FAQ

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FAQ

These FAQ’s were written to assist readers with a basic understanding of childhood sexual abuse. For more information, view the resource and event page on this website or contact Shattered Canvas at infoshatteredcanvas@gmail.com.

All emails will be answered confidentially by an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse or an expert in the mental health field. Survivors, families, students, businesses, or the community at large may request information, resources, or support.

Childhood sexual abuse never involves mutual consent. It is important to understand that it is NEVER the child’s fault. If you are an adult survivor, remember the abuse was not your fault; you are worthy, cared about, believed, understood and supported!

What is child sexual abuse?

Childhood sexual abuse is defined as any sexual act between a child and an adult or older child when one exerts power over the other for sexual stimulation. This includes:

  • Forcing, persuading, or coercing a child to engage in any type of sexual act including fondling, touching, rubbing, kissing, oral sex, and vaginal/anal penetration.
  • All non-contact acts to include pornography, voyeurism, exhibitionism, or sexual solicitation or communication via internet, or phone.

How prevalent is child sexual abuse and why should I be concerned?

Childhood sexual abuse occurs in 1:3 women and 1:6 males prior to the age of 18.

Literature has demonstrated that current cultural standards in regards to gender and sexuality may influence males from reporting sexual abuse influencing the prevalence statistics.

Childhood sexual abuse does not discriminate; it is prevalent in all communities. Statistics have shown that child sexual abuse crosses all boundaries of culture, race, ethnicity, gender, class, and sexuality.  All statistics are relevant to consider in understanding child sexual abuse, reporting, and modalities of education and treatment.

Who are the perpetrators of child sex abuse and how would I recognize them?

Childhood sexual abusers are usually someone the child knows, a parent, relative, teacher, babysitter, neighbor, or friends.

There is not one specific characteristic that demonstrates an individual will sexually abuse a child. Research has demonstrated that the profile coincides with the average male or female in our communities.

There are some key factors that childhood sexual abusers may have in common; these include but are not limited to:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Personal history of sexual, emotional, or physical abuse
  • Self-serving or narcissistic personality
  • Unable to have functional sexual relationships as an adult.

What are the long term effects of child sexual abuse?

Childhood sexual abuse can affect every aspect of a person’s life, their identity, emotions, health, body, intimacy, and sexuality. The effects of abuse can lead to serious physical and mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, phobias, PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder),  personality disorders, low self-esteem, eating disorders, distorted body image, substance abuse(drug and alcohol) and at risk behaviors, maladjusted socialization, trust issues, suicide attempts, self-harming behaviors, and unhealthy relational and sexual relationships.

It is common for any adult survivor to feel they are not good enough, thus leading to perfectionism, or obsessive-compulsive behavior. Survivors can also become aggressive and oppositional in their actions and communications. Re-victimization in adulthood is common in the life of a survivor of child sex abuse; a concept that most in society have difficulty understanding, but is the type of affection that a child learns as deserving or normal. This can manifest as promiscuous behavior, exhibitionism, or problems with intimacy in developing sexual relationships.

I am an adult survivor of child sex abuse, how do I get help?

There is absolutely no shame in seeking assistance as a survivor.

There are stigmas with seeking professional mental health assistance in our society, but it is no different than seeking assistance for leg pain, chest pain, diabetes, stomach disorders, etc., except for the fact that your wounds are invisible.

The wounds of sexual abuse cause pain that no one can physically see, they cause your heart to break literally, they cause you to have thoughts that others cannot imagine, and it is scary to tell someone!  It is difficult at first but finding someone you trust is crucial.

How come some persons do not have clear and vivid memories of sexual abuse?

Some individuals have clear memories of the sexual abuse, others do not. This can occur for a multitude of reasons that are unique in each situation. Some persons feel that something happened to them but are not quite sure, they may have triggers such as specific smells, words, sounds, expressions, situations, movies, television, places, or actions that give them an odd feeling, panic, anxiety, despair, nausea, lightheadedness, or the need to get away from the trigger immediately.

Some psychologists/mental health experts believe that forgetting childhood sexual abuse is a deep-seated unconscious blocking out of the event, an involuntary mechanism that automatically keeps painful memories out of consciousness. There is current research that has demonstrated actual alterations in the brains of those who were sexually abused.

If you feel that you were abused or something happened to you, it probably did, seek help.

Why do children and adult survivors maintain the silence of sexual abuse?

hildren are often forbidden to tell, they may be told it is a special secret, or given special gifts or rewards. It is hard to imagine, but as children abuse and love co-exist, this is what the child learns as love.  Perpetrators often scare or threaten children to convince them not to tell. Children are told that it is their fault, they are convinced they will not be believed (many are not), and many just believe this is normal. Many children/adults are kept close to the perpetrator throughout their life, having that special relationship; some are isolated from other family members, lied about, and manipulated.

As adults, survivors often feel they are going “crazy”, lack emotion, have panic attacks; often dismissed as anxiety when they seek medical attention. These attacks and manipulation by the perpetrators in adulthood further the survivor’s belief that they are going “crazy”.

Can I really HEAL from child sexual abuse?

This question can only be answered with one single word…..YES!

References

American Psychological Association, (2015), Sexual abuse. Retrieved: December 10, 2014 from http://apa.org/topics/sexual-abuse/index.aspx

 

Center for Disease Control. (2012). Sexual violence. Retrieved: January 2, 2015 from http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/.

 

Darkness to Light, (2013). Childhood sexual abuse statistics, the issue of child sexual abuse. Retrieved:

January 6, 2015 from http://www.d2l.org/site/c.4dICIJOkGcISE/b.6238681/k.809B/Frequently_Asked_Questions.htm

 

Hall, M., & Hall, J. (2011). The long-term effects of childhood sexual abuse:

Counseling implications. Retrieved from January 8, 2015

http://counselingoutfitters.com/vistas/vistas11/Article_19.pdf

 

National Child Traumatic Stress Network. (n.d). Questions and answers about child sexual abuse. Retrieved: January, 8, 2015 from http://www.nctsnet.org/trauma-types/sexual-abuse.

Stop It Now, (2015). What is considered childhood sexual abuse? Retrieved January 3, 2015 from

http://www.stopitnow.org/files/child_sexual_abuse_definition.pdf

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