Wounded Attachment: Relationships of Survivors of Childhood Sexual AssaultJune 27, 2013 • By Valerie Kuykendall-Rogers, MA, LPC-S, Abuse / Survivors of Abuse Topic Expert Contributor
In my work with adult survivors of sexual assault, I am beginning to notice a pattern of behavior that I have termed “wounded attachment.” The impact of childhood sexual assault has reverberating effects on almost every facet of survivors’ livelihood, from relationships with family, friends, partners, spouses, and children to their jobs, finances, faith, etc. It is as if sexual assault redefines one’s pattern of and trajectory in life.
Sexual assault is the act of forcing, enticing, intimidating, or coercing another person to engage in a sexual activity, from fondling to coitus, when the other person is unwilling or unable (as is the case of one who is underage, drugged, or unconscious). Imagine yourself as a child, seeing the world through a child’s eyes, and then being introduced to a violent act—an act that serves to not only damage one’s physical body and mental/cognitive mind-set, but also disrupt one’s spiritual being.
This one act for some—repeated acts of violence for others—does untold amounts of damage to one’s psyche. Yet the resilience I’ve witnessed from many who choose to live their lives after the violence is remarkable. Unfortunately, for many the damage is such that many are unaware of how it has skewed their way of looking at the world. This sometimes is displayed in the relationships subsequent to the sexual assault.
Far too often, survivors believe that once the assault ends, it is done and they don’t need to talk about it. Yet the choices made, the decisions not made, and the relationships that come afterward tell a different story. Wounded attachment is an insidious component that I have seen repeatedly in my work with adult survivors of childhood sexual assault. What is wounded attachment? It’s the unconscious way of being attracted or attached to someone or something that reminds the survivor of or reinforces the wound/trauma, or in this case the sexual assault. At its core, it’s the way in which survivors subconsciously seek out relationships that reinforce the wounded aspect of themselves.
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As a child, depending on when the assault occurred and the developmental stage in which it occurred, the person seeks to please the adult and gain affection, attention, nurturing, love, trust, etc. A child who has been sexually assaulted blurs that idea of love, nurturing, trust, attention, and affection, and begins to believe that the only way to receive love, attention, etc., is to please the “assaulter.” This remains in effect as the child matures into adulthood.
Although the assault is no longer occurring, if the child did not receive any type of counseling, intervention, or effective treatment to process and repair the damage to the mind, body, and psyche, then this adult is continuing to live out the wounds experienced as a child. As such, the adult becomes caught in a cycle of relationships that reinforce the wounded attachments. Awareness of this plays a crucial role in helping adult survivors of sexual assault move toward recovery, resiliency, and healing.
© Copyright 2013 by Valerie Kuykendall-Rogers, MA, LPC-S, therapist in Houston, TX. All Rights Reserved.
Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org. The preceding article was solely written by the author name above. The view and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.
Vanessa FJune 28th, 2013 at 4:06 AM
When something like this happens to you as a child it is almost a guarantee that you are going to feel like you desrved this for some reason, and I know that there are lots of victims who then go through their lives as adults seeking that conformation that indeed they are not good enough and that they deserved the treatment that they got.
I hate that too because there are so many good people who struggle with rising above this behavior. They are led to believe that they have no control and no power and therefore they are always seeking ways to have no control and power. Even if this abuse happens to you only once in life the ramifications are endless.
Al meggsJune 28th, 2013 at 11:53 AM
Please give me the Psych term for the victim of abuse
In this case it was a boy of about 6 and two dominant siblings of about 13 girl and 14 boy
Throughout life the younger sibling was used to bolster the older brothers ego
Continuing to be ridiculed humiliated still threatened and otherwise lowered in his self esteem for the remainder of his life isnt there a term used to apply to the older perpetrator sibling?
Did he not derive extreme satisfaction from this relationship and could he when threatened of losing his “punching bag” littler brother resort to violence?
Valerie Kuykendall-Rogers, MA, LPC-SJune 28th, 2013 at 2:55 PM
In reference to Vanessa’s comments, I agree, the ramifications are endless, but NOT hopeless. There is help available and the awareness that it is okay to seek help and things can change is perhaps the first step in moving toward recovery and healing.
In reference to Al’s comment, it appears here that you are referring to physical and emotional abuse. This article particularly deals with sexual assault. But to try to answer your questions… there are various terms once can use to describe one who has been abused physically and emotionally. Depending on their level of abuse and where they are at in their recovery, one can be referred to as a “survivor of abuse” and the one who is known to do the abuse is typically referred to as a “perpetrator”. It is difficult to answer your last question regarding deriving extreme satisfaction from this relationship…it is possible that the one conducting the abuse also experienced abuse and becomes the “abuser/perpetrator” rather than the “abusee/survivor” to deflect their own insecurities. In any case, I am hopeful that these individuals are receiving or have received counseling to address their behaviors and feelings toward self/others.
tiffanyJune 29th, 2013 at 1:18 AM
would hurt the psyche no doubt.but the second most important thing to do (the first would be prevention of course) would be the immediate actions after such an assault.the guardian adults (most often parents) should accept what the child says.
soon after seeking help is necessary.it is a compulsory thing to do.the child needs to be told this was not their mistake and that they do not deserve this.what is done thereafter could have an effect on how the child thinks and the child’s entire future life.
Kimberly AprilAugust 4th, 2013 at 9:33 AM
Speaking from personal experience as an adult survivor, I totally agree with and want to emphasize what has been shared about wounded attachments.
I especially can identify with the following insights you provided:
“Sometimes it is displayed in the choice of employment/work. For example, survivors may find themselves working at a job that belittles them, makes them feel worthless, or where they feel like they have to make everyone else happy at the expense of their own happiness, thereby reinforcing their wounded concept of self. Another example is when a survivor is continually engaged in romantic relationships that serve to reinforce the wounded parts of self.”
I also want to add another dimention to this area of wounded attachment. Those of us who have been abused in a variety of ways, especially spanning ages 2 through 18, have never really had, known, or experienced a safe relationship. We don’t even know what it looks like, feels like, or is. We don’t have any background knowledge or experience of it. What we know well is a betrayal of a very close relationship be it father, mother, siblings, etc. I think sometimes some therapists don’t think about the enormity of what I just shared here. It will effect your therapy for a long time. It will effect establishing safety and trust. It will effect how long it takes for the process of therapy to help bring wholeness.
I have also experienced that it also effects the termination process as well. I am now coming to the conclusion of my therapy which has lasted for four years. I can’t put into words how difficult this process has been, and I beleive that part of the difficulty is because therapists don’t realize our lack of background knowledge on safe relationships, and take for granted that we know what one is, looks like, and how it feels. Also secondly, that perhaps for the first time in our lives this relationship that has been formed in therapy is built on trust and safety, as well as understanding, respect, and a true caring that we have not experienced before. I believe, and have experienced that this is probably another reason that termination is such a struggle for me. Now I feel like I am in a place where my therapist is not “getting” this, and this is causing me to feel afraid again, and wanting to run away using a myriad of strategies which are not optimal for healiing to take place. I need his help, but he doesn’t “get” it.
simply alSeptember 12th, 2013 at 6:09 AM
I completelt agree, my husband was sexually abused at the age of 4yrs onwards by older boys and then a friend of the family – he is british Pakistani…..I married my husband 12 years ago and found out that he has been having affairs, using escorts, prostitutes going on websites etc etc. He told me briefly about the rapes but in no depth and I didn’t push. He started therapy about 4months ago, but has now walked out on me and our 3 children……….I am very confused as to whats going on, and the impact of therapy on our relationship………….
StephanieSeptember 22nd, 2013 at 9:29 PM
Kimberly, I understand where you’re coming from, I was sexually abused by my dad from 2 – 15.. The only reason it ended was because I stopped looking like a little girl. I completely relate to what you’re saying about having no healthy relationships to relate to. It is huge and has been an enormous barrier in believing in my instincts. I question everything, especially in romantic relationships. I grew up deeply stuffing my instincts and my enormous suffering. It’s made romantic relationships extremely confusing. It’s hard for me to know and judge appropriate boundaries, I question all the time if what I feel is acceptable or right. It doesn’t help that during your adult life you accumulate so much more disfunction and trauma. I know I sound bleak, but it made me feel really good and hopeful reading your message, it made me feel less different and disfunctional. I am not understanding what you mean when you say termination? Are you talking about when your done with counseling?
SeanOctober 25th, 2013 at 5:46 PM
I’m looking for advice on how to cope being in love with a sexually abused woman. My partner and I have been in a relationship for nearly 6 years. We have been through some tough times as I recently found out she has been having sex with other guys all the while telling me how much she loves me. I asked her why she did that and I as told that I “forced” her to do that as I was too jealous and expected her to give herself fully to me alone. After a bit of soul-searching and talk, she admitted to me that she was sexually abused by her grandfather from the age of 5 to 15. At the age of 20 her grandfather continued to pester her for sex and she relented having consensual sex with him another 3 occasions that I know of. I met her after all this had happened. When I questioned her why she would consent to having sex with him, she answered that she did it just to stop him nagging her for sex. Her answer staggered me which then became an almighty row during which she said she was happy that he did this to her as he “taught her how to enjoy sex”. Needless to say, our sex life has been affected greatly. I love her and I know she loves me but I don’t think we can sort these issues out by ourselves. Can anyone offer advice?
ChrisNovember 9th, 2013 at 11:28 AM
Sean, my wife is a survivor and we are still early in the process of working thru it. The issue you are running into is that as you get closer and more intimate (not just in physical ways) to your GF it will scare her since her Grandpa was someone who was close to her and who did something evil. As a result she subconsciously feels less safe about you as your relationship gets closer. You’re right you can’t get thru this by yourselves. She desperately needs counseling and you will too. Also couples counseling would probably be beneficial. I can’t really tell you how hard the process is to get thru since I am still in the midst. You need to seriously consider if you want to stay in this relationship because it will be tough. I think that you need to set a boundary that if your relationship is going to continue she needs to be in counseling specifically to deal with the abuse. I pray that however things work out you each find happiness.
LizJanuary 12th, 2014 at 2:28 PM
I just wrote a long piece about myself but the CAPTCHA Code wasn’t recognised so I lost everything I wrote :(
It obviously wasn’t meant to be, my voice to be heard. It’s not a question of if, it’s when do I decide to leave this earth.
GT SupportJanuary 12th, 2014 at 7:41 PM
Thank you for your comment, Liz. We wanted to provide links to some resources that may be relevant to you here. We have more information about what to do in a crisis at http://www.goodtherapy.org/in-crisis.html
The GoodTherapy.org Team
TonyFebruary 11th, 2014 at 12:56 PM
Liz, please retype it. I’d like to read your story. It would help me and probably others, and it might help you.
As far as ending it, lookup a story written in the New Yorker a few years back about suicides off the Golden Gate Bridge. The people who survived the jump all say virtually the same thing: the second they jumped they knew they wanted a chance to just live, and realize then they didn’t want to die.
Type your story and post it please.
sunyaFebruary 14th, 2014 at 1:47 AM
I am a child sex abuse survivor. I am 42 years old married and have a child. But my relationship with my husband or my child was never fine. We are constantly up in arms at each other. I want a happy and peaceful life. Can you please help
deeFebruary 22nd, 2014 at 4:17 PM
i am a child abuse survivor,my abuser died last year and nightmare”s is coming back more than i want.i maried and have two childrens but i cant to talk to any one,i feel like i going creisy .i am 45 years old but i feel like little girl again,please help me
RuFebruary 23rd, 2014 at 7:10 AM
what happens when you get into a relationship that reinforces the wound what do you do
Lynne Silva-Breen, LMFTFebruary 28th, 2014 at 6:27 PM
Thanks to everyone for sharing your stories. All of you have pointed out the painful, life-altering effects of childhood sexual abuse.
The best suggestion I have is for survivors to begin a relationship with a good, seasoned, licensed mental health professional. Research and clinical experience proves that a good therapeutic relationship can help to heal those wounds and help you establish new expectations of a close, trusting relationship.
When you are ready, please reach out for help.
BrittanieFebruary 28th, 2014 at 8:06 PM
Hello! I just wanted to post a resource for people that state that they are in need of some support to address their own trauma histories. Firstly, as a therapist for youth, I absolutely recommend therapy at all stages of life for survivors. There is no one way to “deal” with your experiences, and it’s not something you do for a little bit and it’s done as this article states. Coping and healing are life long processes, so therapy at different stages of life is a fabulous way to process and redefine your story as it relates to the new you through your years.
If you’re not ready to go to therapy yourself, but feel you are stable enough to begin to do some work there is a book: “The Courage to Heal Workbook”. This workbook can be worked on at home in pieces, and directly addresses building supports, coping skills, and dealing with crises when triggered. You can buy it off of amazon.
Dee this makes me think of what you posted. Your abuser passing is VERY triggering, and it’s very common to begin to relive and experience trauma symptoms even if you have not for years. It would be a good time for you to seek a therapist or support group to process all of the feelings (maybe even mixed feelings), his/her death is allowing to surface.
Everyone posting about their experience is demonstrating what being a survivor is about, good work and good luck!
PhilMarch 21st, 2014 at 11:59 AM
My wife walked away from therapy 6 times over 22 years of marriage; always finding a reason and never dealing with the problem. She was court ordered into a year long group therapy (California domestic squabble law when an officer is called). She couldn’t walk away.
Nothing happened for 6 months. In month 7 she opened up. No surprise, it turned out that most of the women in the group had had childhood violation experiences like hers.
My wife is much better now. I only wish that the year had not come to an end. Another 12 months could have had her deal with even more of need to control, her sexual habitations, her insecurity in social settings.
Though not perfect, I will accept the the great improvements which did occur.
MichaelApril 24th, 2014 at 10:12 PM
My wife and I have been married for 14 years. We have two children 4 & 7. She confided in me ten years ago that she had been molested as a child by a family doctor while her mother watched and did nothing (she is from a Mormon family and the women are very submissive to men). Since telling me, I have pleaded with her to get help as her inability to show intimacy, any intimacy at all, has taken its toll on our relationship.
This past November, I accepted a position in another state. Our house had been sold, most of our personal belongings had been liquidated and I was already relocated with my family to follow. And then her crisis hit.
She filed for a divorce and I was forced to resign my position and come home to face the divorce proceedings.
She has since retracted the divorce and we started marriage counceling and things were starting to seem better. Then ( about five weeks ago) she revealed her abuse to our counselor (who is incredible). At that point, our counselor began working with my wife on her abuse issues and, as a result, she has pulled almost completely away from me. We spend time to gather a couple of times a week and I can feel that she doesn’t want to be there. I love her so very much and it kills me to see her in so much pain. I try very hard to be supportive and understanding, but I am in pain too. I have lost almost everything over this. My wife, my family, my job and my home. We live in separate apartments and, while she talks about us moving back in together soon (july), that don’t seem possible given the current status of her recovery. I don’t want to leave the marriage but I am so afraid that she is just going to walk away.
How long can I expect until there is a real sense of healing?
Why does she want to spend time with her friends and not me?
My heart is breaking over this and I don’t know how long I can hold on.
JudeApril 26th, 2014 at 7:14 AM
I’m a childhood sex abuse survivor & I’m 17. I just told my counsellor about it after being forced to be silent for almost 5 years. I have tried to kill myself twice because of flashbacks. My counsellor said we would do some sort of counselling but I can’t remember the name of it. Does anyone know what type of therapy is used?
