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Old December 23rd, 2011, 08:08 AM   #1
Amaryllis
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Name: Z
Join Date: June 27, 2011
Age: 21
Gender: Female
Blog Entries: 12
Default Understanding and Coping with Sexual Abuse

NOTE: General coping strategies are in the lower end of the post, scroll down till you see "Coping and Surviving" in big bold letters. Oh, and most of the coping mechanisms apply to almost everyone else as well, whether you're just sad, angry or whatever else it may be

This guide will not pertain information about reporting crimes made against you - though asking for help is strongly recommended - because it is something that is very hard to do or if you're like me, something you do not wish to do. Be it because you're ashamed, afraid or do not wish to end up in a foster home (though that most likely will not happen unless the perpetrator was your guardian).

For the sake of this thread I will focus on coping mechanisms and the psychological effects of past sexual abuse, though the following information and tips can still help current sexual abuse sufferers to some extent.

Maybe you've given up the fight and do not believe you deserve/should/can cope with the sexual abuse. If so, you're bullshitting yourself and you deserve much more than what you're getting. If you're reading this right now - you're alive - and for that I commend you. As long as you're alive, it's a mental battle you have all possibilities of winning.

As I find this hard enough to write as it is, some of the things will be quotes from sites and books that I will link to within the thread.

WHAT IS SEXUAL ABUSE
"Was I sexually assaulted or even raped?" This questions seems to pop up every now and then. So before I get into more detail, this is what constitutes as sexual abuse:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Survivors Resource Network
...the erotic use of a person, whether physically or emotionally, is sexual exploitation in the fullest meaning of the term, even if no bodily contact is ever made."
EMOTIONAL EFFECTS OF SEXUAL ABUSE
-Confusion
-Powerlessness
-Helplessness
-Pain
-Feelings of betrayal
-Sadness
-Grief
-Loss
-Feeling dirty
-Shame
-Vulnerability
-Feeling unsafe
-Fear
-Horror
-Depression
-Anger
-Numbness
-Constant suspicion
-Lack of trust
-Inflicting mental/physical torture upon him/herself
-Sensitivity
-Very emotional
-Hurt
-Panic/Anxiety
-Feeling miserable

NOT-SO-GOOD BUT COMMON WAYS OF COPING

Self-blame
You may feel you're bad, that you're undeserving, unloved and the crime against you deserved to happen.
Click here for self-blame help.

Making excuses for the abuse
This often happens with victims who were/are close with the person who abused them - be it a father, uncle, friend or neighbour. They do so in order to "rationalise" the behaviour and keep the relationship. They may think "It wasn't his/her fault, s/he didn't know what s/he was thinking. S/he didn't mean to hurt me."
The Abuse Excuse by Alan M. Dershowitz

Shrinking it out of proportion
Trying to convince yourself it wasn't so bad. You've gone through worse, others have it much worse etc. etc.

I don't have a link for this so you'll just have to deal with me talking for a bit. The fact is, no one's pain, life or emotions belong to you. It doesn't matter if someone else is living in poverty, lost their iPhone, is adopted or whatever else. Your life is your own and if the hurt is there, it is. Acknowledge it, allow yourself to feel and learn to cope with it and feel better. Comparing lives with anyone isn't going to get you anywhere.

Sexual abuse is horrible and in no way is it anything minor, demeaning it will only make it hit even harder when your dam finally breaks.

Denial
Thinking: "Tt didn't happen; I must be making it up; after all how can I be sure anything actually happened; and what if I’m wrong; it probably didn't happen; it couldn’t have happened."
Understanding it.
More understanding.

MENTAL ILLNESSES AND HEALTH ISSUES BROUGHT UPON BY SEXUAL ABUSE

Eating Disorders
This website saved my life and I hope it'll save yours, too.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
To quote from the website link below: After a traumatic event, it is typical to have feelings of anxiety, stress, or fear, making it difficult to adjust or cope for some time afterwards. In particular, survivors of sexual violence may experience severe feelings of anxiety, stress, or fear, known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). While it is natural to have some of these symptoms after a traumatic event, if they last more than a few weeks and become an ongoing problem, it might be PTSD. If left untreated, the symptoms of PTSD can grow worse and last for months or even years.

