Helping Kids Through Abuse & Trauma to Lead Fulfilling Lives
As parents or guardians, caring for our children is of the utmost importance. We do whatever is necessary to keep them safe, but when a child witnesses or experiences traumatic abuse, parents may find themselves at a loss. If your child is struggling, consider scheduling therapy for child survivors of physical and sexual abuse in San Diego with one of the skilled, knowledgeable clinicians at Family Connections Therapy.
Types of Abuse
Abuse can be experienced as a single incident, can occur repeatedly, or be ongoing. Without treatment, kids who have experienced abuse are at a higher risk of re-experiencing abuse in their lifetime.
Abuse can come in many forms, including physical abuse, emotional or mental abuse, sexual abuse, child abuse, domestic violence, traumatic assault, hate crimes, or discrimination. Abuse often defies race, gender, class, age, education, and religion, and the effects of abuse are long lasting and life altering. Among children, abuse is typically categorized as one of the following types:
- Neglect – unsafe or unstable home that fails to meet necessities, provide supervision, or seek appropriate medical care
- Physical abuse – such as corporal punishment or physical discipline and physical violence not related to disciplinary action
- Sexual abuse – molestation, child pornography, rape, or sodomy
- Emotional abuse – belittling, demeaning, humiliating, or shaming
The Effects of Abuse
Witnessed or experienced abuse creates trauma, which impacts not only our physical body but our mental health. Once we have experienced abuse, the way we view others, the world, relationships, and our lives changes. We may experience symptoms related to depression, hopelessness, guilt, shame, and/or anxiety. Without treatment, those who are abuse survivors may have difficulty concentrating, performing at work or school, managing their emotions, and creating and maintaining relationship. They may also experience obsessive thoughts, reoccurring flashbacks, and/or engage in substance use or risk taking behaviors. Without treatment, childhood trauma survivors may also be more likely to engage in abusive behaviors towards their partners, children, family members, or themselves unconsciously or with little awareness.
Types of Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse is any unwanted sexual advance or sexually abusive behavior perpetrated by one person upon another. Sexual abuse often occurs through use of force or by taking advantage of another person’s vulnerability or dependence. Sexual abuse can involve fondling or unwanted sexual touching, forcing a victim to perform sexual acts, exposing another person to sexual depictions such as pornography, or penetrating the body through forced means such as rape or sodomy. Sexual abuse can also occur when individuals are forced to engage in sexual acts for money or other tangible gains, such as sex trafficking and prostitution. Sexual abuse can occur to males and females, as well as children, teenagers, and adults. Sexual abuse can be perpetrated by a stranger, acquaintance, friend, family member, or a relationship partner.
Some signs of sexual abuse in children can include physical and behavioral indicators such as:
- Pain, discoloration, or bleeding in genital areas
- Excessive pain when urinating or passing bowel movements
- Regression with toilet training
- Presence of sexually transmitted disease or infection
Behavioral signs of sexual abuse in children can include:
- Sexualized behavior inappropriate for child’s developmental age
- Fear of certain people
- Excessive or sudden extreme separation anxiety from their primary caretaker
- Refusal to remove clothing or bathe
- Regressive behaviors, such as bed wetting or thumb sucking
- Nightmares or excessive worry
- Advanced knowledge or talk about sexual topics
- Sexualized play and drawings
The Effects of Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse can have detrimental effects on emotional, physical, and psychological wellbeing. As a result of their trauma, sexual abuse survivors may grapple with issues surrounding shame, guilt, depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder. Without treatment, survivors may have difficulty perceiving others and the world around them as safe, and they often struggle to cultivate and maintain healthy relationships and appropriate boundaries with others.
Benefits of Therapy Following Childhood Abuse & Trauma
Sexual Abuse survivors can benefit from therapeutic techniques, including cognitive restructuring, learned coping, healthy relationship and boundaries exploration, as well as grounding and developing mindfulness strategies. Therapy can help to explore a survivors’ view of the world and gently challenge unhealthy coping and maladaptive beliefs used to survive the abuse they endured. Therapy can also assist with unpacking traumatic events and memories, managing emotions, and assisting with co-occurring conditions like depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress symptoms.