Making it Through Violence & Trauma is Just the Beginning – It’s Time to Start Living Fully
You’ve survived trauma or abuse, but what happens now? Now that you don’t have to worry about just surviving every day or getting through each difficult moment, what do you do? How can you reclaim a satisfying life and start to heal? Our clinicians have experience offering effective therapy for child and adult survivors of physical and sexual abuse in San Diego and surrounding communities. At Family Connections Therapy, we can offer the support and guidance you need to rebuild a thriving, meaningful life. You’ve come so far and been through so much, and now, it’s time to live a satisfying life again. Let’s get started.
Types of Abuse
Tragically, many forms of abuse are all too common in everyday life, for BOTH children and adults. It is important to know that no matter one’s education level, financial status, gender, age, or culture, anyone can be a victim to abuse. Beginning to learn and identify the signs and symptoms of abuse can help change the situation and allow for support and healing. Common types of abuse include:
- Physical abuse, often called domestic abuse or domestic violence, most often occurs within familial relationships like parent and child or between intimate partners. Even if the abuse is not in a familial context, it includes physical acts like hitting or shoving, as well as threats to harm another person physically. This is often done to gain power, control, and order. Of all the forms of abuse, physical abuse has the most obvious outward signs. We’ll discuss some of the signs of physical abuse in the next section.
- Psychological abuse, which consists of emotional, mental, and verbal abuse, is the most common form of abuse, and it may have the greatest range in terms of definition. It occurs in many relationships whether familial, professional, or social, and even in volunteer and community settings. Emotional abuse includes any behavior that is designed to hurt and demean another person. This may include name-calling, screaming, threats, put downs, shaming, humiliation, persistent criticism, the “silent treatment,” manipulation tactics, guilting, and shutting people out to name a few.
- Sexual abuse is a form of abuse that is most often perpetuated against women and children, but not always as men can be victims too, especially younger males. Sexual abuse includes any unwanted sexual act forced on another person. This can include making unwanted advances, threatening sexual violence, and taking advantage of victims who are unable to give consent. Examples of sexual abuse include sexual assault, rape, molestation, and sexual harassment. We’ll talk about sexual abuse in more detail below.
- Elder abuse happens most often between an elder and a younger person, who are often but not always, related, such as a mother or father and adult child. However, elder abuse can occur with caregivers too, such as with an in-home nurse and an elderly person or in a nursing home setting. Elder abuse consists of other forms of abuse, whether physical, psychological, financial or sexual, perpetuated against the elderly. This occurs most often when the elder is dependent in some way for care.
- Other forms of abuse, such as financial, spiritual, or cultural, can occur alongside the forms of abuse listed above or on their own.
The Effects of Abuse
The effects of abuse cover a wide range and can be far reaching. Abuse victims respond differently depending on the severity and duration of the abuse as well as their age, resources and support, personality, and other factors. It is also important to know that the victim’s experience, whatever it may be, is valid and deserves to be heard and supported. Both psychological and physical symptoms are common when abuse has occurred. No matter the extent of the abuse, healing is possible and accessible. Victims do not have to stay victims, and they can reclaim their lives, bodies, and futures.
Common psychological effects of abuse may include one or more of the following:
- Fear of others
- Struggles with intimacy
- Communication difficulty
- Going blank or checking out
- Poor judgment
Common physical symptoms of abuse may include one or more of the following:
- Difficulty sleeping or struggling to get out of bed
- Unusual eating patterns
- Bodily aches and pains
- Tension or constriction in the stomach, jaw, or throat
- Trouble speaking, dialoguing, or concentrating during conversations
- Panic attacks
- Withdrawal from life and events
- Trouble following through
Types of Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse comes in many forms and is categorized differently among professionals. While a general definition is listed above, sexual abuse deserves more attention here. While rape or sexual assault are the most often discussed forms of sexual abuse, it’s important that people are aware of the potentially detrimental impact of all forms of sexual abuse. Below, we discuss two categories of sexual abuse that are often overlooked or diminished even by survivors of these traumatic experiences.
Molestation, as distinct from rape and sexual assault where forced and intense acts occur, is a form of sexual abuse that includes unwanted or non-consensual touching or fondling of a person’s genitals and body by a perpetrator as well as using that person to enhance sexual play without consent. This can also include inappropriate language and gestures, often from an older person toward a minor. For instance, this might include engaging in sexual acts in front of someone else, indecent exposure, inappropriate child grooming, as well as more obvious forms such as forced sexual acts upon a child. Whatever the form, molestation can negatively impact individuals, but we can help you through your healing journey.
Sexual harassment is another form of sexual abuse. It most often occurs between adults. While we often think of sexual harassment in the workplace, it also occurs in social settings like school, church, or other gatherings. Sexual harassment includes behavior with implicit or explicit sexual overtones and unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature. For example, this may include treating others like sexual objects, with inappropriate glances, touches, teasing, or comments. This may also include direct or unwanted advances as well as offering gifts, like promotions or other benefits, in exchange for sexual favors. Another example of sexual harassment is when things of a sexual nature are used in demeaning ways or in ways that create tension, i.e. displaying inappropriate pictures or imagery, having inappropriate discussion in front of others, indecent exposure, and so on.
The Effects of Sexual Abuse
The effects of sexual abuse weigh heavy on our hearts, but you are not alone. The Family Connections Therapy team is here to help. While many of the effects of abuse listed above apply, some specific effects of sexual abuse include the following:
- Low self esteem,
- Avoidance or withdrawal
- Distorted body image
- Fear and paranoia
- A type of “freeze,” constriction, or shut down in the body
- Headaches and cramping
- Nightmares and flashbacks
- Self-harm behaviors like cutting or pinching
- Difficulty in relationships
- Poor judgment
- A lack of boundaries or too many boundaries
- Getting into trouble frequently
- Confusion around sex, sexual identity, and intimacy
- Depression or anxiety and panic attacks
Benefits of Therapy Following Abuse
Expert therapy is essential to heal and overcome the effects of abuse of all kinds. In fact, when therapy is combined with medication, holistic remedies, and mindfulness practices, overcoming abuse is not only possible but probable. It is overwhelmingly agreed that when any of us are victimized, we need a SAFE and supportive place to express and let go of what happened. As we do that, we are able to understand our experience better and organize it into a meaningful, healing narrative. These are critical steps to healing and can be navigated with trained therapists in abuse recovery. Healing really is possible.
The Therapy Process
At Family Connections Therapy, we begin by listening. As we listen with hearts full of empathy and acceptance, safety is fostered. This safety and partnership allow clients to begin to trust others and, most importantly, themselves. Listening is especially relevant in the early stages of therapy as each person experiences and processes abuse differently, requiring a personal and tailored approach that can only be created when we hear the person’s needs. At Family Connections Therapy, our therapists are trained in various counseling methods to meet your needs in specific ways. With treatment for abuse, we get that one size does NOT fit all. A blend of methods that meets the client right where they are and grows with them is always best. We pull from proven and evidence-based modalities that include Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and various psycho-dynamic and attachment-based approaches. We hope to help you make the progress you desire and access the healing you deserve.
These first steps of the therapeutic process build a solid foundation for lasting healing. When those who have experienced abuse see our treatment professionals, here is what they can expect:
- Having a true partner who has their back as they move through the healing journey
- A calming in their body and brain moving from “hyper-arousal” to a sense of peace
- Feeling strengthened emotionally and going from overwhelmed and fearful to a sense of safety
- Learning skills and methods that ignite individual power in gradual, welcomed ways
- being able to return to “normal” life and no longer feeling afraid, different, or singled out
- An end to the darkness and a feeling of hope with trust restored