Sexual abuse is an act of violence by a perpetrator on an innocent persons body. It includes sexual harassment, looking, touching and penetration, oral sex, exposure to inappropriate sexual body parts and resources. Sexual abuse also includes the forced stimulation of sexual responses. Sexual violence is a human rights abuse regardless of situation, relationship or age. The responsibility for the offence always lies with the perpetrator and is of no fault of the victim.
There are different terms used, such as; Molestation, Child Sexual Abuse, Sexual Assault and rape. These terms differentiate the type of sexual abuse that has occurred. However regardless of the acts, length of time or the identity of the perpetrator, all sexual abuse is torturous, violent and based in trauma.
Sexual abuse can be a one off violation or an ongoing abuse of relationship to please one person at the expense of someone's body and emotional state.
Unfortunately whether it is a recent assault, currently ongoing or historical, the effect on one's life is catastrophic. It impacts on relationships, trust of others, sexuality, confidence, self-esteem to name a few.
Survivors live with the behaviours and strategies that victims develop in order to resist and survive the abuse; these can continue to affect them in their adult lives. There are common emotions and issues of concern that survivors live with:
The priority for working with survivors of sexual abuse is to be safe and free from abuse. I work from a trauma informed approach where prevention of added trauma is vital. If you are still being abused, please tell someone who will listen and treat you with sensitivity; understanding and most of all believe you. It is every person's human right to live their life free of violence and when violence occurs it is their right to receive compassionate, professional assistance in their recovery and full redress for the crime through the criminal justice system. The Justice System is sometimes obligatory and sometimes your choice to proceed. Your options need to be explored to determine which is the right decision for you.
Seeking counselling may be one way to find alternative strategies for working through the pain, memories and other impacts of abuse. There are healthy strategies like talking to someone, counselling, support groups and exercise that would be more helpful than self harm or substance abuse.
Other practical suggestions for improving a survivor's quality of life would include: