Experiencing childhood trauma, including childhood sexual abuse, can leave survivors with mental, emotional, and physical damage to no fault of their own. As a defense mechanism, many survivors of childhood sex abuse subconsciously block out the painful memories of what happened to them in order to protect themselves and continue functioning in their day-to-day lives. In some cases, the damage that childhood sexual abuse causes may not manifest until later on in the survivor’s life once they begin to recall the memories of what took place. Signs of repressed childhood sexual abuse that adults should be aware of include mental, physical, and emotional difficulties.
What are Repressed Memories?
Memory loss is extremely common for survivors of childhood sex abuse. When we experience trauma, especially the immense trauma of childhood sex abuse, it often affects the brain’s ability to form and retain memories. While it is normal not to remember every part of your childhood, adult survivors of child sex abuse may only have fragments of memories that surface in response to certain stimuli. For sex abuse survivors, memory repression is often a subconscious defense mechanism that allows them to continue functioning in daily life. Survivors of childhood sexual abuse may also develop dissociative amnesia, which is when you are unable to remember important information about yourself.
How to Cope with Repressed Memories Coming Back
If you believe you have repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse, a mental health practitioner or therapist can provide a safe space for you to recover memories of childhood trauma and help you work past and recover from that trauma. By working through the repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse, you can regain control over your emotions and work towards recovering from the trauma you endured. After repressed memory therapy, it can be beneficial for survivors to contact a sex abuse lawyer who can help them receive justice through financial compensation in a civil sex abuse lawsuit.
Signs of Repressed Childhood Trauma in Adults
According to the CDC, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 13 boys in America will experience some form of sexual abuse before they turn 18. In over 90% of cases, the abuser is someone who is personally known by the survivor, whether it is a family member, neighbor, teacher, or coach. Signs of repressed childhood sex abuse include:
- General anxiety: Many people suffer from anxiety, but survivors of childhood sexual abuse may find their anxiety is more severe. Repressed memories of sex abuse may manifest as heightened anxiety around certain people, places, or stimuli. Memory repression therapy can help you understand how your anxiety is related to your past trauma.
- Unexplained emotional and physical reactions around certain people: When you have a bad feeling about someone and you do not know why, this could be a sign of childhood trauma. In many cases, this response is caused by the person subconsciously reminding you of your abuser.
- Discomfort when visiting certain places: In the same way people can trigger trauma from your past, places can too. The way a location looks, sounds, or even smells can bring up repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse.
- Child-like regressions: Child-like reactions include temper tantrums, being stubborn for little reason, or speaking in a baby or child-like voice. Childish regressions or reverting to a child-like state could be a trauma response to unlocked childhood memories.
- Attachment issues: The repressed trauma from childhood sexual abuse can also leave survivors with a fear of abandonment. This may result in intense attachments or dependencies on others in your life where you fear them leaving, even if it is only for a short time.
- Extreme shifts in emotion: Memory repression in adult survivors of sex abuse may lead to difficulties in regulating emotions. Survivors may find themselves with strong feelings towards seemingly everyday situations or extreme shifts between emotions. For survivors, these intense emotional shifts are sometimes caused by repressed memories being triggered.
- Difficulty managing daily stress: Adult life is full of stressors that we have to deal with, but sex abuse survivors may find themselves unable to cope with everyday annoyances. This may result in survivors lashing out against those around them or overreacting to the minor conveniences of everyday life.
- Constant fatigue: Repressed childhood trauma may leave survivors mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted. This is because of the mental energy subconsciously used to repress painful memories.
PTSD and Childhood Trauma
Research has shown that adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse often develop mental health conditions like PTSD, anxiety, and depression. These mental health conditions can lead to other adverse consequences like difficulties with relationships, problems at work, irrational fears, and more. In a study of over 9,000 adults living with PTSD, researchers found an increased risk of high blood pressure, stomach ulcers, arthritis, and other physical diseases.
How to Recover Repressed Memories
In order to recover from the long-lasting damage that child sex abuse can cause, adult survivors who suspect they may have repressed memories of abuse should work with a mental health professional to help them recover their repressed memories in a safe space. A mental health practitioner and repressed memory therapy will be able to help you work through your trauma in order to find the root cause and help you deal with any painful memories that may arise.
Talk to a Child Sex Abuse Lawyer
Once you are in the right mental space to move forward from your abuse, filing a sex abuse lawsuit can help you find justice by holding your abuser and any institutions that enabled them financially responsible for the pain and trauma you have endured. Whether the abuse occurred recently or in some cases several years ago, a sex abuse lawyer may be able to help you hold your abuser accountable by pursuing financial compensation for the trauma you have endured. Please note that some states have strict deadlines for filing a lawsuit, so speaking with a lawyer as soon as possible is in your best interest.
If you or a loved one are an adult survivor of childhood sex abuse, pursuing financial compensation could help you obtain the justice you deserve as well as give you the resources you need to fully recover. You can contact a sex abuse attorney for a free consultation to learn more.