Therapy for Child Sexual Abuse in Sterling, VA
Some things in life are so hard to think about. When children are abused sexually, no one wants to think about that reality or possibility. It may be one of the most severe ways one person can harm another. However, child sexual abuse is a part of this world. You may have been abused as a child. If so, know that the abuse was not your fault. It is possible to come to a place of healing. You may have a child in your life who has been sexually abused. No child should ever be abused. For many people, mental health care is an important part of their healing journey. The abuse was something that happened to you. It does not define you or your future.
“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.”
While sexual abuse can bring incredible harm into a child’s life, survivors of abuse are strong and resilient. Healing is possible, and often, skilled therapists can guide the process and equip survivors with the resources they need. Child sexual abuse inflicts wounds, but caring mental health professionals know how to empower people for healing. Thriveworks Sterling offers therapy for both adults and children who have experienced child sexual abuse because we know the harm can be significant but so can the healing.
Child Sexual Abuse: A Tough Reality
No one wants to think about harm coming into a child’s life, but it happens. Child sexual abuse occurs in every demographic—to the rich and poor, to boys and girls, in every race and religion. Often, people who perpetrate it are family members or friends. They may be trusted by the community and by the child’s care-givers. Child sexual abuse may be coercive and violent, but it may not be. Perpetrators may lead the child to think it is a game or their secret. Nonetheless, it can still inflict long-term harm into an individual’s life.
Generally speaking, any sexual contact between an adult and a child is abusive. It is important to state that no child is able to consent to sexual activity with an adult. Some examples of what child sexual abuse can look like include…
- Non-contact sexual abuse: An adult can sexually abuse a child but never touch them. An adult can exposure themselves, show a child pornography, or have the child watch a sexual act—all forms of sexual abuse.
- Contact sexual abuse: Sexual may also involve acts of sexual contact. For example, an adult may touch a child’s genitals or have the child touch theirs. This category of abuse also involves sexual assault, rape, and penetration of the child’s anus or vagina.
- Child pornography: When child pornography is produced, distributed, or viewed, an act of child sexual abuse has occurred.
Recognizing If a Child in Your Life Has Been Sexually Abused
Knowing whether a child has been abused sexually can be incredibly difficult, and working with a mental health professional may be a good option if you are concerned but unsure what to do.
For parents and guardians, it is important to speak proactively with children about their bodies. Teaching children medical terms for their body parts can empower them. Children should know that their bodies are theirs, and they can say, “no” to hugs or kisses. They should know which parts are private and which are not. It is also important to communicate openly to children that if anyone touches them in their private parts, they can tell.
The signs that a child is being sexually abused are not definitive. They can also be signs of other conditions or development stages that have nothing to do with abuse. When these signs are present, it is important to seek out help from a mental health professional but not jump to conclusion. Potential signs that a child is being sexually abused include…
- Difficulty walking or sitting.
- Bruising, tearing, swelling, or redness in the anus or genitals.
- Urinary tract infection, sexually transmitted disease, or yeast infection.
- Using sexual terms or talking about sex in a way that is more advanced for their development.
- Inappropriate sexual behaviors. For example, a child may expose their private parts, have stuffed animals perform a sexual act, or act sexually with other people.
Reaching Out for Help
If you were sexually abused as a child, reaching out for help may feel scary, but it may also be an important part of healing. Many survivors work with a therapist as they come to understanding of what happened to them and how to live their lives in wholeness. Here are a few suggestions about choosing a counselor who is a good fit for you:
- Inquire about their experience helping people who experienced child sexual abuse.
- Trust your gut. Therapy should be a safe place for anyone, and if you feel uncomfortable, it is appropriate to find another therapist.
- There are several therapeutic approaches to treating child sexual abuse, and it okay to ask about what approach your therapist takes. For example, Trauma-informed Dialectical Behavior Therapy (TIDBT) and Trauma-informed Cognitive Behavior Therapy (TICBT) are two types of therapies that may be used.
Appointments at Thriveworks Sterling for Child Sexual Abuse
If you are ready to meet with a therapist, know that Thriveworks Sterling has appointments available for child and adult survivors of child sexual abuse. When you contact our office, know that your first appointment may be within 24 hours. We also accept many different forms of insurance. Call today.