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A Non-Profit Organization for Child Abuse Survivors Learning to Thrive

Adult Survivors of Child Abuse

Why Survivors of Repeated Traumas Carry So Much Shame & Secretly Blame Themselves

By Marie McCarthy

There are many parallels amongst trauma survivors.  Whether the trauma is sexual assault or domestic violence, which often includes sexual assault, certain aspects, such as, shame and self-hatred permeate the survivor’s experience.

I’m a survivor of multiple violent sexual assaults from the ages of 4 to 13. My perpetrators were strangers and a gang of teens.  I’m 54 years old now and I’m thriving as a healthy adult, an author and a psychotherapist who specializes in trauma recovery.  My memories were repressed until my early forties when they surfaced as drop-to-the-floor, fight-for-my-life, flashbacks!

During my healing from trauma journey, I became aware of hidden shame that caused a devastating self-hatred because my child-self blamed herself for being repeatedly raped.

Little Marie, my child-self, believed if I keep getting hurt by someone, it must have something to do with me.  I must be defective.  I must be causing this or bad things wouldn’t keep happening to me.  Can you relate to this flow of self-destructive thinking?  Can you see how this thinking exacts a sentence of pain and a self-imposed prison that a victim of interpersonal trauma does not deserve?

Did you know shame is the belief that something is wrong with you or that you’re defective in some way?  If I’m defective then it must have been my fault and if it was my fault, then I hate me!  That self-hatred festered and spread like a cancer within me for 40 some years.

I had to get to my self-hatred with the help of therapy and other healing modalities in order to know it was there, and once I looked at it, I realized that I wasn’t to blame.  The men who chose  to commit a crime  and rape me were to blame!  No behavior on my part made my child-self deserve to be raped.  They saw vulnerability and they chose to take advantage of my vulnerability and act out their own deep wounds.  SUCH COWARDS!! 

Perpetrators like domestic abusers and rapists look for someone they know they can overpower and hurt.  It’s not what you were wearing or a word you uttered or the way you set down your plate on the counter.  It’s about how the abuser was feeling inside themselves from their own deep wounds, along with your vulnerability in their presence at that moment.  It wasn’t your fault and it wasn’t mine.  It wasn’t that we were defective or deserved it.  However, what we did choose was to survive by whatever means we needed in order to get through those horrific moments and LIVE.

I say “thank you” for doing what you needed to do in order to survive.  I forgive us for mistakenly believing we were at fault, for hating ourselves, and for living in shame.  May you and your strength to live be blessed with healing peace.

 

My Girlfriend Was Raped. What I Wish I Would Have Said to Her.

By Aaron Anderson

My Girlfriend Was Raped. What I Wish I Would Have Said to Her.

A Gentleman’s Guide to Improving Communication, Healing, and Intimacy

Imagine you are forced upon your stomach and someone is forcing you to do things you never ever wanted to do.

Your power, your will, your autonomy completely stripped from you. If you were powerless to prevent someone from exerting their will upon you, how would you feel? Knowing that the only power you have in this situation is the control of your thoughts, yet your thoughts are scattered and oscillate from moments of the quiet serenity of the smell of your mom’s homemade biscuits and the person who is violently forcing pain upon in spite of your pleas for mercy.

Unfortunately, for far too many women in America, this is a reality.

Sexual assault is a scourge in our society, and as men we have to take a more proactive stance to help those who suffer in this silent hell find peace and healing. It is not the responsibility of the victim of sexual assault to make their partner feel comfortable about their past assault. It is the responsibility of the man to be mindful and engaged in the life of his loved one to help them feel comfortable with sharing their feelings of this living nightmare. There are right ways and wrong ways to talk to your girlfriend about their past sexual assault.

Here is a common example of an ineffective approach…

What NOT to say to your girlfriend about being a victim of this heinous crime

“I had had enough! I had been dating my girlfriend for three months now, and every time I attempted to do something with her sexually she would pull away and have an excuse as to why we could not be intimate. That night something snapped inside and me, and I screamed at her, “What is wrong with you? Why won’t you let me touch you?!” She immediately began sobbing and told me to leave. I left dumbfounded and angry. The next day we met and she told me that the reason that she has problems with sexual intimacy is that five years ago she was raped by a former boyfriend. That really floored me. I was not expecting that at all. We broke up soon after this, and all I could think about was I wish I would have handled that situation differently.”

That story comes from a client I that I used to work with. He was devastated because a relationship he was really invested in ended because of his insensitivity. This is a prime example of the classic male handicap: looking for the seen and concocting solutions rather than listening and seeking the unseen. Yes, I know that there is no way he could’ve read his girlfriend’s mind to know of her past sexual assault, but in this day and age guys have to be aware of the epidemic of rape and sexual assault that pervades this planet. One in five women in the United States will experience sexual assault at some point in their lives. Any male looking to find a life mate to care for in a committed relationship has to be aware of this fact because one in five is an astronomical number. It means that of every five women that you know, at least one of them have been sexually assaulted. So that means that there are more victims of sexual assault in America than there are Beyoncé fans! Fellas, that should be a wakeup call to all of us, and it speaks to the fact that it is imperative that men are aware of the signs that show that your girlfriend might have been sexually assaulted so that you can prevent the disaster that happened to the man at the beginning of this article. There is no definitive list of signs that someone has been sexually assaulted because everyone processes trauma in different ways; however, there are a few signs that manifest often in victims of sexual assault.

