For First Time Visitors

If you are a first time visitor to this blog, I invite you to start from the beginning, especially if you are unfamiliar with the potential emotional impact of long-term child abuse.

Trigger caution to unhealed survivors!

Understanding the Incomprehensible

Children of incest or long-term sexual abuse grow up to be wounded adults with complicated emotional issues. Unfortunately, some symptoms are misinterpreted or often dismissed as "crazy", only serving to maintain a tormented victim status. We, as a society, have the power to change this dynamic. Each of us can make a difference.

Aug 27, 2008

Child promiscuity...or a cry for help?

Children are not born promiscuous. They learn from someone. A young child asking if she can touch grandpa's penis would be a clue--not necessarily that grandpa was a perp, but children often "tell" by acting out. This becomes extremely complex if the child has begun to dissociate or, worse, is already dissociated into defined parts cloaked in amnesia.

There is a crossover of emotions, triggers, and behaviors from the unconscious to which the child has no conscious knowledge. A child, when asked about where a behavior was learned, may truly not know--have no conscious connection. Aside from repeated threats (covert and overt) to maintain silence regarding abuse, a child may innocently repeat a behavior that crosses over. Sometimes, these may be our only clues.

When a child is a preteen or teenager, their unspoken actions can be easily misinterpreted. This is basically what happens for a developing child of long-term abuse. Although not all child abusers are male, the majority are. When the main perp or perps in a child's life are male, and the child is dissociative, the child becomes conditioned to "switching" to an identity who handles the abuse. The male is in close proximity to the child, the child knows he expects her to respond sexually or she expects to be hurt sexually. Compliance becomes the only alternative. The normal fight or flight response is squelched in alters with the job of enduring repeated assaults.

One of my first clients with DID was a 12 year old girl whose father had been convicted of molesting her admittedly for "several years." This lovely girl was so sweet, wanting only to please. Before her first appointment her mother was frantic because she had sex with a boy. My client had conscious memory up to the point where the boy had touched her and said something of a sexual nature. No pressure was needed. She simply blanked out. She recalls "waking up" after it was over feeling ashamed and confused. The adult response is typically to pile more shame on the child.

A teen may consciously act out as well. "Acting out" can be a dissociative child's way of saying "Look what someone did to me." The child does not realize that is what she is "saying" with her actions. The result is she receives attention from the boys which serves as filling her need for lack of "love" at home (or believes she is receiving "love"). She is drawn to it. Any further shame placed on her by parental response, teacher response, community response, further reinforces the perpetrator's messages that she is a good girl for engaging in sexual activities and simultaneously a "bad girl" for participating in sexual activities (a no win situation for the victim).

The 12 year old was in therapy less than two years and was able to heal from the majority of her dissociation. She will very likely require further therapy to have any healthy relationship later in her life. An excellent source to learn more on this topic is the book, The Dissociative Child.