By Elizabeth Shane
What happens after you make the painful and difficult decision to disclose and/or speak out about your experience of childhood sexual abuse? Are you ‘fixed?’ Are you a completely different person, floating through time on a peaceful cloud, liberated and understood by everyone? Do you feel, now you have taken that brave step, able to just ‘move on’ with your life, as you might have hoped or expected to? Has the misconception towards survivors radically changed, who no longer feel the need to prove themselves to others to be believed, listened to, or accepted? If only life was that simple!
Do you ever consider the impact after the storm, when the dust settles and start to digest the aftermath of sharing your truth, hidden in silence for so long? The questions. Oh, the questions! They can be endless. Why didn’t you tell anyone? I would have known! Why wait all this time to say anything? Why see your abuser/s if they did anything to you, I certainly wouldn’t have and doesn’t make any sense? What if other people find out, how will that impact on the rest of the family or friends? How could you love your abuser/s? What if people associate me with you, let alone be related! As a survivor, it can be incredibly terrifying to even contemplate disclosing or speaking out, without the barrage of damaging comments which can push that person back into a wall of silence. It is human nature to question things we do not understand but words can be chosen with kindness and compassion, and willingness to listen. It is mind boggling, the narrative thoughts, and preconceived ideas, conditioned from society, from lack of understanding or fear of hearing such a taboo subject spoken about in public!
Sadly, it occurs, often appearing as veiled, undertones of voice, to silence the survivor who takes a brave step to talk about their abuse. These are unfortunately common threads survivors of childhood sexual abuse face and continue to, and this needs to change! Imagine, after years of not being able to tell anyone what happened to you and finally making that choice to open a piece of your heart, put yourself in a vulnerable position and say what you were put through, only to have louder voices trying to shut you down again. Whatever method a survivor uses to disclose or speak out, whether it is in a book, poetry, a letter, on social media, shouting from the rooftops or telling one person, it can be a life changing moment.
I reflect on my own personal experience as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I disclosed my abuse to a couple of close friends as a teenager, not having an inkling or understanding of what I was saying. I barely spoke about it after that and minimised my own trauma. After years of suffering mental, emotional, psychological, and physical effects from the abuse, I finally came forward, over forty years from when the sexual abuse started. First to the police, then the circle of family, friends, and wider community, eventually writing about my experience through poetry and public speaking. Why did I wait so long? So many reasons to select, these are just a few: Fear! Shame! Not being believed, lack of self-worth. Would I be viewed differently? Was it my fault? Will I be in trouble! All are familiar words for many survivors. And now? Why did I disclose and share, years later? Because the impact of carrying the anchor of trauma and shame was so heavy, I was drowning into oblivion. The challenges and struggles, processing the after effects of past trauma and how this presents itself in my everyday life, are, at times, incomprehensible. I hold no regrets speaking out and will continue to raise awareness, as I hope each person who hears my story, takes something from it, whether as a survivor embarking on their journey, or someone who has not been through this. By breaking the taboo around difficult conversations, it allows more understanding, awareness, knowledge, and education, giving survivors a right to be heard, and encouragement to recognise their own strength and self-worth.
Am I ‘fixed?’ I prefer not to use that word as I realise, I was never broken to start with! But it has taken a long time to recognise and a continual process, especially on days when darkness tries its hardest to sink the light. The damage inflicted on me has been from the hands of my perpetrators, who changed how I interacted with my internal self. Unfortunately, it is not something that just disappears. I haven’t vanquished my negative thoughts, feelings, or demons to an eternal hole. It takes patience, time, exploration, a gradual journey of healing, using therapeutic sources, including finding my voice through creative self-expression. My mental health concerns are still there. They didn’t run away when I said the words, “I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse!” In fact, mental health issues are often heightened under the complexities that result from abuse, as well as reactions from individuals and others who try and squash your growth, whether through fear, ignorance, shame, choice or by lack of acceptance for the person they no longer recognise. A person who has evolved with confidence, passion, determination, and a voice to bear witness of untold stories for one and many survivors who gather in strength and number to be heard, to speak with honesty, integrity, and courage, drawing on the world around me as inspiration for living in the present moment and exploring new opportunities in the hope for a brighter future.
What works for one person, doesn’t always work for another. As survivors, we endure unfair battles, not chosen or asked for in unseen wars. We each find a path and journey towards recovery and healing, at our own pace. But I will say this much. There is always calm after the storm!
*We have added Elizabeth’s second poetry book ‘Rainbow of Promise’ to our Resources https://isurvive.org/helpful-resources/books-you-may-find-helpful/
Author: The Recovery Village Editorial Team
There are numerous books and blogs about how to raise a child, but the reality is, every child and family is different. There is no definitive model for how to raise a well-adjusted adult, especially for children who do not have the opportunity to develop in a healthy environment.
