There are many different forms of abuse, and while none of them are easy to discuss, there is one in particular that most will feel too uncomfortable to broach—sexual abuse. Many times this form of abuse will go unnoticed or unreported, simply due to the deeply rooted feeling of shame that a person who has experienced this sort of abuse will feel. They worry that someone will look at them differently, that maybe they will not be believed, that someone might tell them that it was their own fault, and the list goes on. Even those who notice that someone may be abused in this fashion are likely to try to find justifications for their suspicions instead of bringing the abuse to light and risk being wrong. Each outlet just seems too embarrassing to mention, and therefore the victim often hides the truth however possible, existing in a black hole with only a fragile outer shell keeping them from being sucked in entirely. They go through the options again. And again. But they just CAN’T say the words. They deal with this alone, sometimes for their entire lives.
Sexual abuse can suffocate, causing fear, discomfort, anxiety, stress, or other negative emotional changes in another through unwanted sexual conduct, making sexual remarks or innuendos, sexual assault, coercive intercourse, and rape. This type of abuse is not only targeted at turning the victim into an object and exerting control over someone's will power in the most intimate ways, but almost always creates long term emotional suffering and trauma for the victim. Some abusers will repeat these actions with their partners over and over again to dehumanize them, to reduce self-worth, and to enforce obedience and subjugation. Both men and women who are victims of sexual assault undergo physical and cognitive changes that often have a lifelong impact. Some victims have extra physical consequences that they must now deal with such as pregnancy, a sexually transmittable disease, permanent physical scars, while others may develop post-traumatic stress, and suffer from lifelong emotional effects. Some emotional changes may alter how the victim forms or acts in relationships, and lowers their level of self-esteem and self-worth. Suicidal thoughts or actions are common in those who have experienced sexual abuse, as are self-destructive tendencies following the experience.
This situation is not something that should be kept secret, yet bringing up the topic in any manner feels almost taboo in this society. And it shouldn’t. These victims need our support even more as this form of abuse is one of the most emotionally damaging. If this situation is happening to you or someone you know, please speak out. You are not alone, even if you may feel that you are. There are people out there that can and will help you. Reporting the situation to an outside authority may be the safest way to stop the situation as there is the least amount of personal risk involved. However, if you have someone close to you whom you trust, talk to them. Maybe the two of you can come up with a way to remove the abuser from your life and you will have the emotional support that you need. Do not do this on your own. This is not your fault but you CAN do something to make it stop. It may feel like the walls are closing in and you are stuck at every turn. But this is simply not true, despite what it feels like. Reach out. Remove this person from your life. Shoving it down is not the answer.
You will need to face what has happened, when you are ready, and find a way to move past it with a strong support system. It will not be an easy task, but in time you will make headway. Recognize that not every method will work for every individual, because we are exactly that—individuals. It will take time and patience to find the right method to allow you to heal from the situation that has occurred. You may not ever heal entirely, but it is important that you do not bottle up the pain that you are feeling or it will eat you alive. Be patient with yourself and forgiving of the setbacks you may experience internally as the impact of this abuse can be complex and severe. A therapist is likely to help in this circumstance but if that is not an option, consider talking to others online who have been through a similar situation; often there is a strong bond between those who have experienced abuse and this can be helpful in moving past the trauma.
Repeat these words until you no longer shy away from them:
- This is not my fault
- I am not alone
- I am loveable as I am
- I am doing my best
- This will end
Breathe deeply, exhale. Let go of the pain you have felt with each exhale. You can do this!
When in the midst of an abusive situation, it may be difficult to think clearly and come up with a solution to remedy the abuse, while trying to implement it may feel almost impossible. However, given the right tools and the will power to create change, it most certainly is possible, even more so– it is probable. Many may feel overwhelmed and may not know where to start, but it is important to start somewhere.
Please continue to check in with us each week for a new post about abusive behavior and how it can affect your life and the lives of those around you. There is always that first action to helping someone you care about. Let this be it!