Childhood sexual abuse directly impacts the way we act in all areas of our lives, particularly in relationships where the underlying fear is most prevalent … leading to mistrust of others.
How Abuse Effects Relationships
Often there is a confusion about love and sex or comfort and sex. Survivors may want to be nurtured, but believe they can achieve this only through sex.
There is difficulty in trusting others, letting people in, being able to ask for what you need or only able to identify what your partner wants and needs. Abuse leads to the belief “I have to be good,” thinking you have to satisfy another person or continually please.
Care taking and co-dependency is common. The belief that if you can take care of other’s needs, then you will be safe and loved, or they won’t leave. You end up serving other people’s needs to the point of exhaustion.
Survivors have a hard time trusting and differentiating between a good person versus an abusive one. You may not know who to trust, or you may trust too quickly ignoring warning signs.
You may feel taken advantage of because you are unable to set clear boundaries. You may isolate in relationships, cling to them, or sabotage them when someone gets too close.
Survivors can feel lonely or alone in relationships. Survivors may feel distant from their partners and do not feel close believing they cannot be loved, which creates a yearning that never goes away.
How Abuse Affects Your Family Relationships as well as Parenthood
Often survivors are uncomfortable around their family of origin because they are always guarding their secret, whether or not their abuser was a family member. If they haven’t told their family, they fear being found out. Since children are not supposed to have sex, they continually feel their parents would punish them or not believe them struggling with trust. The abuser may have threatened that they will hurt family members to get the survivor to comply.
Survivors struggle with family relationships often feeling different from everyone else. The secret alienates survivors and creates an invisible wall that no one can see. You may distance yourself or avoid family gatherings. If incest occurred, you can feel trapped when attending family gatehrings, just waiting to leave, hiding your fear. The affects are feeling alone, lonely or alienated. You may wonder why you cannot be like your siblings and perceive them as deserving while you are not.
If incest occurs and is not acknowledged by anyone, you can feel crazy when around your family, self-destructive, invisible or suicidal. Many survivors numb themselves with alcohol or drugs in order to be with their family.
Survivors may also be fearful of becoming parents themselves believing they may harm their own children, or survivors fear being unable to protect their children from harm they get to the point of becoming overprotective and overbearing, particularly with teens. Survivors often experience confusion around setting rules, or not setting enough rules. They may also be unable to see warning signs about other caregivers with their child or not letting anyone else take care of them.
Some survivors may be co-dependent with their children by attending to their child’s needs and never their own. This leaves survivors feeling exhausted or burning the candle at both ends. Survivors may also feel guilty for taking time for themselves believing they are being selfish.
It may be difficult to show affection or be overly affectionate. Survivors become fearful with other adults that are showing affectionl; it makes them hyper vigilant. Even when appropriate displays of affection are shown, survivors continually wonder whether this is OK or not.
When your child is at the age the abuse occurred for you, it may trigger your own abuse, especially if you blocked it. This can create overwhelming fear in your relationship with your child. For example, you may feel frantic if you cannot get a hold of your child as you assumethe worst every time.
What is important to understand is that survivors are powerless over these effects in all their relationships and do need help to heal. Healing for survivors means letting go of fear, developing trust, knowing who to trust, and that they are safe.
Although there are many long term effects from early childhood abuse, healing has to directly impact survivors in all three areas . . . Psychologically, Physically and Behaviorally. You can get better, but it requires commitment to seek recovery. What is important is you survived it as a child and have already lived through it. You learned to cope in this, many times alone, without any help. You are stronger then you think and do not have to live in the imprisonment of your abuse. Get started or continue to identify the ways you need to heal. You live the effects today, whether you want to believe this or not.