Jeremy Tomlinson  M.Ed., R.M.F.T., R.S.W., EMDRIA Certified

Individual, Couple and Family Therapy, Sex Therapy, EMDR

Sexual Abuse

I work with both male and female survivors of childhood sexualized abuse.
I also work with adult survivors of sexual assault.

What is sexualized abuse?

There are a range of experiences that people have that would be considered sexualized abuse.  For some people it involved sexual activity with an adult or an older child. The older person was in a position of power and exploited that in some way to involve the younger person in the sexual activity.  It is possible that there may have been some enjoyable aspects for the younger person (companionship, special attention, affection).

In some cases there may not have been actual sexual activity, but an older person may have behaved in a sexualized manner that made the child/adolescent feel uncomfortable, confused or violated.  This could include sexualized or suggestive talk, jokes or innuendo, suddenly appearing nude in front of the younger person, behaving provocatively in front of the younger person, walking in on the younger person while in the bath, etc.

What happens to a person who experiences trauma?

Everyone reacts differently.  Two people who experience the same trauma will likely react differently.  During the traumatic experience the body and mind can only cope with a portion of the experience.  The rest is recorded in the memory system as a traumatic memory.  The memory may include images, a belief (I am a bad person or the world is an unsafe place), body sensations, emotions, and sometimes sounds, tastes and smells.

Some people are able to access those memories easily.  Other people forget.  Forgetting is the mind and body’s way of coping with an overwhelming experience.

Why do I suddenly I have memories?

Often people will remember childhood abuse – or will remember the extent of it – suddenly as adults.  Anything can trigger it – a television program, the smell of someone’s cologne, the sound of a dog barking.  When a memory reappears, it is the mind and body’s way of saying, “Now you are ready to cope with these terrible experiences.”

What happens in sexual abuse counselling?

I work from a perspective that breaks the situation into “thirds”, inspired by psychotherapist and writer Yvonne Dolan.

A third of our time is spent discussing the past (discussing what happened, your childhood, if other people knew, how they responded).  A third of our time is on the present (how is it affecting your life now).  And a third on the future (what do you want to do in order to make changes in your life).

It is important to recognize that the process can be a slow one and that it is important to move a slow pace so that the images, emotions and possibly strange body sensations do not become overwhelming.  What is very important is that the person feels as safe, comfortable and supported as possible while discussing these issues. 

With some people, after we have built a trusting therapeutic relationship, I use EMDR to help with processing memories.

Resources for Men

Book: Victims No Longer – The Classic Guide for Men Recovering from Sexual Child Abuse, 2nd edition
by Mike Lew

Resources for Women

Book: The Courage to Heal, 20th Anniversary Edition – A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis