Childhood sexual abuse is found in every 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 males in North America (Hopper, 2015). These results represent only those who have come forth to report, which means statistics are potentially much higher than we realize, especially with males. It is therefore important to continue to discuss and build awareness about this issue within our society, building dialogue and transparency so more people can get help.
When a child endures sexual abuse, their developing capacity for trust, intimacy, agency & sexuality is damaged, compromising how they relate to their world as a child and as an adult.
Understanding trauma survivors is imperative to opening up awareness and providing proper channels of support. Survivors are often incapable of fully engaging with life in relationships and experience threat, dread, depression and self loathing. They are often menaced by nightmares and flashbacks, subject to uncontrollable rage and dissociation and may be immobilized by a lack of meaning in their lives (van der Kolk, 2014). The legacy of trauma may result in children developing maladaptive behaviours of coping which continue into adult life.
Often adults that come to therapy through an awareness of channeling problematic coping behaviours. These behaviours are usually reported to occur in cycles with negative self schemas that limit their capacity to engage with alternative resources. They report feeling in a rut, to which they can’t get out of to make a difference in life.
How does one create resilience to children trauma within therapy?
1. Build a new narrative - By deconstructing the dominant story which may be oppressive in stopping the individual from accessing their preferred reality. Re-authoring a story allows one to pay attention to the more neglected areas of their life and acknowledge the skill, agency and determination that they may have overlooked.
2. Finding the internalized voice - Within this new narrative, one can create an inner dialogue of strength, self-efficacy and self-worth.
3. Community of Support - With a strong internalized voice and narrative, one can reach out to find a community of support. This community provides opportunity to be seen and heard accurately garnering witnesses to ones worth and vitality.
4. Finding meaning - when an individual has been sexually abused his/her beliefs can become restricted and critical, possibly shaping the self as unlovable and damaged, people as untrustworthy, and the world as dangerous. These meanings can become fixed and persuasive. However, when one has built this new narrative, internalized voice and community of support, they path a way to reconstruct meaning and connection with self worth. In this place one restores a sense of agency, regains the capacity for reflective self awareness and arrives in a place of self acceptance, where previous meanings can be transformed and they can find peace with their past.
For those survivors out there, we encourage you to come forward and regain a voice, a new meaning and hope in taking charge of you life. It is our hope to inspire authenticity, self-acceptance, dignity and belonging in those that come forward with their story, ensuring they are seen, heard and understood.
We know that a survivor is a purposeful agent in their own story telling