No one wants to think about the unthinkable. When a child is sexually abused, this may be one of the greatest forms of harm one human being can inflict upon another. And yet, it happens. Maybe you were sexually abuse as a child. Maybe a child you know was abused. Know that what was done to you or your child was not your fault. No child deserves to be harmed. Also, know that you are not alone in your pain. Help is available.
“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.”
Child sexual abuse can harm an individual, but healing is possible. Many survivors find the resources they need to heal in therapy. Skilled counselors understand the psychological harm that abuse inflicts and how to dress those wounds. That is why Thriveworks Manassas offers counseling for child sexual abuse. We know the harm is great, but we also know the potential for healing is great.
The Reality of Child Sexual Abuse
It can be very difficult to think about a child being harmed, but it does occur. Child sexual abuse can happen to any child, and often, the perpetrators of the abuse are friends and family members. It is important to know what child sexual abuse is and how to spot it.
What is child sexual abuse? It is impossible for any child to consent to sexual activity. Each state has their own definition of what constitutes child sexual abuse, but it is a crime in all 50 states. The most general definition of child sexual abuse is any sexual contact between a child (18 and under) and an adult. However, there are several ways to be more specific.
- Contact sexual abuse: Sexual abuse that involves contact may involve touching a child’s genitals or an adult having a child touch their genitals. It includes sexual assault and rape. Contact abuse may involve penetrating a child’s vagina or anus.
- Non-contact sexual abuse: Not all sexual abuse involves contact. For example, exposing oneself to a child is sexual abuse, as is showing a child pornography. Having a child watch sexual acts or watch an adult undress is sexual abuse.
- Child pornography: The production, distribution, or consumption of child pornography is child sexual abuse. Many child protection professionals call child pornography Child Abuse Images.
What if you think a child in your life is being abused?
It can be very difficult to know if a child is being sexually abused, and it is okay to seek out a mental health professional if you have questions.
Proactively, it is important for parents to speak openly with children. Parents can help their children by teaching them proper names for their body parts, that their body belongs to them, and that no one should ever touch their private parts. Periodically, it is also good for parents to ask their children if anyone has made them feel uncomfortable or touched them in an inappropriate way. Let children know that you will believe them and help them.
Also, know that the signs that a child may have been sexually abused can also be normal signs of development or of other conditions that have nothing to do with sexual abuse. It is important not to jump to conclusions, but to reach out for help. If you observe these signs in a child, consider working with a mental health professional. Possible signs may include…
- Bruising, swelling, tearing, or redness in the genitalia or anus.
- Difficulty walking or sitting.
- Urinary tract infection, yeast infection, or sexually transmitted disease.
- Using sexual terms or talking about sex in a way that is more advanced for their development.
- Inappropriate sexual behaviors like exposing private parts, having dolls or stuffed animals act out sexual acts, or acting out sexual acts with other people.
Seeking out Help
If you experienced child sexual abuse, consider reaching out and working with a mental health professional. Taking that step can feel scary, so here are a few tips for choosing a therapist.
- Ask about their experience helping people who were sexually abused as children. It is important that they understand the dynamics of sexual abuse and different approaches to healing.
- Feeling out their personality. It is important that you feel comfortable and safe in therapy. Trust your intuition. If you do not feel comfortable, it is ok to move onto another counselor.
- Ask about the different types of therapy they offer. Trauma-informed Cognitive Behavior Therapy (TICBT) and Trauma-informed Dialectical Behavior Therapy (TIDBT) are two examples of therapeutic strategies that mental health professionals may take. It is okay to ask about a therapist’s methodologies.
Scheduling an Appointment at Thriveworks Manassas for Child Sexual Abuse
If your child has been sexually abused or if you were sexually abused as a child, know that help is available. The therapists at Thriveworks Manassas have experience working with adult survivors of child sexual abuse and with children who have been abused. Whether you know a child who has disclosed abuse or whether you are an adult who has lived with a secret for many years, consider reaching out for help. Healing is possible. When you contact Thriveworks Manassas, you may have your first appointment the following day. We accept many different forms of insurance, and we offer evening and weekend sessions. We are ready for you. Call today.