Healing from the Trauma of Childhood Sexual Abuse: The Journey for Women

By Karen A. Dungan | Go to book overview

6
Prolonged Problems from
Childhood Sexual Abuse

You must do the thing you think you cannot do.

—Eleanor Roosevelt, Each Day a New Beginning

When the effects of sexual abuse persist, they become prolonged problems that disrupt women's lives.1 Throughout the years of living with these problems women develop ways to mask them just as they developed ways to mask the sexual abuse; they keep the effects a secret not unlike they kept the abuse a secret. For example, they may believe [I cannot tell anybody about the problems I am having" or [There is no one to tell how I feel.] This is similar to the child not being able to tell or believing that she could not tell about the abuse. They can avoid acknowledging a problem such as sleep disturbances by convincing themselves [It is just a nightmare; tomorrow I will sleep better"—even when sleep is not better the next night or the next week or month because details of the abuse keep showing up in their dreams. Sometimes women mislabel problems arising from the abuse, such as [I must be one of those frigid women since I do not like sex,] instead of either understanding or being able to acknowledge that the abuse has affected their sexuality. The strategies of masking, avoiding, and mislabeling are reminiscent of how they blamed themselves for the abuse, how they tried as children to convince themselves that the perpetrator would not abuse them again, or how they coped with the confusion experienced during and after the sexual abuse. Some women's strategies are a way to convince themselves that what happened to them was not abuse at all but an act by the perpetrator that they [misunderstood.] There are other reasons women give for the delay in seeking help, such as fear that they will not be believed or understood by health care providers, that they will be stigmatized for having problems, or that they will be viewed as not being strong enough to

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Healing from the Trauma of Childhood Sexual Abuse: The Journey for Women
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1: The Trauma of Childhood Sexual Abuse 8
  • 2: Remembering the Trauma 31
  • 3: A Family Legacy 51
  • 4: Chronic Shock Symptoms and Dissociation 65
  • 5: The Stages of Treatment and Healing 80
  • 6: Prolonged Problems from Childhood Sexual Abuse 95
  • 7: Ending the Pretense 130
  • 8: Moral, Legal, and Family Issues Related to Exposing a Perpetrator 146
  • 9: The Therapeutic Relationship 164
  • 10: The Voices of Women 182
  • Appendix A - Trauma and Memory 191
  • Appendix B - Distorted Thought Patterns 195
  • Appendix C - Characteristics of a Healthy Family 198
  • Appendix D - Symptoms of Chronic Shock 200
  • Appendix E - Managing Anxiety 202
  • Appendix F - Dissolving the Rage and Anger 205
  • Appendix G - Boundaries 207
  • Appendix H - Suggestions for Family Members 210
  • Appendix I - Forgiveness 215
  • Appendix J - Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (Ptsd) 217
  • Notes 221
  • Suggested Resources 233
  • Selected Bibliography 237
  • Index 241
  • About the Author 245
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