Click here for information on treatment options.

NOTE: Survival and Coping can be used for coping with PTSD, especially "Dealing with your Head." Also, challenge your sense of helplessness. The abuse may have left you feeling powerless and vulnerable, helping others is a great way of regaining your sense of power. Volunteer, reach out to a friend or spend hours on gigantic walls of text like this one

Also, write about your feelings and thoughts. When you feel distressed, jolt it down and learn relaxation skills.


Dissociative Identity Disorders
This is a mental illness in which the sufferer has two or more distinct personalities/identities. Sexual abuse victims often dissociate themselves from the abuse.

Click here for more info.

Substance abuse
From drugs to drinking.

Self-harm
Cutting, burning, biting, hitting, any form of intended self-injury counts. Click here for coping information.

Stockholm Syndrome
...emotionally bonding with an abuser as a survival strategy for victims of abuse and intimidation. For example, a victim who was abducted and raped may, years later, describe the captor as a “great person” with whom he/she formed an emotional bond, may be showing characteristics of a victim suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.

There are many, many others such as depression, flashbacks, borderline personality disorders and suicide. To put them all in this thread would take me days to write seeing as I stop at every sentence because this is so difficult for me to write. If you'd like information on anything specific or further help, please leave a comment in this thread or message me.

COPING AND SURVIVING
For people who are no longer being abused, it's time to let it go. The person who was wronged is someone else entirely. We change every day and you've changed. You're not the same and that chapter of your life is over. Some of what you've lost will never be returned and holding on to the pain is like being a closed bud frozen in an eternal winter - it's time to bloom.



-Let music heal. Yay to you if you guessed I would say that Learn an instrument, listen to music, express yourself. Keeping all those emotions, the anger, disappointment, hatred, shame, fear and sadness all locked up is a strain.

-Not everyone wishes to hurt you. Thank Sean for his help because I, too, am struggling with this step.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Trooneh
Now, I know some of you believe that every person of the same sex as the one who abused you is out to get you. This is NOT the case, however. Remember, a vast majority of people do not want to harm you. You need to be willing to let yourself at least have contact with members of that sex. If you don't, you will only be hindering your own recovery. There are people that would love to get to know the real, beautiful you; you only have to give them the chance. Remember, if you feel at all in danger then you can always get away. If you choose to have a relationship, you need to be open about your nervousness with your significant other. They need to understand why you might not be willing to take the next step. If they truly care about you and your wellbeing, they will understand and will agree to move at your pace. Remember, the famous philosopher John Locke proposed that all humans are inherently good. You need to believe that and try to keep yourself from fearing every member of that sex.

-Art therapy. It's how I say what I wish to say. Take a piece of paper and rip at it. Tear something into pieces, throw it up in the sky and capture the beauty. Focus on the wonder of life, rather than the ugliness.

-Use your voice. Or in my case - fingers. After talking about the abuse so often since I joined VT, things have been a lot better. It's like tens of thousands of rocks have been lifted off me, each one by the wonderful people I've met and those that I've helped. Memories and people are only powerful when you allow them to be.

-Find a haven within. We often put ourselves down and see all the flaws within us and everything we do, this is especially true for sufferers of abuse. There will never be a person, place or thing capable of replacing the love you lack for yourself. Recovery is so much more difficult when you feel you do not deserve it. Life is too long to be spent in self-loathing. Michael Larsen once said:

I live in conflict and contradiction but it can be so beautiful
when I don't reject what lies within
It's beautiful the way agony connects us to the living
I think of the world when I hurt, and keep on existing in the now



-Have a support network. Life is too long to be spent in self-hate and too long to be spent alone. Isolating and denying yourself unity and trust often brings upon misery. I don't know about you but Olafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm definitely sound beautiful together.

Loneliness can be a horrible thing and sexual abuse tends to create an ugly, large, seemingly impossible gap between you and the rest of the world. Often I feel so much older than everyone else around me and laugh and smiling is a chore. But with time, my laughter and smiles have become much more natural - probably because I have such caring, funny friends.