GerardJune 15th, 2014 at 2:38 AM
I am the male partner of a man who was raped as a child. We have been together for 8 years and it has been very very difficult. We clearly love one another very much, but recently my partner moved out of our home, though we are keeping in touch as best we may. My partner has “dropped” me more times than I can count, and finds reasons easily in my behaviour to feel contenpt for me, then later we reconcile. I have urged him repeated to seek professional help, which he has done from time to time, but has not seen it through effectively each time. He is not seeing anyone at the moment, even at such a crucial time in his life, he seems on the one hand to be trying to deal with it completely alone, and on the other hand confesses to me that he is very confronted to try to open up again to yet another professional. Recently, he and I made an appearance beofre the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse in Australia, which was a cathartic experience for us both, but the pattern continues of going along fairly well, to collapse of our relationship, to repair, via promises of seeking help, and me attempting not to be controlling, but at the same time urging him to seek out help. I feel my life is crumbling almost as mcuh as his is.
Susan EJune 25th, 2014 at 10:09 PM
Good evening. I’m a parent of a male survivor. He’s 21 and disclosed last year that he’d been abused by a family friend multiple times when he was 10. His high school years were a mix of success and then acting out with drugs and alcohol. He’s been in inpatient recovery, outpatient, sober living. He regularly sees a counselor with whom he has a good bond. He just seems so fluid and changes jobs, housing and girlfriends every 2-4 months. It’s hard to stabilize him. He hasn’t truly accepted sobriety. His dad gave up on him after his relapses. He has great family support otherwise. Will this calm down? Will he mature into a more stable lifestyle? Sometimes it feels like such a roller coaster.
sarahJuly 12th, 2014 at 12:50 PM
I am a 30 year old survivor i was abused between 5 and 8 by my step granddad been emtionally sexually abused for as long as i can remember by my dad and i was sexually assulted by an unknown man when i was 12. It took me till 28 years of age to even talk about it I’ve had relationship upon relationship and in one way or another I’ve sabotaged them all by pushin people away at the least little thing and turnin to drugs and alcohol to block things out. I have good days and bad days but since I’ve spoke out i dont feel suicidal anymore and I’m slowly but surely learnin why i react in certain ways to certain things and I’m tryin to break bad habits and behaviour. Talking about it was the most scariest thing i have ever ever had to do, but its better than wanting to kill youself 24 – 7. I’ve got a long way to go and healing is an on goin thing but i felt compelled to write this incase someone else like me is lookin for answers or a reasurance to open up.
Scott BJuly 15th, 2014 at 4:41 PM
First, thank you for you courage and your sharing. I was hoping I could get some feedback and insight.
I am married to a survivor of childhood sexual abuse by her father. Our marriage is most likely done more from her perspective than mine.
Throughout our relationship, she has very quickly alternated between expressing her love for me to then shutting me out completely and blaming me for all the problems in our relationship. After 15 years, I do find mysel to be a very negative and angry person which I wasn’t before our relationship.
I have sought out therapy and treatment for depression and over the last year have really been able to take perspective. I have no problems taking ownership of the things I have brought to the table that have negatively impacted the relationship. However, as I have gotten healthier, I am now refusing to be the scapegoat for all the issues which was the MO of our relationship before.
I guess what I am asking is are her behaviours “typical” of a survivor or is it really just me causing the issues? From my perspective I have seen:
– very hot then cold feelings towards me. Last week she was telling me how much she loves me and I am the only one for her. Today she wants a divorce.
– I am the sole reason for issues in our relationship
– very secretive and withholding information to protect me or manage my feelings
– she approaches childrearing like she is a single mom and I am a guest. The expectation is that I am to follow her lead and not offer my own opinions on how to raise our kids.
– compartmentalising her work and friendships from me – never the two shall meet
– and many others
I don’t ask this as a way to blame her but rather to get a sense of my own worth. What is the possibility that I am really as bad as I am feeling right now? Is it possible it is entirely me?
Thank you for your feedback.
BrokenJuly 18th, 2014 at 7:48 PM
Married! 14 years to a sexual abuser. Has abused his children and wife in secret for all 14 years. Habitually sleeping around under cover of secret phone and through so called friends. No true friend in this universe would lie or keep a secret and aide and let you harm yourself or others. Could be why I am not and never was fond of husbands friends. The ones I did like lie to my face. This has been the worst situation in my entire life. I was not sexually abused as a child my husband I found out now was. A victim of sexual abuse and because I did not know and this is certainly something you don’t automatically assume especially if you were not abused as a child. I had extreme trouble identifying it because my husband covered it by several legitimate things. I had to higher several investigators. OMG. This is so messed up and the findings were troubling and the negligence in his profession. 9 robberies, police find no robber, reports kids made, buying items in others name, so I will never know, fudge numbers, missing documents, I spots across several small towns, unidentified ss numbers attached to independant businesses, STD and STI infections hospitalized wife and then recovery program. Husband is a BAD Abuser and has never been in trouble or face it. Lives in denial continuing the behavior. The children and I are broken…
mm67July 20th, 2014 at 9:22 AM
I know you are feelong confused by your partners behaviour , its normal . I’m a survivor of sex abuse and I find it extremely hard to distinguish between what is normal for my partner and myself . I want to carry the world on my shoulders it comes natural to my need to make an effort as everything I do is in fear , I’m confused , I’m always confused . So I find meditation helps at least I can give myself some love and also accepting the kindness of others withoutfeeling that you have to ‘pay them back ‘ . I feel more self worth . We are victims and experience trauma . Try not to understand your partner but just to be there if needed .avoid alcohol together it doesn’t help .
Good luck and its people like you who help people like us
DaneJuly 29th, 2014 at 12:39 AM
I was sexually abused by my older cousin from about 6-11. I never told anyone until my mother came and talked to me saying my brother had told on my cousin for sexually abusing him and she wanted to ask me if it happened to me as well. I just remember crying. This was my older cousin who I was really close to and to this day idk if I would have ever told. Well we had court proceedings but the consensus was that if it happened again he would go to jail..but nothing was done afterwards. No therapy..nothing. and my parents continued letting me go over my grandma’s house where my cousin lived. I remember still being close to him and the continued but I never said a thing. When I was 12 the same cousin shot and killed one of my other family members. He was put away and I remember my dad giving me phone to speak to him when he was in jail and I spoke to him. As I got older I gradually became fiercely stubborn, hard, and emotionally detached. I still cannot be faithful in a relationship, am commitment phobic to everything, and have flashbacks of the abuse. I try very hard to convince myself that my sexuality is my own but always have thoughts of what the abuse could mean in that regard. I also am very controlling and don’t like being touched unless I expressly ask to be. My most recent ex had a big problem with that. My family still series it under the rug like it never happened…I forgive all of them but can’t help feel like I was left alone and I am alone in this world and if not even my own parents looked after me then who else will besides myself? I can’t trust a man to have my best interests at heart so I push them away. I desperately want to learn how to relinquish control and truly trust someone but I don’t know how yet. I have sought therapy but instantly feel like I’m back in control and stop going because I throw back up my walk whenever I feel like I was typo vulnerable around someone. I just can’t believe with me being who I am now..that back then..I didn’t have a voice. You ask anyone now and they will say I’m the most independent openly opinionated person ever. Always wish that could have been me back then and now I feel like I over compensate for that unknowingly.
GiaAugust 14th, 2014 at 9:01 AM
I don’t have advice, but I can say that sounds so much like what has been going on in my relationship. He had his first flash back 5 months ago. We split two weeks ago. I’m heartbroken and really appreciate your post. It helped me to know I’m not alone or crazy. The whole thing is so chaotic.
Good luck to you and thank you
LoumarAugust 27th, 2014 at 6:44 AM
I am an adult survivor of same sex childhood sexual abuse, and have suffered with the self-hatred triggered by my history. I have had a history of getting into relationships where I have to prove my worth to the man I am trying to impress, and typically become overly attached. I recently became engaged to a wonderful man, who loves me unconditionally, but I have so much discomfort with being loved, that it is sending me spinning. I just want to be happy with this man, as I do love him, but have so much fear. Please does anyone have any thoughts on this matter.
