What Constitutes Sexual Abuse?

Abuse can constitute many things, but in general it’s categorized by the cruel and or violent treatment of a person — often repeatedly. Most sexual abuse cases feature a person in a power role — either perceived or actual — taking advantage of this role in order to inflict harm of sexual nature. This sort of abuse can and often does, include physical and mental abuse.

While there are many similarities in abuse cases, no two are the same and as such the treatment for abuse needs to be catered to the victim.

How to Handle Sexual Abuse.

The first step for handling abuse is to cut ties with the abuser. While this is often the most difficult step, it’s necessary in order to effectively treat the victim. In many cases, the victim seeks therapy, but isn’t completely separated from the abuser and this sort of behavior is often detrimental to therapy.

Sexual Abuse Therapy
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It’s not uncommon for victims of sexual abuse to experience more than one type of abuse. Whether it’s physical, mental, or sexual abuse, cutting ties with the abuser is often difficult, as the form of abuse is generally a symptom of the root cause, which is control. The abuser typically makes it difficult to cut ties by using threats of violence or manipulating the victim into believing they caused the abuse in the first place. This leads to the victim blaming themselves or the environment factors (drinking, dressing a certain, way, etc.) rather than the abuser, which keeps them in the precarious position of remaining in an abusive environment.

After cutting ties, it’s necessary to begin the healing process through treatment.

Psychological Repercussions of Sexual Abuse

All forms of abuse have a negative impact on an individual’s life and victims often experience severe emotional and psychological problems as a result. Sexual abuse is no different. Children who have been sexually abused often experience emotional or developmental problems that make it difficult to develop relationships, focus, or control behavioral issues, as well as reducing performance in academic and social settings. Adults, on the other hand, often have problems trusting new people, forming healthy relationships in the future (they’ll often seek abusive behavior unknowingly) and increased risk of developing mental health issues, such as depression.

Sexual abuse has been linked to anxiety, anger issues, disassociation, mood and behavioral issues, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), shame, guilt, self-destructive behaviors, trust issues and even thoughts of suicide.

Methods Typically used in Therapy for Sexual Abuse.

As no two sexual abuse cases are exactly the same, the treatments vary wildly depending on the patient and the exact details of the assault. For example, a therapist wouldn’t often treat a rape college-aged date rape victim the same way he’d treat a child that suffered abuse at the hands of a family member.

Common treatments for abuse are:

Psychotherapy — or talk therapy — is often successful at treating victims of sexual abuse. The therapy revolves around the one on one relationship with the victim and the therapist. In the early stages of therapy, the therapist is more inclined to just listen which ensures that the victim moves at a pace in which they are comfortable with while developing trust in the process, and the therapist himself. This trust leads to the victim being more open and vocal about the situation so that the therapist can assess and determine the best course of treatment.

Medication – such as anti-depressants – are often used in accordance with therapy for victims of sexual abuse and/or assault. While these are rarely prescribed without on-going psychotherapy, the medication often helps to reduce thoughts of suicide or self-harm in the most extreme cases.

On-going support — such as group therapy — is typically the next step in the process. As the patient begins to heal the mental and physical wounds brought on by sexual misconduct, the therapist will often suggest group therapy as a supplemental therapy to their one-on-one sessions. Hearing the stories of other sexual abuse survivors as well as being able to provide support in a safe setting often helps the victim to put the pieces of their life back together and form new relationships.

Reasons for Hiring a Therapist.

Sexual abuse is a tricky subject, and it’s often difficult for the victim to regain their “normal” life after experiencing such a traumatic event or series of events. Finding the right therapist will help you to regain a sense of normalcy that is often missing after victims recognize and separate from situations that could lead to additional trauma.

It’s not uncommon for the victim to blame themselves or feel their own flaws or actions led to them being sexually assaulted or abused. A therapist will help you to recognize the actual patterns of abuse and show that the fault lies within the hands of the sexual abuser — not the victim. Through recognition of these behaviors, it also leads the affected party into healthy ways to form new relationships as opposed to subconsciously gravitating toward other abusers or those that display abusive behavior or patterns. It’s not uncommon for sexual abuse survivors to gravitate toward non-sexual abusive behavior after treatment. Since the sexual abuse is merely a symptom of the control that the abuser seeks, the victim will often subconsciously seek this sort of dangerous behavior after treatment.

What to Look for in a Sexual Abuse Therapist.

In most cases, a therapist that specializes in sexual abuse is the best course of action for a victim. These therapists are well versed in these sorts of cases and have years of experience in dealing with the victims of sexual crimes or misconduct. If you can’t find a therapist that specializes in sexual abuse, it’s often best to contact a general therapy expert and ask for recommendations, or start attending group therapy sessions in your local area. In situations where none of the above is an option, trauma therapists and relational therapists are also often qualified to treat these types of cases.