What happens after abuse occurs? Something this devastating, which violates its victims physically and emotionally, will have profound effects. Typically symptoms will manifest in one of two extremes, depending on the individual’s coping mechanisms. Whether the abuse was a single incident or a repeated pattern, whether it was one perpetrator or more, the following behaviors are usually the result:
Abuse victims usually feel betrayal. Children who have been sexually abused know their perpetrators in 90% of the cases. Read more…
Children develop a sense of trust as they grow and experience the world around them. Read more…
Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome
When someone has been sexually abused at an early age, how they view sex becomes altered. Read more…
Isolation Versus Spotlight
Victims often feel shame, embarrassment, sometimes even guilt over what happened. They may fear that everyone around them will know what happened. Victims may withdraw and isolate themselves from others, in an attempt to “hide.” Sometimes that hiding is done out in the open, using behaviors or occupations to mask the pain. Some victims move into prominent fields where they can take control to replace the feelings of not being in control when the abuse occurred. They may become lawyers, business owners, or CEOs. They may enter creative fields where they can safely release those feelings of pain like the arts, becoming writers, musicians, artists, actors, actresses or comedians. Many of these fields tend to be somewhat isolated – the CEO may work for a company with thousands of employees, for example, but may spend most of his day alone in a private office. None of this is to say that all members of these and similar occupations have been abused, but often the techniques that allowed a child who was abused to survive his or her ordeal are the same qualities that allow them to excel in the workplace.
Eating disorders are a means of physically punishing the body. Children who have been sexually abused may become overweight, for several reasons. The added layer of fat builds a physical wall around them, in addition to the emotional and psychological walls they may have built up. By making themselves less attractive, they may be attempting to discourage further abuse, feeling that they may have caused it in some way by the way they looked. Gaining weight and becoming less attractive and feeling less physically confirms the negative feelings of self-worth they already have about themselves. They see themselves differently from how others see them and this can be an outward way to project to others, “See, I am worthless, ugly, unlovable!” When these feelings are taken to the other extreme, it can manifest itself in anorexia nervosa or bulimia.
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Those who have been abused are more likely to become abusers themselves. This fact typically frightens victims, making them fear that they will hurt another the way that they were impacted. The truth is that all of that pain, hurt, loss and a myriad of other wounds have to be released somehow and if they cannot be channeled out in a healing direction, then the painful aftermath usually repeats itself. THIS DOES NOT MEAN THAT SOMEONE WHO HAS BEEN SEXUALLY ABUSED WILL SEXUALLY ABUSE ANOTHER PERSON. While this does and can occur, it is far more common for the victim to turn the abuse back on themselves – cutting, addictions, suicide attempts, as well as psychological and emotional punishment. They may also lash on those around them – emotional outbursts, anger, manipulation, etc. all in an attempt to release, deny or stave off the pain and hurt of what happened to them.
IF YOU HAVE BEEN VICTIMIZED – PLEASE TAKE NOTE:
It is important to note that while the tendency for these behaviors may always be with you, they can lessen in time with treatment and help. Some behaviors will be easier to control and eradicate than others. There was a purpose and reason for these actions and at the time, served you well. However, what protected you, may keep you from living life in the fullest now. You can heal from your past. You will always have these scars, but they do not have to have power over you. You can rise above what happened. There can be a healing. You may feel that that this is all that you’ve ever known and change may be frightening, but there is also a freedom waiting for you. The negative can be replaced with good. After the darkness, there is a dawn waiting for you.