MaggieAugust 27th, 2014 at 1:25 PM
I’m a survivor if that’s what its called. Occurred first at 7 yrs. I told my 2 older sisters both victems never stepped up. I told mom. Nothing ever came of it. Other than it stopped. Then at 14 it started again. Daddy ruled with an iron fist and you didn’t say no. But the whom I feel betrayed by most is the 2 older sisters, both adults married w/ children the one through me under the bus so to speak by telling daddy I maybe sexually active. They both after a yr of it when I finally told again this time to authorities lied and said it never happened. I was the object of intense ridicule and punching bag for them through out my life. I’m 54 now and still at times look out at this world through a 7 or 14 yr olds eyes. I had 3 children that I now see as damaged as they have no more idea than I as to how to have a relationship let alone one that is healthy and happy. To this day the abuse conti ues. Not the sexual in that I at least know I did nothing wrong and had no control. But at this point I’ve lived a life wasted and no if I can’t get away now it will remain that way. The one person I was just starting to trust to come close to disclosing died he was my Dr (shrink) ;). The next I encountered belied any trust I will ever have for this proffession. As I find I’m raising 2 grandkids its now threatening a third generation. I’m tired and don’t know how to save them
JaynneAugust 28th, 2014 at 9:56 PM
You are so spot on that if I didn’t just disclose the abuse to my partner today, I would have thought he wrote your comment. Hang in, good luck, and much love.
ChrisSeptember 6th, 2014 at 8:54 AM
I have struggled through the same exact thing. Still am to be honest. I’m still not yet fully healed. As a boy from ages 8-12 I was consistently sexually abused. Some times after he would finish with me he would be soft and gentle and say he loved Me, other times he would toss me to the ground like a rag doll. No longer having any use for me. I struggle with self worth and the thought of figuring out what love actually means. It was and still is so confusing. My counselor has been helping me realize what love is. And the “love” that was given to me by my abuser was simply another level of manipulation. I guess ultimately I had to find that my brain had been so messed up to the idea of love by the abuser that I simply had to rediscover what love was. It wasn’t easy. But with the help of a close friend supporting me and my counselor I am slowly beginning to understand again what love is like. Trying to distance myself from the thoughts and memories is difficult, especially when flashbacks come up, but it’s necessary for me to continuously remind myself (even though I sometimes struggle with accepting this as truth), that this wasn’t my fault. That was not love. He didn’t love me. He said those things to protect himself and keep himself safe.
If this man loves you for who you are, then I don’t think it’s worth giving up on. Do your best to allow him to help define what love is. For me I had to draw boundaries for words to be said from me and to me until I was ready to hear them and accept them. Same went with physical touch. I hope this helps a little. I rambled a lot. Sorry
EmilySeptember 13th, 2014 at 9:07 PM
I was abused by my father starting at age 3? I was left messed up both emotionally and physically after suffering a brain injury. As a teenager I found comfort in the arms of grown men, drugs, booze and I ran away from every home I was placed in. I couldn’t deal with any form of stability and needed chaos, to some extent this is still the case. For years I looked for men who I was sure would hurt me and they rarely disappointed but by my late 20’s I realized I deserved better and not knowing what else to do or how to be free and safe so I locked myself inside my apartment and that is where I stayed for 6-7 years. I decided to rejoin the world last year and 2 weeks ago I was raped and roughed up pretty bad, he didn’t use a condom so I am now dealing with a lot of unknowns. I really do wish I could get help.
VarySeptember 20th, 2014 at 12:31 PM
I have been sexually assaulted by a family relative continuously for 5 years.i used to love him and trust and as a child was not able to differentiate between sexuall assault or love and for me it was only mere touch of love which gave me pleasure.now all family members becos of the bond I had with him think him to be really good. but the reality is different .i am 19 now and have grown up to believe dat I was sexually assaulted.now he acts to be very sweet and innocent in front of my family and keeps bringing costly things to project me as the villain.i somehow overreact because of this realisation and somehow my family feels it is because of his marriage that I am nagging and everyone is blaming me and questioning my intentions and I go silent becos I have no reply I cannot tell them or else I will have another miserable life.hence I am alone in this grief I just can’t share it with anyone and has led to lack of self confidence control.it has made me a very negative person.as he is constantly in front of me cos of my family trust.whenever I see him enjoying all these memories come back and haunt me.i feel like a used fool who is out of her dignity and that person is enjoying his life.i really feel broken down.i wanted to come over this but could not so please help me to do so as i am in 12th grade and this is an important year hence so much pain and distraction is taking a toll on me. please help me!!
alexSeptember 26th, 2014 at 6:14 AM
Honestly he may never be that, but your continous support is everything. Dont give up
alexSeptember 26th, 2014 at 6:37 AM
My wife and I are both survivors of child abuse. Weve been married a year and our sex life is basically non existent. She is in therapy and i am not. I dont talk about my abuse to people where as shes very open about it. She was abused by multiple family friends as a kid and her father was also very verbally inappropriate with her. Since hes moved back closer to our area (a year ago) its taken a huge toll on our relationship. Im craving intimacy, finally being comfortable with sex and feeling good in my own skin (she was my first) wanting to be adventurous and discover. Shes not ready or interested in that which triggers me, i feel undesirable. I just dont know how to approach this. Everytime ive tried to talk about it, she seems to feel attacked. Can anyone give me some insight or advice…id really like to start seeing my own therapist but i honestly just dont know how to even start. I dont know if i could just tell someone i dont know things about me like that…
rickOctober 1st, 2014 at 6:36 PM
I always swore to myself that i would never speak of the sexual abuse i endured as a small child.
After 25 years of marriage, most of which was a continuous nightmare for my wife, i was shown, by this magnificent kind loving woman, that it was time to offer the truth of just what was wrong with her.
The problem with her was me.
Those of you who have survived will truly undstand that statement.
From the age of about 5 until the age of 11 i was used by a male relative for his own pleasure. And it was never just his. There was always a friend, or friends, who were happy to use me as well. More often than not, at the same time.
That is how it was discovered, in the basement/foundation of an old house. My arm twisted behind my back, my head pulled back by my hair, being used by three while the fourth watched and masturbated.
I was told by the “adult” that found us that it was my fault. I was belittled and berated for the things that were done to me while the ones who did it suffered nothing but the embaressment of being caught.
At the age of 45, after 25 years of marriage, i finally admitted the truth to my wife.
And the telling has set me free.
The realisations of the reasons that i have been the “man” that i was have been like blows from a hammer in my mind.
I am beginning to understand the why of who i had become.
It has ben just under three weeks since my “confession”, and it feels as though years have passed.
I feel as though i am a completely different man.
I can only hope that i am becoming a better man.
The idea that this was something that could ever be admitted to anyone, much less to people ive never met, was unfathomable.
I relive this every day since the telling. This was something that had been long buried.
My perspective of quite literally everything has changed.
I dont know what to do next, except keep breathing and know that im going to be alright.
Theres no other choice.
Thank you, to all who have shared your experience. Please know that it helps those of us who are just learning not only how, but also that we can.
Scattered, thoughts, scattered mind, scattered life.
DisappointedOctober 2nd, 2014 at 2:36 AM
I’m bad for falling into the terrible world of gossip and believing it what people say especially if it involves someone who I know can be annoying. Then I get into an emotional state of anger- blaming others, crying and disappointment, and especially hurt. I’ve been in therapy since August. She said it’s not always going to be comfortable in session.
Having those emotions resurface at home, I’m wondering if this is what she means. Or if I still need to express all those bottled up feelings with her. I like her aporoach but not too comfortable yet to experience real emotion. She can hear it in my voice though when in talking about things.
