only the most empirically supported trauma treatments to work through the sexual abuse and the presenting symptoms of PTSD that often follows. We provide you with the support, compassion, and skills needed to begin processing your experiences so that you can begin to heal. We work to restore hope and provide you with skills needed to regain control over your life. We’ll guide you through your treatment with compassion and support.
Working through Sexual Abuse at Trauma Recovery Institute
Trauma Recovery Institute offers expertise in complex trauma recovery and unparalleled treatment approach through unique individual and group psychotherapy. We specialise in long-term relational trauma recovery, sexual trauma recovery and early childhood developmental trauma recovery. We also offer specialized group psychotherapy for psychotherapists and psychotherapy students, People struggling with addictions and substance abuse, sexual abuse survivors and people recovering from chronic disease. Trauma recovery Institute offers a very safe supportive space for deep relational work with highly skilled and experienced psychotherapists specialised in complex trauma and accredited with Irish Group Psychotherapy Society (IGPS), which holds the highest accreditation standard in Europe. Trauma Recovery Institute uses a highly structured psychotherapeutic approach called Dynamic Psychosocialsomatic Psychotherapy (DPP) which is a multi discipline holistic approach engaging mind, body, gut and brain. This approach is also used in conjuction with functional health, a suggested plant based diet and lifestyle medicine to heal anxiety and depression, repair the gut and down regulate the nervous system.
Dynamic Psychosocialsomatic Psychotherapy (DPP) at Trauma Recovery Institute Dublin
Dynamic Psychosocialsomatic Psychotherapy (DPP) is a highly structured, once to twice weekly-modified psychodynamic treatment based on the psychoanalytic model of object relations. This approach is also informed by the latest in neuroscience, interpersonal neurobiology and attachment theory. As with traditional psychodynamic psychotherapy relationship takes a central role within the treatment and the exploration of internal relational dyads. Our approach differs in that also central to the treatment is the focus on the transference and countertransference, an awareness of shifting bodily states in the present moment and a focus on the client’s external relationships, emotional life and lifestyle.
Dynamic Psychosocialsomatic Psychotherapy (DPP) is an integrative treatment approach for working with complex trauma, borderline personality organization and dissociation. This treatment approach attempts to address the root causes of trauma-based presentations and fragmentation, seeking to help the client heal early experiences of abandonment, neglect, trauma, and attachment loss, that otherwise tend to play out repetitively and cyclically throughout the lifespan in relationship struggles, illness and addictions. Clients enter a highly structured treatment plan, which is created by client and therapist in the contract setting stage. The Treatment plan is contracted for a fixed period of time and at least one individual or group session weekly.
“Talk therapy alone is not enough to address deep rooted trauma that may be stuck in the body, we need also to engage the body in the therapeutic process and engage ourselves as clients and therapists to a complex interrelational therapeutic dyad, right brain to right brain, limbic system to limbic system in order to address and explore trauma that persists in our bodies as adults and influences our adult relationships, thinking and behaviour.” Trauma Recovery Institute