Overview of Child Abuse
Child abuse can take the form of any act of physical, emotional or sexual abuse perpetrated against a child. Child abuse can also take the form of neglect--ignoring the child's emotional and or physical needs. Child abuse can and does take place outside of the family-with stepfamilies, foster families or babysitters.
How to Tell if You Were Abused as a Child
Did your parents' discipline involve corporal punishment? Did it result in bruises or injuries? How frequently did this discipline occur and did you ever feel their behavior was out of control?
Were any of your interactions with your parents either overtly or subtly sexual? Were you touched or talked to in a sexual manner and left feeling confused or uncomfortable?
How were you emotionally treated by your parents on a day-to-day basis? Were you regularly criticized, threatened, invalidated or ignored?
What is Meant by the Term "Adult Survivor of Child Abuse"?
Being an adult survivor of child abuse means that you or someone you care about endured the pain of child abuse and survived it. Unfortunately, the survival tactics used to cope with the abuse can later get in the way of productive and satisfying adult lives. Dr. Gannon lists some of the "symptoms" of "survivors syndrome:"
- Relationship Problems: fighting, blaming, lack of trust, poor communication skills and difficulty with intimacy.
- Low Self Esteem: self doubt, self blame, shame.
- Self Sabotage: self-destructive or self mutilating behavior.
- Sexual Problems: sexual inhibition or promiscuity, flashbacks to abusive experiences during sexual contact, inability to achieve orgasm, pain or numbing during intimacy.
- Symptoms of Trauma: feelings of fear, panic, agitation, anxiety, numbing of bodily areas, nightmares, multiple personalities, feelings of being disconnected from body.
- Physical Ailments: includes psychosomatic illnesses, stomachaches, eating disorders, skin disorders, asthma, headaches and phobias.
- Social Alienation: feeling different from others, not accepted, stigmatized.
- Difficulty in Handling Feelings: trouble in recognizing, managing and appropriately expressing feelings.
What Can Be Done
It is possible for survivors to recover from the abuse syndrome, but the recovery process can be a difficult one. There are a variety of sources to which you may turn for help:
Self Help Groups are a good place to start and provide a good support system for someone going through the self-exploration process involved in recovery. Hearing others recount their experiences of abuse will not only validate your own feelings (which may be marked by confusion), but will give you a springboard for resolving some of the conflicts these feelings evoke:
- Children of Alcoholics: (800) 359-2623
- Incest Survivors Anonymous: (800) 422-4453
- Adult Survivors of Child Abuse
How We Can Help
SHCS Counseling Services provides brief individual therapy, group therapy, and offers referrals for on-going therapy. Please see our website’s detailed listing of groups and workshops that may be particularly helpful to you.
If you are aware of child abuse occurring at this time, or that it is likely child abuse is occurring, we can help you report it to the authorities. Therapists are legally mandated to report suspected child abuse, but there is no duty to report past child abuse disclosed by an adult. However, if due to that conversation there is reasonable suspicion that a minor (currently under the age of 18) was abused or is in danger of being abused, it must be reported.
When an adult client reports being abused as a child, the therapist must report if the alleged abuser currently has contact with vulnerable minors.