CalemineOctober 4th, 2014 at 9:59 PM
I was sexually abused as a child.
After a disasterous first marriage, I married a second time. This second marriage began devolving early on, and then I became pregnant.
I didn’t understand I had a choice, the choice of saying ‘no’ to sex. I felt guilty for not wanting to be physical with my husband, so I gave in and tuned out…over and over again.
The intimacy in my marriage spiralled downward.
When our daughter became a certain age, I began having nightmares my husband was acting sexual toward my daughter. Of course, these were dreams, only dreams.
There were connections, however, in my day-to-day reality. My husband walked around the house naked – he’d done this from the beginning of our marriage – but when our daughter became a toddler, I talked with him about it.
I asked him to cover up around her, but he didn’t listen to me.
He also rubbed her back while we all sat watching t.v. It was a horrible trigger for me. I confessed to him my childhood abuse and how his behavior adversely affected me. He didn’t stop the behavior, however. He told me he had a right to give his daughter affection. I couldn’t cope with the fact he wasn’t going to help me. I grew more resentful and out of control. My coping mechanism was drinking.
Recently I became sober. I find I want nothing physical to do with him. He’s a good guy, a good father who simply hadn’t a clue of what he was dealing with…neither did I until I quit drinking.
This has been a surreal experience for me, as I’m sure it has been for him, too. At the same time I feel grateful to be available to do the work and make decisions that reconnect me to my life and my daughter.
jessikaOctober 9th, 2014 at 10:36 PM
Alex I’ve just started going to therapy and talking about my past. You have to know that nothing that happened to you back then was your fault. It’s a very scary and heart wrenching thing to do,going to therapy. But I’m glad I started. I’m already beginning to see that other things in my life were caused by the sexual abuse I went through. And that the things I’ve done in the past and the choices I made in relationships were due to the abuse. And also I’m starting to realize I’m not the only one who thinks, feels or even acts this way. you are never alone. And you’re never at fault.
jessikaOctober 9th, 2014 at 11:11 PM
Was the therapy dialectical behavior therapy? That’s what my therapist just recommended for me.
LisaOctober 31st, 2014 at 3:38 PM
For four years I was sexually abused by my mothers stepfather. The one time he tried to abuse my sister she told my parents and would not go to my grandparents house from that point on. They still sent me there. I was young and was afraid and ashamed so I never told my parents. Wouldn’t you think they would not let either of us go there?? At that time (and for many years after) My father had a girlfriend. Mom was depressed and self loathing and locked herself in her bedroom for days at a time. I had no one to talk to. Then my father got his girlfriend pregnant at pretty much the same time my mom got pregnant with my brother. I had to calm my baby brother down constantly when my parents fought. My sister became physically and mentally abusive toward me. She would beat me so bad I couldn’t move for hours. She told all of her friends one day when they were at the house that I wet my bed every night (which was true). I was there in the same room with all of them. My dad is now passed, my mother is still selfish and plays the martyr for attention all the time, just as she has my whole life. My sister is not married, is miserable and denies everything she did to me. To top it off, at 23, six months after I got married I was diagnosed with lynphoma. I made it through and am considered cured but now I have multiple issues from the treatments. I have been married for 25 years and am on my third affair. My poor sweet husband has never found out. I don’t have them because my marriage is bad, I believe I do it because I need to please men and make them happy using sex. It’s like I need to have validation that I can have good sex and also I have an insatiable desire to please them. I’m going to hell for this and I know it. There are days I want to take all of my pills and just go to sleep. In never at peace. I wake up every morning scared and shaking. I’m on tranquilizers and two types of antidepressants. At 49, I feel like I will never be normal.
Thank you for letting me vent. I’ve told my husband all of this but I don’t think he understands the impact it has had in my life. That’s why I don’t tell anyone else. They just don’t get it.
JenniferNovember 2nd, 2014 at 3:59 PM
I have been dating a man for 2 yrs now. He has cheated on me throughout I believe. about a year ago he told me he had been abused by a priest recently told me he was 5-11 years old when it happened. He had been faithful for about the last 5 months I believe. He drinks heavily and has admitted to being an alcoholic and sex addict. We’ve had a difficult month and he has been talking out a woman. I caught them in his flat and the next day he told me he slept with her. He then said he want me back and can’t cope without me. loves me etc. I do love him but I can’t allow him to treat me this way. I’d like to help him but don’t know how. any suggestions? Could I ask him to talk to me or just counciling? I feel like I should walk away but at the same time stay if there’s hope to help him and us to have a faithful relationship . He’s 46 now
seeking GodNovember 10th, 2014 at 7:15 AM
I was abused by my dad from 2-18 he also had my brother abuse me and my brother introduced more until he realized it was wrong. ..I have been married 4 times and feel like a failure… this recovery stuff is hard and I’m trying to walk closely with God. …I don’t know how we survived but we’re here so we did. I’m praying for everyone.
Need healingNovember 13th, 2014 at 8:13 PM
My marriage is suffering greatly from my past. My father was an unpredictable, confusing, needy and aggressive schizophrenic who exposed himself, was inappropriate physically and voyeuristic toward me (showers, toilets, dressing, spying on me having sex with my boyfriend). I’m grateful he didn’t rape me but the damage has been so deep as it was the fear of it that loomed constantly, always on guard. I can’t seem to trust my husband no matter what my logic tells me. I get close then freak out and pull away. If he looks at other women I’m beside myself fearing I’ll never measure up, he’ll leave or I’m worth nothing. I’ve seriously considered divorce and only associating with women.
I don’t know how to have a loving relationship where sexuality and my sexual worth is not the central point. I don’t know what it is like to be valued for more than that and now I’m 40 and losing it I’m terrified I am nothing. While I was scared of men watching me when younger, now I feel worthless without the only validation of my existence I had grown up with. I don’t want to be the fool middle aged wife whose husband ‘loves’ her but lusts after younger women as my father did because I’ve been programmed to believe that for men lust is THE most important thing.
Sexual abuse is such a horrendous crime against another human – to abuse their power and affect the course of another’s life and the ones they bond to. I’m sad no one stopped it for all the survivors on this post. One day at a time…
paulaNovember 20th, 2014 at 2:02 PM
Your words make perfect sense to me. Each fear and what feels like irreparable damage. And when told to just be yourself and u will be liked,it misses the point of wanting to unknow the possible coarseness if men. But most (although i have not taken a poll) men love to look at beauty and have many a sexual thought, healthy men see like and forget very quickly. There are healthy women who understand human men and accept such appreciation as folly..even cute. But the man ho secretly fetishes over the othet sex has issues. Love and list and sex…confusing and upsetting to the grown woman/abused girl. İii am with a boyfiend who explains that i will always be hurt if i think a man will not always look and think another eoman is attta tive. But to have sex or fsntasize about another? That hirt him that i do not trust his love.
philNovember 25th, 2014 at 12:03 PM
I was raped untill I was 10 from the age of four.A mentally handicap man living two doors from us, ued to use me on a regular basis. when my parents ask me if this was true I could not admit that this happened.
I have learned my youth confused and hatted because I was a brat. I was always put down at home and in school. I have grown up not being able to have friends and or keep them. I find it easier to talk to women , but don’t touch me. that goes for men or women. I have been married for 26 years and I don’t know what being intimate is. the older I get I don’t know what love is? how can anyone love me when I hate myself. I am so tired of trying. I don’ want to hurt my wife and 2 sons, but I just feel like running away!!! @ 47 I was told I am adhd with 4 learning disabilities and then they said I have a ow IQ. so what would any of you do if you are me ? I guess I am just waiting to die because I have nothing worth giving.o @ 52 after over a 100 jobs and nearly bankrupt for the forth time what know???
