I Thrive, healing from child sexual abuse
Everyone who has been on this website since it’s inception: thank you for your patience. I’m happy to report that the e-pub is now very near completion, with a foreword by none other than Vincent Felitti. Now, some of you may not know of him. But I rather think a lot of you, especially those working in the social and medical professions, know of the ACE study that was done by him and his colleagues.
The ACE study was widely publicized
ACE is an acronym for Adverse Childhood Experiences. It was a well thought out and executed long term study on the effects of ACE’s on a variety of adult conditions. While the long term psychological effects are pretty well known, for such ACE’s as child sexual abuse. I hadn’t seen such a comprehensive study before, linking physical conditions with child sexual abuse as well.
ACE’s greatly increase the risk of many physical conditions
We now know that having too many ACE’s will give you a rather significantly higher risk at conditions like: Lung cancer, Ischemic Heart disease, COPD, as well as frequent headaches, obesity and a higher incidence of health risk behaviors (alcohol and drug abuse, teen pregnancy, etc). This is all on top of the obvious psychological effects that are well documented: Depression, DID, Anxiety disorders, PTSS, OCD and the list goes on.
The study’s main outcome
For me, the main point of the study is not even the medical and physical conditions that are linked to ACE’s. This is really in line with my own intuition about this in the first place. What the study has shown is that the effects of ACE’s are CUMULATIVE! I.e. if you experience one adverse condition in your childhood, like for instance one of your parents died when you were young, you’re likely to have the resilience to cope with that. However, with 4 or 5 ACE’s the cumulative impact of these conditions set you up for a high risk of long term effects.
My own ACE score
One of the characteristics of child sexual abuse is that it is seldom the only thing that happens to a child that is detrimental to it. In my own life I recognize at least 4 ACE’s:
- My fathers volatile and violent behavior towards my siblings
- My father’s untimely death when I was 14 (which at the time felt like a relief, which of course I felt guilty about immediatly)
- The sexual abuse at the hands of a ‘friend of the family’
- I never felt like my family looked out for each other. (as an adult, when I moved I never even thought to ask any of my family for help, it just wasn’t in the program)
In my experience this is fairly typical for people who have been sexually abused at children. If you are curious to know your own ACE score, you can get an idea on the ACE’s website
Child sexual abuse seldom travels alone
All my clients have either:
- Pre-existing ACE’s that contributed to the likelyhood of the abuse happening (the way my father being physically abusive left my family scattered emotionally, which meant no-one was on hand for me to talk to about what happened during the sexual abuse).
- Post sexual abuse experiences that add to the trauma. Like a parent going to jail or being put in foster care.
In addition a number of the ACE’s out there contribute to the likelyhood of child sexual abuse happening (as I’ve outlined in my book in the chapter on risk factors)
How to heal from child sexual abuse
With so many children being sexually abused and the consequences of this being so far reaching, healing is a necessity. How to heal is quite a different matter. There are many different therapies out there and each has a unique contribution to make in the healing process. I’ve had over 10 different types of therapies and that’s not even counting the therapeutic things I’ve done that were more like workshops. They’ve all been necessary for my personal healing. However my personal experience cannot serve as a recipe for effective healing.
One single recipe is never going to work for child sexual abuse
Just as there are a hundred different ways to use an egg, there are equally as many roads to healing. There is however one vital ingrediënt: The survivor must be in the drivers seat. This is vital because it’s precisely this sense of self direction and control that has been taken away by the abuse. If there’s anything I teach my clients it’s that they make the decisions. They were a victim at the time of the abuse. They survived and their life has subsequently been about survival. Now it’s their time to heal if they want(!) and thrive!