I'm sure you've felt lonely before - I know I always do before, during, after and in between every period of abuse. Maybe you feel as if help will never come but if you keep on searching, it will, eventually. Some things are worth waiting for.

-Dealing with your own head. When the intrusive images or memories flood into your head, close your eyes and imagine this:

Quote:
Imagine you are standing in a field watching a bright red hot air. The balloon slowly goes up into the air. You watch it go up and up high
into the sky until all you can see is a small red dot far away. You can think of the pictures in your head in the same way. Just let them float through your mind until they are a distant pinpoint. Acknowledge that they are happening but do not try to stop them in any way. Remember that trying not to think of something makes it more likely to come to mind.
-Filled with so much hatred. Sorry, P!nk song. Anyhow, intense, burning anger is something that develops in victims of sexual assault. To cope with this - notice the warning signs, the beginnings of rage. Tense muscles, irrationality, clenching, faster heart rate etc. etc. Then shout, say or think "STOP." Stand still. Turn away. Take deep breaths, reason with yourself. Listen to music and do something else.

-Write, write, write. Journal your ass off. Write down every bit of your mind onto paper, anything you'd like. Turn your live into a creative story. I write so much bullshiz, I could fill a library with it.

-It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. Night time can be a pretty difficult to tackle but try doing the following:
• Be really active during the day and avoid naps, so that when you go to bed you are really sleepy.
• Have a warm bath and a hot milky drink before you go to bed.
• Avoid caffeine.
• If you wake up in the middle of the night, don’t try and go back to sleep until you actually feel sleepy again, otherwise you are likely to toss and turn. YGo into another room and listen to your favourite music(gentle, mellow music, not the latest Slipknot album) or try reading a book or magazine.
• Have a night-light or bedside lamp on so that when you wake up you can see the room.
• Remember that dreams are just dreams. They aren't real no matter how vivid they may seem. Sometimes I can feel my father next to me but he isn't there. Close your eyes and go somewhere else in your mind if you can't move. Gently ease away from it, think of your favourite place or special moment. Ever since I was little(r) I've had a little cabin on a beach in a place of eternal sunset. Feel and listen to your surroundings.

-When people make rape jokes. Now, this is something that happens quite often. It doesn't even have to be a joke, it could be when people say something horribly ignorant. You really just need to realise they usually don't know what they're saying and do not mean to or even realise they're hurting you.

Imagine you have a gigantic stamp with the words "IGNORANT" carved into it. Just mentally stamp them with it and don't give a damn about the silly things they say anymore. They aren't worthy of provoking something in you. Rape jokes are something you will encounter throughout your life. If appropriate, tell them to stop and that they're being immature (In a light manner. Don't ask them to fuck off and run away with tears in your eyes.)

-Coping with suicidal thoughts.
-Stay away from objects you can use to hurt yourself.
-Go some place where you're safe, preferably with more people.
-Talk to someone supportive. -Supportive.-
-Talk to your therapist. For sufferers of sexual abuse, this may be quite hard but it does get easier to talk about after some time. The first time's the worst and then afterwards it's quite okay.
-Think about reasons as to why you don't want to hurt yourself. Write it down.
-Challenge those suicidal thoughts. Ask questions. How do you cope with this? Is it really not possible for these moods to change? Have you ever felt like this before? And if so, how did things get better? How do you overcome this?
-Be mindful. Take a step back from your thoughts and observe what you're feeling.

FURTHER READING
Coping skills for sexual trauma (Strongly recommend this)
Sexual abuse: Surviving the Pain
Soul Expression Recovery - Survivors Forum
Dealing with sexual abuse.
Young people and sexual abuse
Sexual Abuse/Trauma
Child Abuse
Survivors

There is no instant recovery; no magical cure that will change what's been done - there is only an easier step, an unforeseen smile and another speck of dirt that doesn't matter anymore.

I am thawing.



"Never test the depth of water with both feet." - Some dude whose name I cannot remember

Last edited by Amaryllis; January 13th, 2012 at 08:51 AM.
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