November 25th, 2014 at
We received the comment that you submitted on our blog earlier today. Thank you so much for visiting GoodTherapy.org. If you are experiencing a life-threatening emergency, in danger of hurting yourself or others, feeling suicidal, overwhelmed, or in crisis, it’s very important that you get immediate help! You can do one of the following immediately:
• Call your local law enforcement agency (911);
• Go to the nearest hospital emergency room;
• Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TTY:1-800-799-4TTY)
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is equipped to take a wide range of calls, from immediate suicidal crisis to providing information about mental health. Some of the reasons to call are listed below: • Call to speak with someone who cares;
• Call if you feel you might be in danger of hurting yourself;
• Call to find referrals to mental health services in your area;
• Call to speak to a crisis worker about someone you’re concerned about.
If you are a victim of domestic violence, you can call your local hotline and/or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−SAFE (7233) (TTY 1−800−787−3224)
RAINN provides support for sexual assault victims and their loved ones through two hotlines at 800.656.HOPE and Online.RAINN.org. Whether you are more comfortable on the telephone or online, RAINN has services that can guide you in your recovery.
• The National Sexual Assault Hotline: If you need support, call 800.656.HOPE, and you will be directed to a rape crisis center near your area.
• The National Sexual Assault Online Hotline: is the first secure web-based crisis hotline providing live and anonymous support through an interface as intuitive as instant messaging.
• For more information visit http://rainn.org/get-help/national-sexual-assault-online-hotline.
The GoodTherapy.org Team
KaitNovember 29th, 2014 at 9:15 AM
Hi all. I am an adult survivor of sexual assault. I’m a 23 year old female and was molested by my grandfather who was also our family doctor from the time I was 7-8 years old. After the court hearings, trips to social services, “Grampy” pled guilty to having assaulted a child. 13 more children came out who had experienced some form of inappropriate touching by my grandfather after I did.
Two days later, he committed suicide – unable to return to life as he knew it – shamed and embarrassed. Since that abuse and his conviction, I never laid eyes on a single person in that entire family. 15 years of feeling like you aren’t even a part of your family had left me feeling lonesome and scared.
Flashbacks and dreams have overwhelmed my mind for years and have never stopped. I often wake up screaming seeing his face staring at me in my dreams. My senses are hyper allert – and smells or fabrics bring me back to that moment in an instant – songs he would whistle send me into moments of panic.
My relationships have all been based around sex – jumping from sexually risky relationships like threesomes, sugar daddies, to the point where I know I’m labeled hurtful words. But I don’t do it for fun or to be talked about. Sex with strangers was quick an easy and I couldn’t get attached to them. Feeling attached in my eyes meant getting hurt. I wanted to avoid heart break so used men to fill my needs.
Within 3 years, I had 35 sex partners – and no one even mattered. I’ve never felt so low. But I’m so afraid of getting hurt.
I have never spoken to counsellors or therapists and at 23 I don’t know where to begin. But I know I need it for my well being.
philNovember 29th, 2014 at 12:07 PM
I am sorry for what happened to you. I can relate to sex without any felling. Once again, so sorry!!!
Regards , Phil
TamaraDecember 2nd, 2014 at 8:08 AM
I’m a survivor of child sexual, physical and emotional abuse by my step father from age 8-15!
I’m 39 and I’m a single mother of the most extraordinary 5 year old daughter!
My relationships have been extremely abusive both physically and emotionally! After the father of my daughter ran off with a 23 year old I was left shattered, heartbroken and felt lonely and hopeless! I struggled to move on! It was an abusive relationship with no respect given to me at all, yet I wanted to hang onto this relationship! WHY!!! I never wanted a broken family unit for my daughter as I had! I was hanging onto it because I didn’t want to deal with my daughter growing up with a step father! I’ve had so many feelings overwhelm me!!! I’ve taken a step back, looked at the relationships I’ve had and can see a pattern that confirms “wounded attachment”! I choose men that mimic the behaviors of my abuser!
I don’t want my daughter to grow up learning that being abused is normal! I have to “break the chain”!
My question is how do you do this when being abused and feeling powerless is all you know? As much as I want a healthy and more importantly happy relationship I’m not sure I can choose one! It’s a sad thing!! I’m so determined to give my daughter the best but scared that I will fail her!!
My mother stayed with my step father for 20 years after she found out what he was doing to me! This was so difficult to deal with as certain members of my family knew and others didn’t and I wasn’t allowed to have a voice to say! I’ve been told by members of the family that I’m very disrespectful as I stopped calling my step dad “dad” when the abuse stopped! They didn’t know what happened and I never let on, I just accepted there disappointment in me!
My step dad recently passed away and wow I never realised how much everything would flood back about what happened! My mum hasn’t taken his passing well and is grieving bad and I’m not allowed to say one bad word to her about him! Mum thinks that the poor relationship choices I’ve made have nothing to do with my learnt behavior as a child and says I’m just using it as an excuse!! My sister ( who is my step dad’s daughter) is the same as mum, holds her dad in high regard! It’s really difficult to get close to either of them! I’m sick of walking this life feeling unwanted and lonely! I promise myself that I will do everything I can to make sure my daughter grows up healthy happy and emotionally stable but I’m so so scared that I will fail her!!!
I don’t think anyone that hasn’t been sexually abused understands the enormity of how much it affects your adult life even when you think you have dealt with the issue at the time and sought the appropriate counseling!
December 2nd, 2014 at
Thank you for your comment, Tamara. We wanted to provide links to some resources that may be relevant to you here. We have more information about domestic violence at http://www.goodtherapy.org/therapy-for-domestic-violence.html and additional information about what to do in a crisis at http://www.goodtherapy.org/in-crisis.html
The GoodTherapy.org Team
Shari GardnerDecember 5th, 2014 at 9:41 AM
After reading your article I even understand more why I have done the things I have done in the past, migrated towards the people I have in the past and still hope that someone is a good person and will help. Unless someone has experienced what myself and countless others have experienced they will never understand the devastating effects abuse has on someone’s psyche and their ability to make, not only good choices, but invoke change.
I have been instructed to forgive but don’t forget; to forgive and forget, that the bible says to forgive, asked “do I believe in god” etc… Intimated that I should take on the responsibility of caretaking of my abuser (even told by a therapists that she thought that would be a good idea after I advised her of the abuse).
I guess what I need to point out is that until someone walks in another person’s shoes who was damaged as a child due to unspeakable acts, they cannot and should not attempt to influence that individual or affect them in any way, either physical, psychologically or mentally.
NinaDecember 8th, 2014 at 2:02 PM
I have seen this “wounded attachment” and experienced it myself. Currently, I’m having problems with my family because they don’t want me to speak out publicly about our family. I feel that hiding everything is what caused all the problems. Generation after generation, the silence has caused skewed perceptions to form, blinding my family to signs of abuse and abusive tendencies and I’m accused of triggering others’ symptoms who have supposedly “moved on”. It happened to me too and I feel that the shame they feel isn’t my responsibility. I feel that I’m not responsible for how far they’ve gone in their treatment and they shouldn’t attempt to shame me into silence.
NinaDecember 8th, 2014 at 2:19 PM
I just had to reply because I felt a canned response didn’t honor your efforts to get help. I wanted to say that you are not alone. Whatever the experts have told you, you have come farther with less than most have to work with and you’re NOT STUPID!! You are a man of self-awareness and there are geniuses that could never accomplish that much. You know that there is more to life. Your talk of questioning intimacy and love tells me that much. Deny yourself nothing that you would give to your children. Every single thing that you would not say or do to your children is something that should never have happened to you and is something that you DID NOT DESERVE. You have the right to let go of the pain and shame when you want to. You were no more responsible than had you been hit by a car on the sidewalk. Any burden that you would not place on your own children is something that should never have been placed on you. Imagination is the key. Imagine what life SHOULD be like. Give that to yourself and to your family.
NinaDecember 8th, 2014 at 2:25 PM
For those women who believe men only want women for one thing:
Men and boys who were hurt as we were hurt have to have something to hurt to be affected. All rational people want love and acceptance.