Three Signs That Your Girlfriend Might Have Been Sexually Assaulted

  1. Sexual intimacy problems

Women who have been sexually assaulted regularly show a strong aversion toward sexual intimacy with partners. If you have been in a relationship with someone and they avoid sexual contact, you might try to address it in a polite way to see what is causing that. It could be anything from being taught that sex is dirty to having been sexually assaulted. Communication leads to understanding, and understanding leads to intimacy. Most people think that intimacy means sexual intercourse. That assumption is far from the truth. The prerequisite to intercourse is communication and a sense of safety.

SOLUTION: Gentlemen, before you try to be intimate with your girlfriend, focus on communicating with her in a way that fosters open discourse and understanding. Ask gentle questions like:

  • “I feel like you pull away from me when we are being intimate. Why is that?”
  • “I want to be close to you sexually, but I feel like there is a wall between us. Do you feel the same?”

The important thing is to use “I” statements and to not make it seem like it’s her fault, because it absolutely isn’t.

  1. Trust issues

If your girlfriend has a problem letting people get close to her or has a problem trusting people, this could also be a sign of being sexually assaulted in the past. Clearly, this type of trauma has a devastating effect on the psyche and can turn the most trusting individual into someone who cannot believe a word anyone tells them. There is a saying that goes “The trust of the innocent is the liar’s most useful tool.” Keep in mind that the victims of sexual assault were innocent and often trusted someone they felt close to. That creates a deep emotional chasm that is hard to cross.

SOLUTION: If your significant other shows signs of mistrust such as always questioning you or not believing the things you tell them, you should talk to her about it. Try asking questions like:

  • “I feel like you don’t believe me when I said that I was at my mother’s house. Do you?” The important thing is to not be accusatory, because no one likes to be accused.
  • Also you might try, “I feel like I always have to explain myself to you, and that hurts me.” Again, do not be accusatory. It takes time to build trust after a significant violation like this. Try to be reassuring and supportive on a daily basis. Make it your goal to have her trust you emotionally first before you even think about being physical with her.
  1. Overt negativity toward men

Women who have experienced this type of trauma usually have a problem trusting men from that point on. If your girl is always complaining about how bad men are, you should take note. You could one day in a normal everyday conversation talk about how you understand why women don’t trust guys because of infidelity, sexual assault, etc. Let it be an organic conversation though; you don’t want to force this.

SOLUTION: For example, maybe you two are watching a movie or TV show with a rape scene or a guy being violent toward a woman, and you say something like:

  • “It’s understandable why women don’t trust guys because they do things like this, right?”
  • Another option is to just have an open and frank conversation about where her negative thoughts about men stem from.

Remember, a victim of sexual assault is very apprehensive about talking about their past trauma so make sure you are cultivating a relationship built on respect, trust, and love so that your partner will feel secure to talk to you openly about their assault and their life in general.

Sexual assault affects the human brain in deep and profound ways. As a boyfriend, you should strive to build an environment where your girlfriend feels protected so that she can openly share with you and so that you can say things that will spurn her on toward healing so that your relationship can continue to flourish rather than fizzle out. What you say to your girlfriend who has been sexually assaulted can make or break your relationship.

What is the difference between a good boyfriend and a true gentleman (the type of man that every woman pines for)? A good boyfriend shows care and concern for his mate; a true gentleman is an advocate for his lover. He does not seek to avenge the wrong done to his lover. He does not dismiss her thoughts or pain. Rather, he partners with her to be a champion for her to help her heal from the despicable crime of sexual assault.

Gentlemen, I challenge you to be emotional gladiators for your girlfriends and show them that you are there to help them heal so that we can normalize conversations about sexual assault and the victims have an output to step out of the dark into the light.

 

About the author: Aaron resides in Virginia Beach, VA with his wife and two sons. He is an Army Veteran who specialized in Human Resources and continued his education to obtain a master’s degree in Professional Counseling. Currently, he is working to help break the cycle of violence by counseling juvenile sex offenders and at-risk youth. 

 

 

My Healing From Childhood Sexual Abuse

Some surprising ways I have healed from childhood sexual abuse 

You’ve made that first difficult, brave but significant step and told someone about the sexual abuse or rape you have endured. Perhaps you have progressed further and received some therapy. At this point I hope you have come further than you could have ever imagined from those dark hours, days and even years that have consumed more time than you thought possible. Think about that for a moment. No matter where you are in your journey, you have moved forward. You are no longer hiding this dark secret, you have let it go by telling someone. There is a real freedom in that.

Speaking and talking through our experiences helps us to make sense of our feelings. I find speaking to others and sharing my worries a truly empowering experience and I get a lot of solace from it. It hasn’t always been that way though. Keeping silent for six years whilst my stepfather was abusing me took its toll on my verbal communication. When I am particularly stressed or under pressure, I still go into shut down, my powers of communication recede dramatically and I can become insular and silent again, a child once again locked in with my own private dementors.

