Fear of intimacy after abuse


Fear of intimacy after abuse


your avatar   Kelly, 22-year-old woman

Hello! My name is Kelly and I am a 22-year-old student. Before asking my questions, I feel that is necessary to inform you that when I was a child (between the age of 5 and 11 or 12) I was repeatedly sexually abused by multiple male members of my family including my father. Growing up, I couldn't tell anybody about these horrible things that happened to me because my mother suffered from very serious heart disease and I was afraid she might die. However, what helped me to find peace and to be able to forgive was the fact that I became a Christian and I found my comfort in the unconditional love and the father figure that God provided for me.

Nonetheless, my mom passed away three years ago, and so I found myself being confronted with more complicated issues. Because of what happened to me, I felt for a long time that it was my fault and that I was filthy, so from my teen years I decided that I was never going to have an intimate relationship, let alone to marry or to have kids. As I grew older, I maintained my idea and I freaked out when some boys tried to approach me. It was like boys didn't even exist and the idea of getting close to someone disgusted me. But after my mother's death I tried to talk to my two older sisters about what happened, even though I never told them the entire truth about the number of abuses or other details. I found comfort in telling them all that, but it seemed like psychologically, I didn't overcame the consequences of the abuse because I couldn't open myself to any male person.

I spoke with the pastor of my church whom I trust very much, and who has also a degree in psychology. He told me that it wasn't my fault, and that the fact that I could trust him with all my secrets was a big step. So after that I figured I could finally try and see if I can be ok with being more than friends with a nice guy from my church, but I couldn't. He fell in love with me and I liked him but when he tried to hold my hand, all I felt was repulsion and so I ended it even if it hurt me.

The questions that revolve around my story concern a problem that I consider more serious. Lately, I found myself nurturing feelings towards men who are much older than me (10 to 30 years older); bizarre feelings which do not involve sexuality, but only a need to feel appreciated by them or to be around them all the time. The weird thing is that I know for a fact that a relationship would be impossible as these guys are often married, and what I feel is confusing and not necessarily romantic. So my main question is: Is it possible that my feelings towards these men (which are often prematurely nurtured because I don't even know the person very well) a way of expressing my incapacity to be in a true (non-platonic) relationship with a boy my age? And I would also like to know if I would be able to open up towards boys in the future, because at the moment I can't trust them, and I can only trust a few people who are mainly females. Also, I find myself in a situation where I can't even hug anyone except my sisters, other significant females in my life, and of course kids (because they are harmless and innocent). I couldn't talk to anyone about this situation that concerns older men because I am embarrassed, but I am relying on the fact that your perspective will be helpful.

Thank you for your time and for your response!


    Bob Rich, Ph.D.

Kelly my dear, you need serious therapy. It has an excellent chance of being effective for you. There are well-tried ways of getting over your childhood. They have worked for many other people in your situation. Your pastor has helped you, but having a degree in psychology is probably not enough. Ask him to recommend a therapist.

As a start, you could look at my book, From Depression to Contentment: A self-therapy guide. It will guide you on many things you can do to immediately improve your life, and then do self-therapy on a long-term basis. However, the kind of long-term, systematic abuse you have described does need face to face therapy, probably with a female psychologist.

Second, you have a wonderful resource in your faith. Pray, and read the words of Jesus. Also, imagine that before you were born, you and a superior Person (God, an Angel, whoever) had a conversation, in which you were asked to identify the lessons you want to learn. This Person then organized the life you have had. What are the lessons you have set yourself up for, how is your terrible childhood giving you the opportunity to learn them, and what kind of person will you be when you have achieved this objective? Take your time, and put in a lot of effort into answering these questions.

Third, a frequent result of ongoing childhood sexual abuse is inability to enjoy intimate contact with the offending sex. (Sometimes it is a mother sexually abusing a daughter. In your case, the criminals were males, so you have this with men.). In such a case, it is perfectly all right to seek love, closeness, and even sexual contact with people of the same sex. This is in no way against Christianity. Some people claiming to be Christians show strong prejudice and even hatred against homosexuality, but they've got it wrong. If you read the episode of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis, you'll find that its message is completely against that of Jesus. It approves of Lot offering his virgin daughters to the mob, and of his daughters later getting him drunk and having incest with him. If that's God's word, I'll eat my Bible. It is a later insertion by someone evil, and people use it to justify evil acts of their own.

It is perfectly all right for you to have friendship and platonic relationships with older men, married or not. I am sure that if any made sexual advances to you, you'd feel the way you did with the young man in church.

I hope that what I've written here will start you on the way to self-healing. You are welcome to email me back, and to join my global group of grandchildren.


This question was answered by Dr. Bob Rich. Dr. Rich has 30+ years of experience as a psychotherapist. Dr. Rich is also a writer and a "mudsmith". Bob is now retired from psychological practice, but still works with people as a counselor.For more information visit: http://anxietyanddepression-help.com


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