NinaDecember 8th, 2014 at 2:35 PM
Sex is complicated and I can’t say what you should do, but you should not be treated that way. You are no less valuable than he is. Having said that, if sex always meant something, it would mean that victims of sexual abuse deserved their shame. We do not and what someone does to our bodies does not define us. It was done TO us. Some of us were drugged with pills, but most were drugged by love or the possibility of it and we were manipulated through its use. I say these things because sex is a stigma and we’re told it should always mean something. It doesn’t mean anything at all about you. She doesn’t have to be younger, prettier, smarter or anything else for him to cheat because its about him, not you.
NinaDecember 8th, 2014 at 2:46 PM
You are strong enough, I hope, to hear this: Therapy isn’t going to be easy. It is absolutely normal for you to have this trouble. It is also perfectly normal for you to be uncomfortable with the thought of experiencing emotions. Please don’t give up if you start to feel like you’re falling apart. Dismantling the process of becoming hurt so you can heal feels just like falling apart because you are. In a directed fashion, all the components of your hurt are being picked apart so that you can build yourself back up with those parts that weren’t really you to begin with. You can make it.
NinaDecember 8th, 2014 at 2:57 PM
Honestly, when I went through this and realized what it would cost me to allow an abuser to keep acting innocent, I looked up how much a lie detector test cost and told his family that I would pay for a lie detector test or he could shut up. Funny…I haven’t heard anymore protestations of innocence. They just avoid me.
NinaDecember 8th, 2014 at 2:58 PM
Oh, and the lie detector test was for him. Why should I be put to the test when I was the victim?
NinaDecember 8th, 2014 at 3:15 PM
Since you’re asking, chances are you’re not at fault. It sounds like she points the finger to avoid having to observe and act to correct her own behavior. She believes that you will leave her no matter she does because she doesn’t deserve to be loved. All of that sounds like her arguing with her own self loathing.
NinaDecember 8th, 2014 at 3:20 PM
Sometimes its enough if the perpetrator faces negative consequences what he’s done. If he hasn’t, it may feel like telling changed nothing for your son.
EricaDecember 13th, 2014 at 6:22 PM
My girlfriend of almost 3 years is a victim of being molested as a child (between ages 3-5) by her grandfather who is now deceased. She has finally made the decision to deal with this issue head on and started going to therapy about 2 months ago. Things got better for us for a couple of weeks and then they started going down hill. This whole week she has been coming home late (she is an RN) saying she is working late and her moods have been more distant than usual. Last night she got home late barely said a word to me barely kissed me and about an hour after she got home she took a shower and I asked her if she wanted to talk about it or was she just going to shut down. She said she was on the verge of tears and didn’t want to talk about it and just wanted to go to sleep. I have been cheated on once before and after an hour I went to bed. After ten minutes the question of are you cheating on me got the better of me and I woke her up knowing she was on 24 hours of call the next day. I couldn’t help it. All I wanted was one answer and it turned into this huge argument about how selfish I was and it was all because of my insecurities that she was now missing out on sleep, how exhausted she was…then out of no where she says “I can’t do this anymore. You are sucking the life out of me and I’m done.” Just before she started counseling we were always having mild to large arguments about how she was distant, accused me of not doing enough for the relationship and that’s why it was failing..so I stepped it up like I used to and then that was too much, I couldn’t win for losing. I stepped back and just let her come to me for sex, closeness, etc., but now she sees it as being mean and not just pushing away for my sanity. She is the one I want to spend the rest of my life with, we both said we wanted the same thing and now she says that she can’t do it anymore because she can’t give me what I want, need, and deserve and I can’t be what she wants and the relationship is requiring more of her than she can do. I don’t want to lose her because of this ghost that I can’t fight. I have spent hours looking for groups that I can join to help me on my end with this but there aren’t any in our area. I started looking up therapist but not sure if m insurance will cover it. Not to mention she has a 4 yr old that I have been in his life since he was 2 and he doesn’t remember a day that I haven’t been around. I don’t now what to do, or say, for her to not give up on us she says she loves me but isn’t sure she is in love with me anymore. I am willing to move out and give her space but the idea of not spending the rest of my life with her…I can’t even imagine it and just the idea makes me sick to my stomach. Any advice?
EllaDecember 18th, 2014 at 6:24 AM
Hi everyone. I was sexually abused as a child and have been sexually abused by 2 priests I trusted as spiritual leaders. I started therapy 4 yrs ago. I didn’t have money to pay so my therapist as my supervisor when I was an intern saw me after or before his other clients.I had been seeing him for help with severe depression. A few weeks back when I was badly depressed and suicidal, he instructed me to come see him.he tried having sex with me. When I refused, he started shouting and saying no one cared about what he wanted and everyone kept taking from him. I felt so scared of his anger,started begging for his forgiveness. When he tried to have sex again, I let him but I know I died inside. If I have trusted priests and my therapist and they have all tricked me into having sex with them, who do I trust? Who do I turn to? If not for God, I’d have killed myself. What am I to do?
December 18th, 2014 at
Thank you for your comment, Ella. We wanted to provide links to some resources that may be relevant to you here. We have more information about what to do in a crisis at http://www.goodtherapy.org/in-crisis.html
The GoodTherapy.org Team
WrightJanuary 2nd, 2015 at 6:58 PM
You should read the book “Hush” by Nicole Braddock Bromley. It specifically deals with childhood sexual abuse and helps the reader walk through their healing process. There are also hotlines and websites that are helpful. RAINN is a 24 hotline and you can safely talk through your pain with the hotline worker. I really recommend that book though and the workbook “SOAR”
Robert LJanuary 14th, 2015 at 11:25 AM
my girlfriend was sexually assaulted while asleep and highly intoxicated.It happened at my sister’s birthday event after a late night gathering.When she was coherent enough to acknowledge she was having sex with someone she thought that it was me at first.This is where it gets bizarre and i need answers? she realizes it is not me and she doesn’t stop having sex, falls in and out of conciousness but still continues in the act.She even performs felatio on this guy, who was cheating on his own girlfriend as she lays 3 feet away on a different couch.Then my girlfriend falls asleep only to wake up and ask him where all her clothes were.She falls asleep again and wakes up to being the only person in the basement.Here is the really bizarre part which is 2 weeks later she is flirting with the same guy who sexually assaulted her and doing it infront of all of my relatives at a Christmas party.Again highly intoxicated! She confessed to me about kissing him at the Christmas party but i had this gut feeling that wouldn’t go away.I pretty much told her everyday i know there is more to it because she blocked him on my Fb account.She also slipped up and added him to the list of men she slept with when we were speaking one night.I knew more happened and one day she couldn’t take my suspicions anymore.She told me she had sex with the guy! she cried and said she thought it was me and she was so drunk.We called my sister and asked her what she remembered and she said my girlfriend was sleeping for 45 minutes before she left.I know my girl was assaulted and i know she cheated.But i don’t know why? besides telling me she is lying please tell me the reasons she would do something like that and if there is any information about attachment to an abuser.This man was charged a few days ago for sexual assault and he already admitted to having sex with a girl who was very drunk.