Having counselling was a lot like pulling teeth at the beginning, but gradually with the encouragement of my counsellor and a lot of hard work from me, I started to realise the benefits of talking things through. The process has helped me to check in with myself and recognise when I am feeling negative emotions and be aware of them. Counselling has also taught me a lot about acceptance.

Acceptance is another powerful emotional tool in our box. When I recognise myself going through the motions of shutting down, edging back from society, friends, my husband and even my children, I try to practise acceptance. The faster I can accept that I am not feeling quite right, that my emotions and negativity are beginning to dominate my everyday life, I consciously tell myself that I am not feeling 100% right now; I consciously acknowledge that I cannot be fighting fit every day, and I accept that this feeling does exist, that it is real. It sounds trivial, the idea of acceptance, but when I can acknowledge and truly accept my negative feelings, they seem to swim away until after a few days, I have bounced back and I feel as if the world is a far nicer place once again.

For more clarity on the art of acceptance, Windy Dryden’s ’10 Steps to Positive Living’ *1 explores this in greater detail.

As well as receiving counselling with Family Matters UK, I have tried other methods of healing with various degrees of success. I am a great reader and there are many useful books out there that can help us to heal and deal with our experiences. I will list the books I have found the most helpful at the end of this blog. Exercise, yoga, meditation, eating healthily, spending time with friends and loved ones all have important roles to play in our emotional wellbeing. I would like to talk about the more surprising methods that have worked for me.

Crying

Some people are very uncomfortable with crying, especially the British. I know, because I am a Brit. I am also a crier. I don’t care, I am a crier and you know what they say, its better out than in. I recently had an unexpected experience in a Yoga class (another fantastic tool in my recovery box). I was doing some routine chest stretches when suddenly my head started to swim and I felt an overwhelming tide of emotion overcome me. Halfway through my class, I can honestly say, I cried and cried, and cried some more, loudly and without pause, I cried with a force that surprised me, and certainly surprised the rest of the class. And you know what, I was a little embarrassed and miffed as to why that exercise had caused such a dramatic reaction A few members of the class were clearly a bit uncomfortable with my public display of grief, but I was also amazed at the positive responses I also received. One of the class members approached me in the coming weeks to tell me how empowering she had found my crying. Others confided how they found their own tears difficult to access ad they would love to be able to release in that way.

I have always feel much, much better after a good cry, it’s a significant release, and after reading Judith Oriole’s article in Psychology Today, I understand why. She sites Biochemist and “tear expert” Dr. William Frey at the Ramsey Medical Center in Minneapolis who through his research has discovered that our emotional tears contain stress hormones which get extracted when we cry, which “shed these hormones and other toxins which accumulate during stress”. This would explain why, after a good cry, we feel calmer and more peaceful as “Typically, after crying, our breathing, and heart rate decrease, and we enter into a calmer biological and emotional state.”

That’s why crying for me is always courageous, authentic and strong.

Recognising our traumas in our bodies

Over a period, I have become much more aware of the stress that sexual abuse or rape leaves behind in the memories of our bodies. We often apply body memory to sports practises but times of intense stress also leave a memory print in our bodies. Body memory is a hypothesis that the body itself can store memories, as opposed to only the brain. Our bodies react to stress in various ways – perhaps by our hearts beating faster, holding our breath, swallowing down air, holding tension in our stomachs, amongst other things. Many experts believe this stays in your body as trapped energy.

I have found connecting to my body through yoga and breathing techniques has made me far more aware of where my body holds stress and anxiety. Using this knowledge in alternative therapies has allowed me to release a lot of anxiety from my tummy, an area where I have held butterflies and tensions for many years.

An interesting article by Side Effects Public Media explores the effects of childhood trauma and how it shapes the brain and examines the benefits of yoga to help release these emotions and reshape the brains pathways.

One of my most surprisingly successful and enduring alternative therapies has been EFT, or Emotional Freedom Techniques.

EFT is a relatively new discovery but draws from traditional practices of acupressure. It is often referred to as “psychological acupressure”. The technique works by releasing blockages within the energy system which are the source of emotional intensity and discomfort. These blockages in our energy system, in addition to challenging us emotionally, often lead to limiting beliefs and behaviours and an inability to live life harmoniously. It is now widely accepted that emotional disharmony is a key factor in physical symptoms and dis-ease and for this reason these techniques are being extensively used on physical issues, including chronic illness with often astounding results. As such these techniques are being accepted more and more in medical and psychiatric circles as well as in the range of psychotherapies and healing disciplines. The Energy Centre

My own experiences with EFT began 12 years ago when I was living in Muswelll Hill, North London. when I happened upon a therapist that practiced EFT in Crouch End. I was originally searching for hypnotherapy, but the information I was reading about EFT was compelling and I wanted to know more. I was also desperate for a fix to my emotional pain , preferably a quick and painless one (aren’t we all?!) and the article I was reading seem to tick all of those required boxes. I was suffering with acute panic and anxiety whenever I was required to be intimate with my boyfriend and my fear was destroying the relationship. Something had to be done and fast. Simply tap the body in certain areas and relieve emotionally crippling symptoms. Tick, tick, tick. Cynical but desperate, desperation won and I found myself in another therapy room.

