Long term effects of child sexual abuse – CPTSD – Guestblog by Karen Blodgett

This Guestblog by Karen Blodgett about CPTSD is part 3 in a 3 part series

Please check out part 1 and part 2 of her story. In part 1 she outlines her childhood experience of sexual abuse at the hands of a boy 2 years here senior. In part 2 she talks about the hold he had on her throughout her teenage years and what the effects of his manipulations were on her. In this third part she tells about her struggle with CPTSD and offers her help to other survivors.

I thought it was overMe in a Tagul.com word cloud

I remember thinking: ” it’s over!” I had stood my ground and he did not persist, he avoided me as I did him, even when we were in the same room. My victory was sweet but short lived.

My brain chemistry has changed

It wasn’t over, my brain has protected my body for so long, that my brain chemistry has changed causing CPTSD. Shutting off, dissociating has become the norm for me. The last memory of being a child was when I was five years old. The rest of my childhood has been stolen.

Learning to cope

I learn to cope with a lifetime of post-traumatic stress. I live in the same community as him for another year. He parties with our mutual friends. I still keep it all bottled up. I feel very much alone and there’s only two people I even connect with. I know people grossly misjudge me. Also I still think they won’t listen to me, care for or even believe me if I told. I feel like I don’t belong. I turn inward.

Home for Thanksgiving

I go off to college and then come home for Thanksgiving.  I desperately want to connect with my wonderful (yet very reserved) parents. Clearly they have no idea why I am different or why I have been a very moody, distant, and a socially awkward child. I feel guilty at the thought they might blame themselves. I want to get to know them better and that means they would need to get to know me better as well.

My parents figure I am going through puberty

My parents wondered what was wrong with me many times. One case in particular, I was in fifth grade, I cried for almost two weeks. Tears streaming down my face for no appearant reason. They tell me, they were about to seek therapy for me, but the crying stopped. I was 13 years old then. They figured it must have been the hormones of puberty.

Reconnecting with my parents

I reveal the truth to my mother and asked her to tell my father. I thought I would feel better but instead I am deeply saddened. I drop out of college for a month. I am deeply troubled and with my parents help I seek help. They support me through the rest of college, therapy and more.

Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD)

I am diagnosed as having Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD as defined by Dr. Judith Herman) and for the past 25 years, I seek support for this condition everywhere I go. The CPTSD slowly becomes manageable with the therapies and the methods I learn: Relaxation, mindfulness, EBT, listening/problem solving, some neurofeedback, workbooks, exercise and more.

Study and professional life

I earn a B.A. Psychology degree, an M.A. k-12 moderate disabilities with a licence to teach. I teach in Africa for a year and in the US for 3 years in public school. Since then I have worked from California to Africa with most ages and populations of people. Currently I’m looking for a position in which I can help others benefit from my experiences.

My offer is to share my story and help you heal

I am telling my story here and I am sharing what I hope will help other young people. More importantly: I would like to offer understanding and support for others in similar situations. It does not matter how a person comes to be hurt so personally, the emotional scars are similar no matter whether you’re a victim of incest, child sexual abuse, trafficking, kidnapping or child pornography.

I am safe now

I am living my life empowered and know I am safe. I have gained resilience, integrity, and acceptance of many people from all walks of life and cultures. I intend to help others realize this safety and freedom in their own time and place. You too are unique and unique is valuable. It can be very empowering to realize just how valuable you are.

I am ready. Are you?

I’m ready to offer my assistance to anyone working through the issues of child sexual abuse and those who care for them. I’m looking for a position in an organisation that has child sexual abuse or trauma at its focus. I believe that through the benefit of my experiences of healing my own trauma, and the extensive studying I’ve done since, I can offer my expertise in any team working with this issue. You can contact me through my linkedin profile.

