Certain things in life can be too difficult to think about or speak about, and yet, they are real. One of the most difficult realities may just be child sexual abuse. It is not pleasant to think about a child being harmed or an adult having lived through child sexual abuse. However, you may have a child in your life who was sexually abused. You may have survived sexual abuse when you were younger. In either case, know that it is okay to talk about what happened. It is okay to seek help. Many people work with a therapist as they are coming to understand what happened to them and how to heal.
“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.”
Every individual’s experiences are different, and each person’s wounds are unique. Healing is often a unique path as well, but no one should have to travel that path alone. Thriveworks Newport News offers counseling for both adults and children who have been sexually abused. The wounds may be deep but so is the potential for recovering.
A Difficult Reality: Child Sexual Abuse
Knowing what child sexual abuse is can be important as there are many misconceptions about it. Often, the perpetrators of it are known to the child and their family. The perpetrator may even be a family member or friend—they are often entrusted to care for the child.
Both girls and boys can experience child sexual abuse. It can occur in both rich and poor communities as well as within every race and religion. What exactly is child sexual abuse? There are a number of ways to define it. All 50 states have a legal definition that is very technical and often outlines criminal behaviors against children. On a much more general level, child sexual abuse is a sexual interaction between an adult and a child. More specifically, child sexual abuse can be…
- Contact abuse: Child sexual abuse can involve an adult touching a child in a sexual way. This may range from an adult touching a child’s genitals (or vice versa) all the way to rape. Other forms of sexual assault would be contact sexual abuse, such as penetrating the anus or vagina.
- Non-contact abuse: Child sexual abuse can occur without touch. For example, a perpetrator can expose themselves to a child or show the child pornographic images. If a child must watch an adult perform a sexual act, that is also sexual abuse.
- Child pornography: Whenever an adult produces, views, or circulates child pornography, child abuse has occurred.
What If You Suspect a Child Is Being Sexually Abused?
It is not always easy to know whether a child is being sexually abused. Because of the difficulty involved in some cases, many people seek out help from a mental health professional to know how to respond and what steps to take.
One step parents and guardians can take proactively is to cultivate a supportive and open relationship with their children where the kids can speak freely about what is happening in their live. Parents often help their children by teaching about their bodies—the proper name for each part, how their body works, and that they own their bodies. Parents and guardians may want to ask their children from time to time if anyone has made them feel uncomfortable and how to respond if that happens. These conversations can be more general.
More specifically, navigating whether a child has be abused can be more difficult. There are signs of sexual abuse, but many of these signs are shared with other conditions and may or may not signal that abuse has occurred. If an adult sees these signs in a child, they may want to reach out for help instead of jumping to conclusions. Signs that a child may have been sexually abused include…
- Inappropriate sexual behaviors like exposing private parts, acting sexual with other people, or having dolls or stuffed animals act out sexual acts.
- Bruising, tearing, redness, or swelling in the genitalia or anus.
- Having a sexually transmitted disease, urinary tract infection, or yeast infection.
- Difficulty walking or sitting.
- Talking about sex or using terms in a way that is developmentally advanced.
Reaching Out for Healing
If you were sexually abused as a child, know that many survivors work with a therapist as they come to understanding and begin to heal. Reaching out may feel overwhelming, but here are a few tips for seeking a mental health professional:
- Before scheduling an appointment, ask about the therapist’s experience working with clients who have lived through child sexual abuse. Mental health professionals often have areas of expertise, and it is reasonable to find a therapist who understands what your experienced.
- You can inquire about the methodologies that the therapist uses. For example, Trauma-informed Cognitive Behavior Therapy (TICBT) and Trauma-informed Dialectical Behavior Therapy (TIDBT) are techniques that can be used in therapy.
- During your appointments, you should feel safe and comfortable. If something about the therapist does not sit well with you, trusting your gut is important.
Setting Up an Appointment at Thriveworks Newport News for Child Sexual Abuse
If you are ready to meet with a mental health professional, know that Thriveworks Newport News offers appointments for child sexual abuse. We meet with both children and adults. We offer evening and weekend appointments, and new clients often have an appointment within 24 hours. Call today.