My therapist asked me to think about the issue that was bothering me. I felt the familiar wave of shame, self-disgust, guilt, wash over me. She told me to find my ‘Sore Spot’ or the Neurolymphatic point and press down in circular movements whilst focusing on these negative emotions. She then tapped me on different points or meridians on my face and body. Then she instructed me to repeat over and over the following. ‘Even though I have this anxiety with intimacy, I deeply and completely love and accept myself.” This was repeated three times.

To say that EFT had a profound effect on me is an understatement. Twelve years later, I still pinch myself a little. Two very profound things happened to me after my first session. The intense memories of the sexual abuse no longer had any emotion attached to them. I could (and still do) watch the scene of myself in the bed with my stepfather and it’s like a video is being played, I simply don’t feel anything. Also, the very next morning, I woke up and without any prior conscious warning, I decided that the relationship that I was in was no longer fulfilling me. After a morning of frank and honest discussions about our happiness together, we both agreed that we were not happy together anymore and after five years together we parted ways. I do not know if this is some huge coincidence but something in that session centred me and changed my energy quite profoundly. I knew completely and absolutely that it was time to move on. Only shortly after I became romantic with the man who is now my husband and the father of my two boys.

I am not completely free of the pain that I suffered as a child, the abuse has shaped my life and who I am as a person. It does not define me though and there are many other facets to me than the abuse. I try to remember how far I have come, the many journeys of self-discovery I have taken and doubtlessly always will. I love and accept myself for who I am and the experiences I have had. I can only write about my experiences and what works for me. Others will have had very different journeys to find their inner peace. Whatever your journey is just remember to accept, love and be kind, the rest will follow when you are ready.

If you have experienced sexual abuse or rape, then there are people who can help you.

UK: Family Matters UK offer support services for male and female survivors of rape and sexual abuse

By Joleene Gonzalez

Why It’s Imperative to Seek Help After Emotional Abuse

Author: Trisha Miller

Even long after emotional or physical abuse has ended, the effects will remain. A single bout of abuse can change a person’s mental state forever. However, redetermining the course of your life, who you are as a person, and how to maintain healthy relationships is a gift that every person deserves to receive. Still, the most “emotionally strong” individual cannot always see the ways that abuse can and will affect their life. We are not our abuse and we do not have to live as such.

Subtle Signs of Abuse

Emotional or physical abuse can affect children in a myriad of ways. Something subdued like reclusiveness or unwillingness to participate in social activities can become present. On the other hand, it very well may manifest itself is a much louder way, such as severe mood swings, anxiety, depression, anger etc.

All of these signs can grow into much larger mental health problems down the line. As an example, a child may grow into a teen who hurts themselves in order to try to work through their pain. Another common example is experimentation with drugs in order to numb the pain they may feel each day.

Unfortunately, we are not all equipped with the mental tools we need at birth. There is not a switch that can be turned on to make things right and good. No amount of love and caring or drugs and pain can heal these types of wounds. We must mentally condition ourselves regularly to properly process abuse. The brain is a muscle and it must be worked out in order to make connections we may not have seen previously.

Unburdening Yourself

Someone who suffered from an abusive relationship often feels that they have a weight on their shoulders or a dark past following them everywhere they go. Keeping something like that inside is never a choice that leads to happiness and fulfillment. Of course, no one should be forced to tell their story before they are ready, but constantly pushing down the symptoms of abuse is just not a way to live.

Those who seek professional help often feel a release of responsibility from their abuse. They are no longer attached to an event that does not define their character or the course of their life. Someone who has been defined by their abuse their entire life now has the delightful opportunity to decide what kind of person they would like to be and pursue that to their full capability.

Sadly, those who feel that they do not need help may not be able to experience life to its fullest extent. Those who truly live a happy and fulfilled life are able to make sound decisions for themselves and their loved ones. They maintain long, happy, and balanced relationships. They are able to proactively handle stress, anxiety, and sadness. And they are endowed with confidence and self-worth. If you feel that as a direct result of your abuse you are not able to achieve these things, then you can benefit from professional help.

If you or someone you know was a victim of abuse, it is never too late to seek professional help. Having the satisfaction of knowing your life is entirely your own and that you are not controlled by your abuse, is beautifully priceless. Although it may be difficult, showing someone the way towards mental health by asking them to get help is a step in the right direction. Show someone you care by surrounding them with love and support. This is the best possible way to ensure their safety and happiness.

 

 

Talking Therapy and Abuse Survivors: Does it Help or Hinder the Healing Process?

Author: Juliusz Wodzianski (LLB PGDip MSC MBACP)

Self-Care, Self-Esteem and Other Key Issues for Abuse Survivors

One of the things that doctors and others involved with well-being tell us is that we need to take care of ourselves. We should eat nutritious food, be well hydrated, take exercise, be mindful, take time to relax and have nurturing relationships.