Best,
Karen

 

For more information about the long term effects of child sexual abuse and how to heal from them, buy the book ‘I Thrive. Healing child sexual abuse’ at Amazon.com

What to do if your partner has been sexually abused

You suspect your partner has been sexually abused

9 jan (10)You’re in love. He/she is the most amazing person you’ve ever met. You’re on top of the world. Every minute you’re together you want to touch, to be as close to each other as humanly possible.You make plans together. A weekend trip, then maybe meeting the family, and then…
And then…

You notice certain changes

After a while things start to change. When you put you arm around your partner’s shoulder he/she jerks back. An intimate touch is met by a cool response. Your partner has moodswings. He/she can combust for no apparent reason. Her/his family relations are vague. He/she hates someone and won’t tell you why.

You suspect sexual abuse

One out of every four girls and one out of every six boys are sexually abused before the age of 16. With numbers like that it’s not a far stretch to think your partner may have a history of sexual abuse. You pay attention and the more you see, the more you suspect child sexual abuse.

How do you talk about sexual abuse

You could of course confront your partner: “You act like you’ve been sexually abused”, when your partner resists intimacy. That’s not a very tactful or supportive way to go about it. After all, he or she may just not be in the mood to be touched, without ever having been sexually abused. The important thing is to let them know they can talk to you about it if anything is bothering them.

Difficult discussions

Sexuality is a hard topic to talk about for the best of us. Let alone, when an abuser has always told you to keep it a secret. Still, it helps any relationship, to open up to each other and let the other know what you like/expect and where your boundaries are.

Don’t talk about it in the bedroom

The best place to talk it over, is where there’s no expectation of sex. Like when you’re having coffee at the kitchentable and your neighbors walk by hand in hand. Or something about sexuality is on the tv. Find a time when it’s a neutral topic. When there’s no ‘threat of sex’ in the air.

Don’t make it a huge deal…try to be comfortable about it

This is your sweetheart, you are in love. You can share these things. At the same time don’t push it if your partner feels very uncomfortable. Let them know you’re there and they can bring it up whenever they want to. Take the time to listen if they talk or when there’s just silence, allow that to be.

Take care of yourself

Just as important as feeling comfortable telling a personal story, is how you react to the story. It’s definitely not easy to hear someone you love has been sexually abused! It’s okay to tell them: “Look I truly appreciate you telling me all this. I need to get my head around what you told me so far, can we please leave the rest for another time? I love you but I love myself too and I need time to process this first.” That is just taking care of yourself and incidently, it’s a good example of how to set healthy boundaries.

So now I know. My partner was sexually abused. Now what do I do?

Now you can start the healing journey together. You can help look for the right therapist/therapy. Inform yourself about the long term effects of child sexual abuse. But, just as important, keep talking, keep listening. Keep talking about what triggers, about setting and maintaining healthy boundaries. Talk about what feels good and what you’re comfortable with as well as what is off-limits.

Healing from sexual abuse is possible

It’s not easy. There will be times when you both will feel discouraged. There will be lots of ups and downs. Are you prepared to take this difficult path together? If you do, don’t forget to take care of yourself. Buckle your seat belt ’cause it’s gonna be a bumpy ride. You’re going to need all the skills you can muster.

Make clear where your boundaries are and stick to them

You’re in this together! You have a say in it, too. Just because your partner has been abused doesn’t mean he/she gets to misbehave at will. All too often people make allowances for their sexually abused partner, that they wouldn’t stand for in any other people. While that may seem kind, it’s really not helping at all. In fact it’s very disempowering to have someone make allowances on account of you having been abused.

 

For more information about the long term effects of child sexual abuse and how to heal from them, buy the book ‘I Thrive. Healing child sexual abuse’ at Amazon.com

10 golden rules for professionals

How can professionals help people heal from child sexual abuse?

Dande-lion heart, symbol for the lionhearted, survivors of child sexual abuse, photograph by Agnes van der Graaf

There are a lot of ways in which health care professionals and therapists can aid people in their healing process. I recently found this anonymous piece about the 10 golden rules for professionals. It was in a different context, but adapted them for professionals dealing with adult survivors of child sexual abuse. I’m sure there’s a few more golden rules we could think of. I found the first one to be very helpful. Quite often professionals invest a lot of time in getting the clients trust. This seems to me like a waste of time. Trust is something that you learn, perhaps, at the end of therapy, not something that is a prerequisite to it. Let me know what you think.

