Recovering from Child Sexual Abuse in Alexandria, VA—Therapists and Counselors
A child being sexually abused is in many ways is unthinkable, but in other ways, it is important to think about it and talk about it. It would be wonderful if every child grew up with their personal boundaries intact, but this is not many people’s experience. You may know a child who has been sexually abused. You may have experienced sexual abuse as a child. Know that a child cannot consent to sexual activity with an adult, and a child never deserves to have their body violated. As many survivors come to term with what happened to them, they often work with a mental health professional. Child sexual abuse may inflict significant harm, but significant healing can take place.
“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.”
Skilled mental health professionals understand the dynamics at play when child sexual abuse is perpetrated, and they can often empower survivors with the tools they need to heal. Thriveworks Alexandria provide therapy for adults and children who have lived through sexual abuse because we know healing is possible.
What Is Child Sexual Abuse?
Child sexual abuse can occur to both girls and boys. It can happen in every socio-economic and religious community. Knowing what it is and how to spot it is important. Often, people who sexually abuse children are not the stranger in the park, but they may be family members, friends, or members of the community. Often, perpetrators of the abuse are people who are trusted and well-liked. Because of this, the perpetrator may not use force in the traditional sense. They may coerce the child into thinking the abuse is a game or a special secret.
What exactly is the sexual abuse of a child? There are many ways to answer this question, and all 50 states have a legal definition of what is considered child sexual abuse. Generally speaking, any sexual interaction between a child and an adult is child sexual abuse because children cannot consent. More specifically, child sexual abuse can be defined with three categories:
- Child pornography videos and images: When adults make, view, or distribute child pornography, they are sexually abusing a child.
- Contact sexual abuse: Some child sexual abuse involves sexual contact with a child. This includes any form of sexual assault or rape (e.g., touching a child’s genitals, penetration of the anus or vagina).
- Non-contact sexual abuse: An adult can sexually abuse a child without touching them. Showing a child pornography, having them watch a sex act, or exposing oneself to a child is considered sexual abuse.
Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse
As the definition of child sexual abuse shows, there is a range of behavior that is considered abusive. Each survivor of child sexual abuse has unique experiences, and they will react in unique ways. There is no one way to respond to being a victim of abuse, but it is not uncommon for adult survivors of child sexual abuse to experience things like…
Deep-seated feelings of blame, shame, and guilt. Some survivors blame themselves for the abuse or some aspect of the abuse. The truth is that no children should ever be sexually abused or have to defend themselves against abuse.
Difficulty with relationships and trust. Because many perpetrators of child sexual abuse are people the children know and love, as survivors grow up, they may have difficulty trusting that people in their lives will not harm them.
Low self-esteem. Perpetrators of child sexual abuse may tell children that they deserve the abuse or that they are bad. Children often believe and internal these messages. As adults, these messages can continue to affect their relationships, health, and career.
Reaching Out for Mental Health Care
If you are an adult survivor of child sexual abuse, know that help is available. If you are an adult caring for a child who has been sexually abused, know that help is available. Here are a few tips for finding a mental health professional:
- Inquire about their past experience working with clients who experienced child sexual abuse. It is important that the therapist understand the dynamics that can be at play with child sexual abuse.
- If you are making an appointment for your child, ask about their experiencing working with other children who are in the same age group.
- Ask about the different methodologies they employ. For example, they may utilize Trauma-informed Dialectical Behavior Therapy (TIDBT). Another common methodology is Trauma-informed Cognitive Behavior Therapy (TICBT). This will help you understand what to expect as well.
- Pay attention to your own feelings. Therapy may tread into uncomfortable topics, but every client should feel safe with their therapist.
Therapy at Thriveworks Alexandria, VA for Child Sexual Abuse
If you were sexually abused as a child, consider reaching out for help. If a child in your life has been sexually abused, consider reaching out for help. Thriveworks Alexandria has therapists who work with both adult and child survivors of sexual abuse. We are ready to work with you. When you contact our office, one of our scheduling specialists will answer your call (we do not have voicemail so you will not be sent to one). Your first appointment may be the following day. We do not put our clients on a waitlist, but we do offer evening and weekend sessions. We also accept many different forms of insurance. Let’s work together.