All of that is good advice, but are we all able to do those things? What is the effect of stress and depression on our ability to take care of ourselves, what is the effect of having low self-esteem?

Self-Esteem

One of the things that I have noticed in my therapeutic work with abuse survivors is that clients often have low self-esteem. This low self-esteem can often manifest in different ways:

  • They can feel guilt, and may often ‘hate’ themselves.
  • They typically do not have much self-confidence and do not feel that they can move from the abusive situation that they may find themselves in
  • They do not believe that others will value them. Indeed, children do not have any choice in being able to escape abuse where perpetrated by their carers unless this is noticed by others.

Forms of Abuse

‘Being a victim’, is understandable having regard to the patterns established in early life, where silence and acceptance is often the only coping mechanism. Being abused whether physically, sexually, emotionally or mentally leads to psychological scars which can take time to heal. An abusive relationship in later life may appear to be the only relationship that an abuse survivor may feel that he or she deserves.

The Healing Process

The positive message though is that the scars can heal, and abuse survivors can overcome the historical issues which continue to play out in their lives. The process of healing can take some time as building a relationship involving trust with a therapist is a delicate act for an abuse survivor. This requires a skilled and empathic counsellor or psychotherapist that can work with whatever an abuse survivor may bring into the therapy room. The transformation for abuse survivors who engage in counselling and psychotherapy can be remarkable. However, this is a process that cannot be rushed as the work can only proceed at the pace that is right for the client. Opening too much trauma before the client has the ability to cope with it might be counter-productive.

Approaches to Talking Therapy

There are many approaches to talking therapy based on different theoretical frameworks. The one thing that is common across the board is that they are all based on the element of dialogue, primarily moving from the client. One comment that is made by a number of commentators, and where there is some level of agreement, is that it is the relationship between the therapist and the client that heals. Different therapeutic models may have a different understanding as to how their methods bring about healing, but it is perhaps not necessary to understand exactly how the process brings about healing as long as it does.

Psychoanalysis

People often think of counselling and psychotherapy as a system by which a client lies on a couch with the therapist silently sitting behind him or her or to the side whilst the client talks about their dreams. Whilst that is one approach, it is not the only one. This type of work is the process of psychoanalytic analysis where a client may well see the therapist two or three times a week for many years.

Psychological Therapies Including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

At the other end of the scale, patients referred to a counsellor by their GPs are more likely to be seen within an Improved Access to Psychological Therapies set up, where the number of sessions will be limited to a number, quite typically six, spaced at weekly intervals. Cognitive behavioural therapy is popular within the NHS framework, possibly because its practitioners have carried out the most research.

Other approaches

There is also person centred counselling (where the sessions are effectively led by the client), psychodynamic counselling (where behaviour is looked at from the perspective of the type of relationship that the client had with their parents or guardians and significant other persons when very young), transpersonal counselling (the unexplained or soul dimension being key), existential therapy (considering the meaning of life and our place in it) and so on. To confuse matters even more there are also therapies that involve some level of body work such as emotional freedom technique (where acupressure points are tapped) and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (replicating rapid eye movement in sleep where memories are stored in the correct area of the brain) which has been shown to be effective in a number of clients presenting with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Integrative approach

My own training has been on an integrative basis incorporating a number of different theoretical perspectives and which therefore gives me a greater number of tools with which I can work with. My only concern, and which should be at the core of all therapeutic work, is how can I help this client before me right now.

Does Talking Therapy Always Help?

I personally have not known counselling and psychotherapy to be unhelpful to any client that I have worked with. As with all things however, it is very important to work within the framework of what the client is ready to explore. Rushing in and opening up traumatic episodes at a very early stage may not be the best way to engage in the counselling process.

One of the key areas of distinction between counselling and psychotherapy is that the former is often seen as short term work (for example, six sessions) whereas psychotherapy is often considered to be longer term work. It is sometimes considered that counselling is very helpful at dealing with immediate issues, whereas psychotherapy enables the client and the counsellor to engage at greater depth and encourage understanding of why the client responds to certain things in the way that he or she does.

My own view is that the client is in charge of him or herself, and is the best person to judge what they may need. The counsellor and psychotherapist is, in some ways, a facilitator along a journey.

Talk therapy can be immensely helpful to abuse survivors. The key to successful therapy stems from the relationship between the client and the therapist, and it is therefore of tremendous importance that the client finds a therapist that he or she can trust. It is also very important to check that the therapist is professionally trained and a member of a recognised professional body, and has experience of having worked with abuse survivors. In the UK, the two largest professional bodies are the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy and the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy, both of which maintain a register of current members. The most comprehensive directory for therapists in the UK is the Counselling Directory (which only lists professionally qualified therapists).

Author Bio

Juliusz Wodzianski LLB PGDip MSc MBACP is a practising counsellor and psychotherapist based in Finchley and Uxbridge, London. Juliusz can be contact via the links below:

Web: www.talktherapylondon.com

Email: juliusz@talktherapylondon.com

Tel: 07973 269356

The views expressed in this article are those of Juliusz Wodzianski alone.

