Sexual abuse in someone’s past is often a cause of psychological and emotional difficulties. Usually sexual abuse is committed by someone known and trusted by a child, which can carry with it serious confusion, betrayal and most commonly, guilt. Guilt often stems from a person blaming themselves for the abuse and having trusted the abuser, or even from getting the abuser in trouble after telling someone about what’s happened. It’s also very common for an abuser to manipulate a person with threats, lies, or rewards.
Just “getting over it” or “forgetting the past” may not be so simple. Friends and family may mean well with their advice or a person may tell themselves to just let go, but there are a lot of layers to deal with before finally reaching the point of letting go, forgiving or moving on with life. Those are great end goals, but getting there requires uncovering and working through difficult feelings of anger, grief, guilt, anxiety—even dealing with other mental disorders that may have developed.
After abuse it’s not uncommon for people to develop serious issues with anxiety, anger, depression, self-esteem, and difficulties with intimacy. People abused as kids are usually able to function as adults, but certain things may be challenges, especially when it involves intimate relationships.
Getting Help for Sexual Abuse
People who have experienced sexual abuse may not realize how it affects their current way of thinking or behaving, but if a person has never sought therapy it may be an important step in ensuring mental and emotional stability. Get help right away if the abuse is ongoing or if the history of it is interfering with normal life. Post traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, personality disorders, dissociation, substance abuse, and other things may be rooted in past abuse.
Through therapy, individuals can gain insight into their emotions, learn ways to cope, work through feelings of shame, understand and define their value, learn techniques for controlling anger, and improve communication skills and patterns of behavior in current relationships.
For more info, contact Marsha Schechtman, LCSW at 770.753.4911 or Howard Drutman, Ph.D. at 678.867.7020 at the Atlanta Behavioral Consultants.