Dealing with consequences of sexual abuse


Dealing with consequences of sexual abuse


your avatar   Puffy, 33-year-old woman

I don't know where or how to start...but I'll make this as short and sweet as possible. At the age of 7 I was raped by my 13-year-old cousin. I never talked about it because I felt partly responsible and since it was my cousin there was no way I would be believed. Anyhow, today I am 33 and the most lost and unstable person you could ever know. Besides other problems such as biting my nails horribly, I can't seem to get control of my own body and easily gain or lose weight whenever my emotions take over. I have been single for more than 10 years and don't see where my life is going. I spoke to my sister and my best friend about it just recently...and they both had the reaction that they knew I was hiding a big secret.

I'm just trying to figure out if all I am today is related to what happened to me. I want to know what triggered it and why I started talking about this 26 years later when I thought I controlled this situation. I want to know if I dealt with this already or is it only coming out today. Please send me some feedback. I'm losing myself and trying to find some explanation.


    Carl Benedict, LCPC

Dear Puffy:

I want to commend you for searching for answers to the problems you are experiencing. It takes great courage to open up about childhood sexual abuse. Hopefully, this will be the beginning of a healing journey that will allow you to understand yourself better and get more of what you want from life.

Childhood sexual abuse can be very destructive to emotional development. Many factors play a role in how severe the after-effects will be. Was the abuse an isolated event, or ongoing over months or years? Was the perpetrator a stranger, or someone you trusted to protect you and care for you? Did caring adults help you deal with the abuse, or did they blame you or not believe you? Or did you have to deal with the abuse alone, in secrecy? How did the abuser force you to keep the abuse secret? Did he threaten physical harm? Did he say you would be taken from your family if you told? And what other unresolved traumas or losses occurred prior to the abuse?

Puffy, from what you've written, I'm sure that some of your problems are related to the sexual abuse. I'm also sure there are other factors as well. The important thing to understand is that it is never too late to heal from childhood abuse.

You asked why the pain of the abuse would surface 26 years later. There are several reasons for this: Sometimes current losses or traumas, such as a recent death or a divorce, will trigger feelings and memories of earlier unresolved losses or traumas (i.e., the abuse). Sometimes one can no longer repress the painful events that were held at bay for years (i.e., the abuse) because of the increased pressures, demands, and stressors of adulthood. Sometimes the events of the adult years, such as having a child reach the same age the abuse occurred, trigger memories and unresolved feelings of the abuse. For whatever reason, the end result is the same: Seemingly out of the blue, one feels confused and overwhelmed - as if life is slipping out of control. I call this the crisis stage of recovering from childhood abuse, when memories and feelings come flooding back.

Sexual abuse damages self-esteem, which then affects all areas of your life. It's hard to develop safe intimate relationships, or advance a successful career, when you feel really bad about yourself. That's why, Puffy, I recommend that you seek professional counseling. I don't know what services are available in your area, but I encourage you to investigate. A good therapist can help you sort out what is going on and develop new strategies for coping with your feelings and problems. In addition, a good therapist will help you understand that you were not responsible for the abuse NO MATTER WHAT YOU THINK. Feelings of guilt and shame, which are common after childhood sexual abuse, must be resolved for healing to take place. Therapy can really help.

Puffy, you were the victim of a crime and did nothing wrong, NO MATTER HOW YOU FEEL INSIDE. The abuse was not your fault. So, try very hard not to blame yourself or feel shame. Rather, try to develop compassion for the Little Girl you were who tried to cope with an impossible situation that no six-year-old girl should ever have to deal with. Puffy, you are a Survivor. It's time to get the help you need so you can also become a Thriver. I wish you the best on your journey of healing and recovery.

p class="content" align=justify>Sincerely,

p class="content" align=justify>Carl Benedict, LCPC

This question was answered by Carl Benedict, LCPC. Carl Benedict practices at a mental health center in Maryland. He also works online with adults. His areas of specialization and special interest include depression, anxiety and panic attacks, anger problems, addiction and dual diagnosis, grief and loss, recovery from childhood abuse, codependency, personal and spiritual growth, 12-Step recovery, ACOA issues, life adjustments and transitions, and relationship problems. For more information visit his site or his compact page on QueenDom.For more information visit:

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