How Childhood Trauma Can Create Lifelong Adult Addicts

Author: Trey Dyer

The link between child abuse and future adult drug abuse is strong. More than 66 percent of those in treatment for substance use disorders report abuse during their childhood — including physical, mental and sexual abuse or neglect — according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. A study published in the journal Child Abuse & Neglect found childhood abuse rates as high as 84 percent among those in treatment for substance abuse.

United States child protection services receive approximately 3 million reports involving 5.5 million children each year. Of those 3 million cases, nearly 30 percent involve child abuse. In those cases:

  • 65 percent were survivors of neglect
  • 18 percent were survivors of physical abuse
  • 10 percent were survivors of sexual abuse
  • 7 percent were survivors of psychological abuse

These types of abuse can lead to lasting trauma. About two-thirds of child abuse cases go unreported.

Survivors of child abuse often develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of the trauma they faced as children. PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can develop after an individual experiences or witnesses a traumatic event. Those who develop the disorder may experience fear, stress or anxiety about their safety as a result of the trauma even when there is no threat to them. About 5 percent of adolescents develop PTSD; however, more than 21 percent of foster care alumni develop PTSD.

Researchers at Hofstra University compared three groups of foster care children and found that approximately 60 percent of those who were sexually abused were diagnosed with PTSD, and 42 percent of those who were physically abused developed the disorder.

PTSD is also inextricably linked to substance abuse. Those who suffer from PTSD may turn to drugs or alcohol as a form of self-medication to cope with the emotions brought on by the disorder.

Surveys by researchers at Harvard Medical School and Chestnut Health Systems found that more than 70 percent of adolescents receiving treatment for substance abuse reported a history of trauma exposure. Multiple studies, including one from Harvard Medical School, found that up to 59 percent of adolescents with PTSD develop a substance use disorder during their lifetime.

Women are particularly at risk of developing co-occurring PTSD and substance use disorders. In a study involving nearly 200 adolescents with substance use disorders, 45.3 percent of female adolescents developed PTSD during their lifetime, compared to 24.3 percent of male adolescents.

Multiple studies show that 25 to 76 percent of teens with substance use disorders started using drugs or alcohol following trauma exposure and 14 to 59 percent started using at the onset of PTSD.

Support for survivors of child abuse is pivotal to preventing them from developing substance use disorders and PTSD. These individuals face trauma and often have no guardian or trusted adult for support, making the emotional damage even more devastating.

If your child survived a traumatic experience and is showing signs such as anger, sleep problems or a change in school performance, you may need to get help from a mental health professional who treats children with PTSD.

About the Author: Trey Dyer is a writer for DrugRehab.com and advocate for people with substance use disorders. Trey is passionate about helping people with mental health and substance use disorders reach the treatment they need to get healthy. When Trey is not writing, he can be found fly fishing, traveling and smoking BBQ.

 Sources:

Calrk, D., Lesnick, L. & Hegedus, A. (1997, December). Traumas and other adverse life events in adolescents with alcohol abuse and dependence. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9401336

Cohen, F. & Densen-Gerber, J. (1982). A study of the relationship between child abuse and drug addiction in 178 patients: preliminary results. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6892324

Dubner, A. & Motta, R. (1999, June). Sexually and physically abused foster care children and posttraumatic stress disorder. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10369057

Deykin, E. & Buka, S. (1997, June). Prevalence and risk factors for posttraumatic stress disorder among chemically dependent adolescents. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9167501

Funk,R. et al. (2003, February). Maltreatment issues by level of adolescent substance abuse treatment: the extent of the problem at intake relationship to early outcomes. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12568503

Giaconia, R. et al. (2000, April). Comorbidity of substance use and post-traumatic stress disorders in a community sample of adolescents. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10826037

Hieger, J. (2012, December). INFORMATION PACKET:  Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Children in Foster Care. Retrieved from http://www.nrcpfc.org/is/downloads/info_packets/ptsdandchildren_in_fc.pdf

Perkonigg, A. et al. (2000, January). Traumatic events and post-traumatic stress disorder in the community: prevalence, risk factors and comorbidity. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10674950

Swan, N. (1998, July). Exploring the Role of Child Abuse in Later Drug Abuse. Retrieved from http://archives.drugabuse.gov/NIDA_Notes/NNVol13N2/exploring.html

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network. (2008, June). Making the Connection: Trauma and Substance Abuse. Retrieved from http://www.nctsn.org/sites/default/files/assets/pdfs/SAToolkit_1.pdf

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2015, August 13). PTSD in Children and Teens. Retrieved from http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/family/ptsd-children-adolescents.asp

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2015, September 2). Child Sexual Abuse. Retrieved from http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/types/violence/child-sexual-abuse.asp

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2016, February 23). PTSD in Children and Adolescents. Retrieved from http://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/treatment/children/ptsd_in_children_and_adolescents_overview_for_professionals.asp

Every Person Has a Story – Tarese’s Story

Hello, I just wanted to reach out and send you a message.

