( “Was I Sexually Abused And How Can Counseling Help ?” Help From A Raleigh Therapist )
In my 30 plus years of conducting psychotherapy, I am asked more times than you might imagine, “ I think I might have been sexually abused, how can I know for sure?”
I take that question seriously, very seriously. The courage that it takes to bring up the question is tremendous. Furthermore, the trust that a client places in me to ask that question out loud is something I never take lightly.
Nothing, and I mean nothing that I have come across in therapy can produce such upsetting feelings.
Many instances of abuse involve a person who has been entrusted by the family or is a family member. This brings up all kinds of mixed feelings that are very difficult to sort through.
Date rape and other forms of sexual assault frequently are perpetuated by someone the victim knows. They almost always feel culpable when they are not.
Additionally, when you are physically harmed it usually feels painful. We are biologically programmed for sex to feel good. That brings on tremendous conflicted feelings. So pleasure, betrayal, and guilt just to name a few feelings can coexist at the same time.
Many times the perpetrator is someone who the abused person wants to please and actively seeks their approval. At times the guilty and confused feelings can come after the actual incident.
Many times the meaning of the abuse will change over time and development.
Sexual Abuse Memories
It is not unusual for the memories to be very fragmented and vague. At times they are brought on by a smell or a tactile image. Additionally, intimate closeness with a current partner can trigger long-buried abuse memories. A sense of disconnection or disassociation can be part of the feeling.
One thing I know for sure is that there is no good that comes from rushing to the answer. In an atmosphere of confidence and trust, the memories always emerge at a pace that is best for the client. The psyche needs to take its time.
Disturbing, repressed memories need time and patience to eventually be integrated and understood. For this to happen in a healing way any feelings or thoughts need to be met with compassion and acceptance.
Everyone’s story is unique. The time and duration of the abuse matters as does the relationship with the abuser. At the heart of the matter, trust has been violated once. When a client dares to trust again, utmost care must be exercised.