According to the American Society of the Positive Care of Children, 4.1 million child maltreatment referral reports were received in 2016. The Society indicates that approximately 75 percent of children are neglected, 18 percent are physically abused and 8.6 percent are sexually abused. The early exposure to trauma can influence the development of a child neurologically, cognitively and psychiatrically.
Children who experience trauma are at a higher risk of developing mental health disorders, including:
In one study, researchers found that approximately 80 percent of people who were 21 years old and had been abused as children met the diagnostic criteria for at least one psychological disorder.
To understand how childhood trauma can cause various mental health and substance use disorders, it is important first to recognize what childhood trauma can include. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, individual trauma can result from an event, series of events or a set of circumstances that are experienced by someone as physically or emotionally harmful or life-threatening. Childhood traumas often have lasting adverse effects on a person’s functioning, as well as their mental, physical, social, emotional or spiritual well-being.
Childhood trauma can include:
Many people may experience some trauma during their childhood, but what are the circumstances that cause some adults to develop mental health and substance use disorders while others do not? Some factors, known as risk factors, that can determine whether a child may develop PTSD include:
In addition to the development of PTSD, adolescents who have experienced trauma in childhood and have PTSD are 59 percent more likely to develop a substance use disorder. Someone who has experienced childhood trauma may use substances to self-medicate or numb the symptoms of a mental health disorder like PTSD.
About the Author: TheRecoveryVillage.com aims to educate the public with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and often medically reviewed. We also regularly conduct continuing education webinars for healthcare professionals and publish related news and research on behavioral health topics.
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
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:
The important thing is to use “I” statements and to not make it seem like it’s her fault, because it absolutely isn’t.
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:
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:
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.
By Ellen Lacter, Ph.D. (Copyright, October 15, 2017)
This article can be found here https://endritualabuse.org/coerced-under-torture/ and seeks:
1) to educate therapists and survivors about the existence of torture-coerced perpetration;
2) to describe the long-term devastating moral injury resulting from having been coerced to harm others;
3) to describe the kinds of torture that predictably work to coerce victims to harm and kill others;
4) to describe various psychological responses of victims while they are being coerced to harm others;
5) to place full responsibility for all coerced harm with the abusers; the torture victims are innocent.
6) to help victims and survivors to overcome their moral injury, and to help therapists help them.
At the end are two declarations, one for victim-survivors to sign and one for therapists to sign, to proclaim that the guilt, shame, and moral responsibility for these acts is borne entirely by the perpetrators who executed the torture, not by the victims who were being coerced.
Individuals who would like to add their names to these declarations may contact Ellen Lacter at email@example.com
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.
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.
Author: Juliusz Wodzianski (LLB PGDip MSC MBACP)
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?
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:
‘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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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:
Tel: 07973 269356
The views expressed in this article are those of Juliusz Wodzianski alone.
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:
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.
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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
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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
By Jenise Harmon, LISW-S
Featured at GoodTherapy.org, March 25, 2015
“Parenting is difficult enough when you feel fantastic, but when you’re struggling with depression, it can seem downright impossible.”
This article sets out to remind you that you are not alone and that you can still be a good parent to your children.
Harmon goes on to provide further detail in the full article, but here are the key points
By Jenise Harmon, LISW-S
For the article in full, please select the following link;
Author: Malcolm Underhill
It is only recently that society has finally acknowledged the harm caused to those abused as a child. Understandably a lot of attention has been given over to improvements in safeguarding, so the mistakes of the past are not repeated. Many column inches have been devoted to abuse perpetuated by celebrities and the behaviour of institutions. Unfortunately the consequences of abuse, the harm caused as children extending into adult life, have been afforded less attention.
The purpose of this guide is to provide some information on the steps to take if you;
Financial compensation for the physical and sexual abuse on its own does not make up for years of suffering. However that compensation can be put to good use to obtain medical help on a private basis, which often becomes necessary as the NHS has limited resources to meet the demands of those with mental health challenges. The compensation can also be used as platform for a new start in life.
Whether the person now bringing a claim for compensation is an adult, who has suffered with the effects of child abuse for many years, or a parent who has recently discovered their child has been abused, they will require support. They will, already, have shown tremendous courage just to speak to someone about their experience.
If the victim of child abuse, or a parent of a minor, wishes to pursue sexual abuse compensation, they should approach a solicitor who has experience in acting for child abuse victims. The solicitor will have a detailed knowledge of the subject, beyond the letter of the law.
