Last Saturday I did a CPD course in how to work with survivors of child sexual abuse. I was surprised to learn what the statistics were – 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are victims of child sexual abuse. Many victims can often be confused as to whether they were in fact sexually abused because of a lack of understanding as to what constitutes sexual abuse. Many will believe, because they did not have intercourse, that it was not sexual abuse.
It is also common for victims to have no memories or vague memories as victims disassociate. Dissociation is a disconnection between a person’s thoughts, memories, feelings and actions and a sense of who he or she is. Everyone will have experienced this state of disassociation examples of which include daydreaming or getting lost in a book or a film. During traumatic experiences dissociation can help a person tolerate something that might otherwise be too difficult to bear. The victim will mentally escape from the fear, pain and horror of the event. Whilst disassociation can help the victim survive it can later make it difficult to remember the experience and creates problems as the victim has to come to terms with whether or not they were abused. The abuser may also ply drugs or alcohol on their victims so they cannot remember.
There can be denial or fear from the victim along with shame and self-blame. If it was a close family member who they love there may be a need to protect the perpetrator. Worse still the victim can go through even more if they are not believed when they do speak up. It is not unusual for the victim to focus on the symptoms such as depression, anxiety or panic and not at what happened (root cause). PTSD is common.
Unfortunately, perpetrators will target their victims. Often, they will plan the abuse for months or even years.
During the counselling process it may be that work is needed around the loss of innocence and what could have been, conflicted feelings, issues around the abuser’s death or potentially seeing their victim, the abuse could be between siblings or around differences in culture, practice, values and beliefs.
There are safeguarding issues around disclosure and it is worth noting that there is no timescale on disclosures.
There are some web resources if this is something that has affected you:
there is also a YOUTUBE video survivor launches Shattterboys UK which is specifically aimed at men who have been victims of child sexual abuse.
If you have been affected or are struggling because you feel you cannot tell anyone about your victimisation please feel free to get in touch through my contact page or check out some of the websites for support.