Healing the scars of sexual abuse
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How to Heal After Sexual Abuse
Acceptance is the first step
The first step to healing sexual abuse is to accept that it has happened with all that entails. First off, many people are in such denial that the abuse happened, they do not even remember that it occurred. They still have the memories of a child, playing strange games with adults. Only later do they realize they were being used sexually and that it has led to maladaptive feelings and behavior in adulthood.
Victims sometimes come to therapy and realize during or after sessions about their childhoods that they had been sexually abused. This does not often happen in hypnosis sessions, and memories of sexual abuse gained through hypnosis have proven to often be false or implanted memories which follow the suggestions of the hypnotist.
Once the victim becomes aware of the abuse, they can have a flood of emotions. Often they are angry at a family member or neighbor who made them play ‘sexual games’, or in worse cases, tortured and forced them with sexual violence. This may alternate with sadness and the question “Why would they do this to me specifically? What is wrong about me?” They may then realize that the anxiety and depression for which they have sought treatment was heavily influenced by their experience of sexual abuse.
Therapy and natural options
Psychotherapy also known as counseling is an option that many sexual abuse victims initially use. They often come in for anxiety, depression, and substance abuse issues. Long-term sexual abuse is strongly correlated with substance misuse. When victims go to a counselor for treatment, he will take an inventory of your concerns and decide which clinical modality will help you the most. Some proven modalities include:
Cognitive-behavioral therapy has been used to treat sexual abuse victims. A clinical trial looking at childhood sexual abuse survivors noted significant improvements in the group assigned to Cognitive-Behavioral therapy intervention and improvements were maintained at a 9 month checkup. Many other psychotherapeutic options may treat conditions like PTSD, Borderline Personality Disorder, Major Depression, Anxiety Disorders, Dissociative Identity Disorder, and Schizophrenia which may be caused by childhood sexual abuse including exposure therapy and Dialectical Behavior Therapy treatment options.
Prescription medication for anxiety and depression
Many of those who suffered from sexual abuse will experience anxiety and depression. This is how the mind and body reacts to protect itself from future attacks. Many who are systematically abused find that the effects of being depressed make them less desirable to their abuser, because they fail to take care of their hygiene. Because sexual abuse can cause STDs and other infections from tissue damage, anxiety causes the person to avoid dangerous people when possible, which reduces the chances of infection. However, in Major Depression and Anxiety Disorders, the anxiety and depression is far out of proportion and becomes a problem in its own right.
For Major Depression and Anxiety, psychiatrists often prescribe SSRIs, or Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors. These are drugs like Paxil, Celexa, and Zoloft. They can take the edge off of dysfunctional mood states so that the client can focus more easily on working through his issues in therapy. They can also make daily life more tolerable for those who experience severe social anxiety as a result of abuse.
Sedatives like Klonopin and Xanax are sometimes used to treat the anxiety component of these conditions but are being prescribed less often due to their high abuse potential and the fact that they are often mixed with opioids by drug abusers. Those who have been sexually abused are at high risk of developing substance misuse disorders to self-medicate the dysphoria imparted by a history of abuse.
Mood stabilizers like Lithium and Depakote can be used to treat mood swings or Bipolar Disorder which may result from abuse.
Preventing Future Abuse
Some people who have been sexually abused are afraid they may themselves become abusers. Some abusers have been abused themselves. Those who have been abused are afraid they may be victimized again. Lastly, those who have been abused are afraid their abuser may abuse someone else. Childhood sexual abuse can sometimes lead to promiscuity and drug use, which can put one at risk of rape, especially when alcohol is involved.
To prevent future abuse from occurring it is imperative that the victim get treatment with a qualified counselor. He/she may reveal the identity of the abuser to the counselor and they may agree to make a plan to report the abuse to the authorities. This may or may not occur. If the abuse is ongoing or if the abuser is likely to be abusing others currently, the counselor may have a duty to report. If the abuser has passed on, is in prison for other offenses, or is in any other way no longer a danger, it will be up to the client and the counselor whether to report or not. It can be healing to some clients to report their abuser and tell family and others about the abuse. Yet, for other clients, it could be severely traumatic so the decision whether or not to tell anyone is up to the client, unless a child or someone else is currently in danger of abuse.
“How Well Does Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Treat ….” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2970926/. Accessed 18 Mar. 2020.