Rule number 1: Realize that your cliënt doesn’t trust you.

Trust has to be earned and once broken it’s very difficult to get back. For people suffering the long term effects of child sexual abuse, trust was broken a long long time ago. That means they don’t trust you, they will test you. Be trustworthy, but don’t expect your cliënt to trust you completely. Ever.

Rule number 2: Let the cliënts tell their story

Let them tell the story in their own way, on their own terms and in their own tempo. You may not have a need to hear it, but the cliënt may have a need to tell. So sit there and listen to it.

Rule number 3: Accept that your cliënts did the best they could

Hindsight is 20/20 they say and I’m sure you could have thought of several better ways of dealing with the abuse and the subsequent situations. Your cliënt can probably think of a million more. At the time however, your cliënt made the best of the situation. They did the best they could to survive and succeeded. Honor that.

Rule number 4: Don’t treat your cliënt like a statistic

Your cliënt is a person, with their own characteristics, their own needs and wants. They have their own history and their own way of dealing with what happened to them.

Rule number 5: Don’t judge your cliënt

Your cliënt is neither good nor bad. Your cliënt is who he or she is, with all the good and bad that is inherent in any human being. They are who they are and that is all they can be at this point.

Rule number 6: Don’t think you know better than your cliënt

All you know is what your cliënt chooses to tell you about themselves and that’s always just a small part of who they are. Remember you’re just the ‘hired help.’

Rule number 7: Don’t think you know what your cliënt should do

You don’t know. Your cliënts are the experts on their own lives. They may be lost and confused, but they still know a lot more than you do about how to survive their trauma.

Rule number 8: Don’t burden your cliënt with your expectations

Your cliënt has enough to contend with, just dealing with their own expectations on a daily basis.

Rule number 9: Listen to your cliënts feelings

Don’t just listen to the words, listen to the feelings as well and accept them all. If you can’t accept your cliënts feelings, how do you think your cliënt is ever going to learn how to deal with them?

Rule number 10: Don’t rescue your cliënt

Your cliënts can rescue themselves. They have done so for a long time. Besides, they were smart enough to come see you weren’t they?

What are your golden rules?

There they are, 10 golden rules for professionals. Let me know what you think: are you missing any of your golden rules? If you’re a professional, how do you measure up with these rules? If you’re a survivor, how does your ‘hired help’ measure up?

 

Have I been sexually abused as a child?

‘Have I been sexually abused?’

More than any other question, people ask me ‘Have I been sexually abused?’ People are desperate for answers. Have you been abused? Well, unless you have memories of the actual abuse, there’s no easy way to tell. Most symptoms are not exclusive to childhood sexual abuse. There are a large number of symptoms and conditions that point to childhood sexual abuse, but there isn’t a bloodtest or urine sample that you can have analyzed. Unless you happen to remember, you may never be sure.

Tell tale signs of childhood sexual abuse

There are tell tale signs, symptoms that point in the direction and they tend to be cumulative. Having one or more symptoms of the Self Test doesn’t mean for sure you have been abused. There could be other causes for each of those symptoms. However, the more statements from the Self Test you check, the more likely it is that you have been sexually abused as a child.

What the test does tell you

The test doesn’t give you the answer to the question ‘Have I been sexually abused as a child?’ It does tell you some of the multitude of symptoms are known to have a possible connection to childhood sexual abuse. Just reading the list can give you more insight into how childhood sexual abuse affects people. It can also give you more clarity on where you stand with this issue. Whether you are at the start of your healing or at the tail end of it, this test will give you an idea about the terrain and how far along you’ve come.

Seeking help after taking the test

If you checked many symptoms, it’s probably a good idea to seek help. Life is too beautiful to be suffering from so many symptoms, regardless of whether childhood sexual abuse is the cause. You deserve better. Part two of my book outlines some of the help that is available and gives you an idea of how these different types of therapy work.