Sexual abuse encompasses any action or coercion that forces someone to do something sexually that they do not want to. Violence is not a requirement for sexual assault, and everyone has the right to decide what they do or do not want to do.
Examples of sexual assault and abuse include:
- Unwanted fondling, touching, or kissing.
- Unwanted rough or violent sexual activity.
- Rape or attempted rape.
- Forced sexual acts, such as oral sex or penetration.
- Forced prostitution.
Many people neglect to address sexual abuse because they are afraid. They fear that once they start talking about it, the pain will be so intense that they will not be able to contain it. However, the ways in which sexual abuse manifests can have a significant impact on someone’s quality of life.
Symptoms of sexual abuse include:
- Feelings of fear, shame, pain, humiliation, or guilt.
- Anxiety, depression, and self-neglect.
- Substance abuse or eating disorders.
- A distorted sense of self-perception that may lead to self-destructive behavior or relationships.
- Symptoms of post-traumatic stress, such as intrusive or recurring thoughts.
Sometimes people do not realize how badly the repercussions of sexual abuse affect them and their relationships. For example, someone may become overly promiscuous because they feel that giving themself away means no one can take it from them. It becomes a form of control over their sexuality and a coping mechanism. Likely, their behavior is being influenced by their past traumatic experience.
Treating sexual abuse
While there are multiple forms of treatment, methods are catered to each client and therapist. Typically, I treat sexual abuse with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). I also educate my clients about sexual abuse and how it may be affecting their lives, possibly in ways they are unaware of. A lot of treatment involves exploring and validating feelings as well as learning to self-regulate. I teach coping mechanisms to help my clients manage nightmares and flashbacks. I help my clients learn to talk about the abuse so they can have open, honest, and strong relationships.