I work with both male and female survivors of childhood sexualized
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 may be 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 at a slow enough pace so that the images, emotions and possibly strange body sensations do not become overwhelming.