I am an adult survivor of Childhood abuse. I suffered extreme depression, I was a self-harmer, and I suffered from an eating disorder. I never thought hope was possible, I never thought I would be able to live a normal life, or even achieve any dreams. I started my journey of healing quite a number of years ago. It has taken me many years to begin to find hope and to achieve some healing in my life. I never thought it would be possible, but I have. I have come through the other side and proven to others and more importantly myself that it is possible.

I want to speak out about what happened. I no longer want to be silent. I want my story to encourage others. I know all too well what it’s like to be in a dark place, to believe there is no hope. I want to be able to encourage those who are still in a dark place, who still struggle. That it is possible. Yes, it is alot of work and it is hard. But it is so worth it. If I can encourage but one person with my story, then it will be worth it.

There is hope. Life is possible. You are stronger than you think. You are alive for a reason.

Thank you for reading.

Regards,
Tarese Klemens

An Author’s Dark Past as Inspiration

An Author’s Dark Past as Inspiration

By Nicole Arlyn

I’m writing this from my kitchen in Brooklyn. It’s nearly December, and the afternoon is dark, cold and rainy. My baby boy is asleep in the next room. I’m making tea, trying not to clank around too much and wake him.

I used to get up, make tea, and write all morning starting at 6:00 a.m. Every day was like that. I’d get right into work writing—no phone calls, no emails, no people. I’d put a little makeup on, take a sip of tea and a breath, and then I was off into fantasy, into words and visions and adventure. Into life. Off writing for eighteen hours with a break in the middle for walks or the gym.

It took me seven years to write the Sadie books. They started out as one massive, handwritten manuscript that filled an entire suitcase and many notebooks full of backstories and character biographies and poems, doodles, and other books—all intertwined.

And now… My life has so completely changed from being the single, no-responsibility-for-others actress/writer woman with a pen in her hand and a suitcase who goes all over and writes all over. Now I have a home in Brooklyn with a baby snoring away in the room beside the kitchen.

And now that they’re all out there—all twenty-six novellas—it makes me wonder, “Am I okay now? Have I finally healed?”

——————————————————————————–

(caution – may trigger)

In my home town on Long Island, it was really important to fit in. It was really important to have friends and a normal home life. To be like everyone else. I kept it hidden, this strange thing I was.

I had visions. The first time I remember experiencing this was one night when my parents were violently throwing plates and screaming at each other in the kitchen. My mother was screaming that my father was cheating on her and that she was throwing him out of the house. I had a fever that day and listened from my bed, under the covers. Though my head felt clogged, my heart raced. I knew my father was leaving us—this time for good.

But then suddenly through their fighting came a sound like music, the most harmonious melodic chorus of angels singing, coming closer and closer and saturating the room with this beautiful sound. It swept through me. It was so loud and full that I started to feel good despite the fever, like I was made of air. Like I was spirit. I felt love through that sound. And beauty. I knew I belonged to it and where it came from. And I knew, sure as hell, that I did not belong to the fighting.

When I was about nine years old, my then-divorced mother remarried a man I considered a monster. He was emotionally shut down, very cold and distant, and yet when he drank, he came alive. And he drank a lot. A lot of vodka, specifically. He moved in with my mother, my brother, and I, moved into our little white house and I was very scared of him. He was a big guy with red hair on a balding head and bad skin. He was like a broken pipe spouting sewage into our sweet, clean home. Hairy and mad. Mad all the time for one reason or another. He always looked at me funny—well, when he did look at me, which wasn’t often.

My room faced the front of the house. He used to come in there in his fucking white undies, look out the window, and stare toward the streetlamp. The light coming in would silhouette him so he looked like a monster in my eyes. And I would peek out from the fortress of pillows I kept around me, smelling his hissing vodka-breath and listening to his abuse.

“Who’s paying the bills around here, brat? I own you. You’re a brat. You’re spoiled. Are your tits ever gonna develop?” He would say all that as if it were a private thing between us.

He would come close and sit on the edge of my bed, and I’d feel the mattress sink under his weight. One time he grabbed my foot. It was harmless enough, but that one touch scared me so much that The Sugarspear Chronicles blossomed from it. Just his breath and that one touch. It was all inspired by that night, that threat, and the many nights and threats that followed. The terror riveted my imagination and sent it running, running off into the sky.

Off into the sky and off into many dark places I went, living my life recklessly and insecurely for years to come. I made things look okay on the outside, just like my mother taught me. I made myself look attractive, had lots of friends and talents, danced, acted, wrote. But writing was the strongest place where I could truly express truth, even if only in glimmers. Now when I look deeply, I see that I was often behaving erratically and rebelling due to the pain I felt from my father leaving me, and then how, because of that, I landed in the hands of this monster. I was searching for ways to fill that emptiness inside. That hole.

When I was going to school in Paris in my early twenties, I was crazy into my sexuality and one-night stands and all kinds of destructive escapades. When I was back living in the East Village, I got involved in the drug scene. So after trying to destroy myself across two continents, I ended up waiting tables and going to acting school, and that was when I picked up and moved to LA. There I rediscovered the passion I’d had for writing, the same one I had when I was that little girl writing every day in her backyard under the weeping willow tree.

Eventually I realized I needed to focus on writing the books wholeheartedly, without anything else going on. I disappeared to a flat in Devon, England, to write. It was peaceful there and serene every day, a green valley on the estuary of Salcombe, a wee town on the edge of Cornwall. I took walks and listened. My mind brought me visions of mighty angels flying around amidst chickens and sheep and moors. I often sat at the edge of the English Channel, writing.

I stayed up all night in my kitchen with the black, English fields outside my window, and I woke up each morning to cows mooing. It was bliss and still is. I felt I was born to do this job; it’s as easy and comforting as slipping on socks. I could finally search and discover and dig out what was inside: A girl named Sadie Sugarspear.

Nicole Arlyn

 

 

 

Book Review: Dear Little Ones

Dear Little Ones

Dissociative Identity Disorder for Young Alters

By Jade Miller

This is a beautiful little book with a powerful message; easy to read and understand with soft, non-threatening illustrations.

The gentle words come from a caring ‘big sister’ perspective, trying to help little ones understand what’s going on for them within their team. It reinforces that the things that happened were not their fault and that they are safe now. Jade goes on to explain about the others inside, encourages team work and shares how each one is valuable with their own purpose. The notion is introduced that the little ones get to choose what will happen next, that their voice is important. Jade offers them suggestions on how to deal with those unmanageable big feelings and a reassurance that things will get better.

Equally valuable to share with a partner or friend, as a way of trying to help them understand what life is like for those living with Dissociative Identity Disorder.

This book is available to purchase on Amazon & Kindle

The Power of Forgiveness

When I was active on isurvive from 2003 through~ 2007, forgiveness was the LAST topic I wanted to think about. The abuse was too terrible and the aftereffects too pervasive for me even to CONSIDER forgiveness. After all, my abusers did not DESERVE to be forgiven. They deserved to suffer just as badly as they had forced me to suffer.

The problem was that without forgiveness, my abusers continued to hold power over me. I would think about them, and I would feel the anger, shame, and pain wash over me again. I grew angry as realized just how frequently I was thinking about my abusers. They already took away my childhood. Why should they take away my adulthood as well?

I made a life decision to stop feeding the bitterness. I had absolutely no interest in forgiveness, but I recognized that I no longer wanted my thoughts to focus on my childhood pain. So, each time my abusers would come to my mind, I would make conscious choice not to think about them (much less relive the abuse) and, instead, focus my thoughts on something else. I learned through an isurvive member that the term for this is shlemut. She said it was a Jewish term meaning that I was not choosing forgiveness or reconciliation, but I was choosing to stop fueling the bitterness so I could heal myself. The Christian term that is most similar is forbearance 

I stayed in a place of forbearance for several years (from ~ 2005 through 2014). I made a conscious choice not to dwell on my abusers or relive the past in my head. As new memories surfaced, I worked through those, but after I processed each one, I chose not to let them suck me back into nursing the bitterness toward my abusers, no matter how tempting it was.

In 2013, my faith grew enormously as I made the life decision to start my day each morning in quiet time with my Maker. I explored what unconditional love means … not the warped, selfish misrepresentations of love that I saw in childhood but real unconditional love. As I grew to realize how fully and completely loved I am by my Maker, my emotional wounds healed, and as I filled with unconditional love, it began to overflow to those in my life around me.

In the Fall of 2014, I felt led to begin praying over my abusers every morning. Let me tell you, this was hard. Even though I had spent many years choosing not to continue fueling the bitterness, I also did not feel “loving” toward them. However, I made the decision to do this … day after day, week after week, and month after month. And then, one day, I realized that I had forgiven my abusers!

How do you know when you have forgiven them? They no longer hold emotional power over you. If they come to mind, there is no twisting of the stomach or tension in your body. You no longer see them as monsters. Instead, you pity them because you recognize how emotionally wounded they must have been to do what they did to an innocent child.

I just had lunch with one of my abusers a couple of days ago … at my invitation. While I don’t feel “loving” toward her or want a relationship with her, dining with her did not hurt. I was no longer the helpless victim fearful of the person in front of me. Instead, I was an empowered woman offering grace to someone who does not deserve it, and I felt good about shining some kindness into the life of someone who had not been kind to me.

Does she deserve this kindness? Absolutely not. Nobody ever deserves forgiveness. Forgiveness is grace that we give out of the overflow out of our own healing. Enough pain has taken place in my life. I now want no interactions with anyone else that are not healing. I have not forgotten the many terrible acts she did to me, but those memories no longer hurt. My choice to eat lunch with her is not about her – it is about me being true to who **I** am and extending grace to someone who does not deserve it because my Maker has extended grace to me that I did not deserve. I am paying forward what has been given to me, and I feel so richly blessed to continue extended grace through sharing my story with you.

If you are not ready to forgive, that’s OK. This process took me over a decade to complete, and it might take you even longer. All I can tell you is that I know what it feels like to live angry, and I know what it feels like to live free. I choose freedom.

~Faith