Dealing with your legal advisor
An experienced and sensitive child abuse solicitor will not ask you for the precise details of what happened to you at a first (or even a second) meeting. The initial meeting will seek to understand the background to when, where and how the assaults took place. Your legal advisor will appreciate the difficulties around speaking of the assaults.
Reporting the abuse to the police
The solicitor will recommend that the victim, or the parents of the child, report the allegations of abuse to the police. This is necessary as a criminal offence has been committed and, accordingly, those assaults should be investigated. A report to the police is also important for the sexual abuse compensation, as the police investigation running parallel with the victim compensation claim can assist by improving chances of success.
The police are sensitive to the effects of child abuse and therefore will assign specially trained police officers to interview the victim of the abuse.
Contact your doctor
In addition to reporting the abuse to the police, the solicitor will recommend that the victim report the child abuse to their GP. It is important that, irrespective of the claim for compensation, medical help is sought to deal with the consequences of the abuse. The effects of child abuse can be very harmful over many years, and therefore medical support is essential if the victim is to cope in the longer term. The victim’s GP will not have the training to counsel the victim, but will have access to resources and be able to point the victim of child abuse in the direction of those support services – so counselling and other therapies are made available.
It is understandable that some victims do not wish to speak about the harm done to them. Indeed, some victims never speak. Those who feel able to speak and seek help will need time to reflect on the steps that they are about to take.
Having not spoken about the abuse (in some cases) for some years, they will need to prepare themselves for talking about events that may trigger unpleasant emotions. Therefore, a consultation with their GP before a first appointment with the solicitor may assist.
Prepare a file containing records
Create a file containing records and dates of the abuse, the address of the institution and the name of the individuals involved.
Records can form part of the sexual abuse compensation claim, if only to demonstrate that an individual was a member of a club or attended a school between specific dates. All these investigations are carried out by a solicitor, not the victims of child abuse.
Some children are aware of others being abused at the same time. However, some are abused alone or without an awareness that others have also been assaulted. In any case, it will be necessary for the solicitor to track down those other victims, or others who attended the same institution (but were not abused). It is important that the victim does not seek to make contact with other alleged victims, as it may be suggested by those defending the compensation claim, that evidence has been “improved” by victims discussing their individual experiences.
Obstacles and Issues to bear in mind
Unfortunately, paedophiles rarely admit their actions and have little concern for the impact of their iniquitous ways.
Many abusers take advantage of children through their own employment or voluntary work. In those circumstances, the employer or charity may be legally responsible for the paedophile’s actions. However, without cooperation from the alleged paedophile, they too may be slow to admit legal responsibility. Consequently it may be necessary to commence legal proceedings against the paedophile and or their employer. However that does not mean the victims of child abuse have to go to trial, to win compensation, as the vast majority of cases are compromised outside court.
When pursuing sexual abuse compensation, various defences can be put up by the paedophile or their employer (or their insurers-who pay the compensation), arguing that the allegations have been brought too late, ie outside the normal three year time limit to bring such claims. (The general rule is that victim compensation claims have to be brought within 3 years of the abuse.)
However, the 3 year rule is flexible in child abuse cases, as the courts recognise the difficulties an individual may have in making allegations at the time of the assaults. However delay is still an argument that victims have to overcome, in order to recover compensation for the harm done to them. They need to explain why the allegations of abuse were not made earlier. This could include:
Keeping a long term view
To tell others that you have been abused requires great courage. It is a step that is never taken without considerable thought, and even then with some trepidation. Bringing a victim’s compensation claim is not a mechanistic process; it requires skilled work undertaken by an experienced solicitor to prove the abuser carried out the acts complained of, and/or that others in an organisation (for whom the abuser was engaged) has legal responsibility for the abuse. The solicitor will address the issue of delay, if it arises, and obtain medical evidence to demonstrate the effects of the harm done.
The police will also undertake their own inquiries that can lead to a criminal prosecution of the paedophile. All of this can cause the victim of abuse to become distressed as past memories and the trauma of the abuse can be triggered.
Obtaining support from medical and mental health professionals, charities and other support networks at the start of your child abuse claim can help prepare you for the journey ahead. As always it is important to keep the long term objective in mind. Your aim is to secure justice for the painful abuse and compensation to help you, the victim, gain the support and resources required to rebuild your life, without the abuse continuing to dominate all that you do.
Malcolm Underhill is a child abuse solicitor with experience of representing child victims and adult survivors of abuse.
For more information on obtaining justice and compensation for the abuse, please visit http://www.ibblaw.co.uk/service/personal-injury-and-clinical-negligence/child-abuse.