RossFebruary 14th, 2015 at 7:54 PM
I grew up with sexual abuse from 6-10. the perpetrator was an older cousin he would bully my little cousin and I or bribe us often while our parents were up stairs gossiping about their favorite celebrities over tea and wine like life was wonderful. I just recently came out about it im in my early to mid twenties and i have serious problems with anger specifically when it comes to being rejected or over looked by someone I admire. Unrequited love is a normal part of life and growing but i get so furious that sometimes my vision gets wavy. I used to target my parents and friends when i was in a blind rage but now Im beginning to understand where it comes from. Ive never been the kind of person to just lay back and accept defeat i feel like a lot of that comes from the frustration and confusion I felt while being abused. I am currently aiming large amounts of hatred at my abuser i confronted him a year ago in front of his wife and father with my parents present he lied like a coward and called me delusional and crazy. I send him threatening messages sometimes when i slip into a blind rage i have a hard time keeping myself under control. He is a small cowering pathetic excuse of a human life and im not the small child i was that was incapable of defending myself and my little cousin from his advances. Im in therapy but its not helping(obviously). i dont take very good care of myself and as a result i get rejected a lot I dont even like to go out anymore because of how i think people see me. I want to be able to have that normal life everyone talks about with the white fence and a happy loving wife but it all feels out of reach and it feels so permanent like I cant change it that this rage is just a part of who I am what if one day my dream does come true and i do find someone I can get intimacy from im afraid ill turn into one of those guys that hits his wife and kids because i cant control myself while im angry. that thought does more than keep me up at night it totally inhibits my ability to comfortably carry on a conversation with a woman i feel like im a monster for things i haven’t done. Im also needlessly defensive for other people if I ever saw someone getting picked on by an upperclassman or someone who felt like he was high and mighty my first response would often be violence. I’m not a small person im big, bearded, and intimidating, and i know people see me that way. in reality im a traumatized six year old in a large mans body. Suicide has been on my mind a lot lately.
February 15th, 2015 at
Hi, Ross. We received the comment that you submitted on our blog earlier today. Thank you so much for visiting GoodTherapy.org. If you are experiencing a life-threatening emergency, in danger of hurting yourself or others, feeling suicidal, overwhelmed, or in crisis, it’s very important that you get immediate help! You can do one of the following immediately:
• Call your local law enforcement agency (911);
• Go to the nearest hospital emergency room;
• Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TTY:1-800-799-4TTY)
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is equipped to take a wide range of calls, from immediate suicidal crisis to providing information about mental health. Some of the reasons to call are listed below:
• Call to speak with someone who cares;
• Call if you feel you might be in danger of hurting yourself;
• Call to find referrals to mental health services in your area;
• Call to speak to a crisis worker about someone you’re concerned about.
If you are a victim of domestic violence, you can call your local hotline and/or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−SAFE (7233) (TTY 1−800−787−3224)RAINN provides support for sexual assault victims and their loved ones through two hotlines at 800.656.HOPE and Online.RAINN.org. Whether you are more comfortable on the telephone or online, RAINN has services that can guide you in your recovery.
• The National Sexual Assault Hotline: If you need support, call 800.656.HOPE, and you will be directed to a rape crisis center near your area.
• The National Sexual Assault Online Hotline: is the first secure web-based crisis hotline providing live and anonymous support through an interface as intuitive as instant messaging.
• For more information visit http://rainn.org/get-help/national-sexual-assault-online-hotline.
The GoodTherapy.org Team
SaraMarch 19th, 2015 at 5:43 PM
I am like the female version of you. Only feel anger, cannot sustain romantic relationship, have dreams where I yell at my abuser. Self-destructive too, not to the point of suicide, trying to learn to love myself, not sure how but I wanted to tell you that you are not alone and your suffering can make you valuable. I’ve broken through and started to heal but certain this reverse my progress, like meeting someone I like. Anyway, I wish you well and I’m with you in a way. In solidarity . S
EmotionalMarch 21st, 2015 at 1:50 PM
After 9 months of being therapy on a bimonthly basis she got in to my emotions. I started to cry but not where I felt I got it all out. at the end she said I need to talk about the abuse to let her or someone in. Then that week after tears welled up in my eyes daily. Flashbacks, memories. Regret- why didn’t I just finish the cry? What will she think of me now?
This weeks session cancelled because of snowstorm. I was upset because I had things to talk about but I also knew it wasn’t her fault When receptionist called it hit hard when she asked if I had all the numbers I needed in case of crisis. I know it was her responsibility but the next day I had to go to my dr for a refill. I told her about weekend migraines, anxiety because of a coworker etc. she fixed up my dosage and meds to see if they help and to let my psychologist do her job. I became emotionally distraught and very anxious because of trying to schedule therapy and dr on same day.
Thank goodness my coworkers snapped me out of it. Things are being talked about and there may be some changes in place to help with the anxiety.
Why am I going through this? Should I tell her? I have a note for her. She does say that if I give it to her I will still have to talk about it. I have to wait another 1.5 week to see her.
Is this normal?
EmotionalMarch 21st, 2015 at 1:54 PM
I said the same thing. Pyschologist has been working with me since Aug. She holds me accountable. She gently pushes but I’m still in control. And finally she had me talking about something we had talked about before without emotion. It only took 2 questions and I was tearing up more than I thought. Held back from completely losing it but I thought I’d never be able to feel those raw emotions again. And I did and still am
bubblesMarch 30th, 2015 at 2:09 PM
I am not an expert. I am an abused, so I don’t know any “right answers”. My initial thought in your situation (aside from wanting to send you love and compassion directly) is if you can stomach the thought of reporting the therapist, then maybe he would not be in a position to hurt others in a similar way. I sincerely hope you receive the love&warmth I am sending out to you.
bubblesMarch 30th, 2015 at 2:57 PM
He should also be the one to pay for the test, in my opinion, but it sounds like it wouldn’t help with the family’s denial. Just know your health is not dependant onproving anything to anyone about what happened to you. It happened. I have yet to begin a healing process, but that seems to be a logical starting point. There is a very complex family dynamic, intensified by my mother’s very recent passing. She was only 65. Anyway, I know most of my repair will come from within. Expecting my family to understand or fix anything that was done to me won’t help ME resolve my issues. Best wishes, Nina. I saw your name in response to several comments, and want to say thank you so much for taking the time to help others. Something our horrible experiences did to make us better people, I suppose, as awful as that feels to say.
LynnApril 21st, 2015 at 11:01 PM
There is a website that has volunteers who can help support you. Therapyabuse.org. I’m sorry. I know because I needed their help. You’re not alone.
WandaApril 25th, 2015 at 7:04 PM
I get the anger/rage thing. Please don’t hurt yourself.
MarloApril 25th, 2015 at 7:36 PM
I was first molested at the age of 5yrs old while wearing flannel pj’s with apples on them(this has revelance later in my story), my abuser was my god brother & neighbor who around 13yrs old. I eventually told my mom that he was touching me in private areas and she disciplined me for pulling my pants down in front of boy(it was the 70’s and she grew up during a time when these types of things were swept under the rug so to speak, so o don’t fault her for the discipline), however the abuse continued on and off for about 4yrs. Since mom had disciplined me for telling about my god brother I didn’t dare tell her when the teenage girl next door started molesting me in fear of receiving more discipline I kept quiet. We moved away when I was 10yrs old after my father passed away unexpectedly and I assumed the abuse would end. Nope next would be a guy my mom befriended who lived in his VW Van and would stop by to shower and visit occasionally I was around 11/12yrs old and finally in high school came the most traumatic abuse when I fell prey to 5 boys from the basketball team who gang raped me. I kept all of the abuse a secret and hide my pain until I was married and problems started in my marriage and my husband had me seek out counseling! Through the help of a very understanding therapist I opened up about my abuse and slowly transformed from a victim to a survivor! As a victim my abusers still has power over me in the choices I made and how I lived my life, as a survivor I have forgiven my abusers and my mom and no one has power over me except Jesus Christ! I spent 5yrs in therapy dealing with my abuse and the negative emotions I had kept bottled up for years! A few years after my therapy ended and emotional healing had changed my heart I slowly started to embrace the red apple that was on those flannel pjs I wore when the abuse started. Today my kitchen is decorated in Red Apple Themed decor to remind me daily that I’m a survivor not a victim! I have a therapist that I’ve seen regularly for the last 15yrs as I deal with my struggles in overcoming bipolar disorder but being sexually abused is a topic rarely discussed in my sessions. I speak openly about my abuse to empower those struggling with being abused that there is hope and life can be better!
philipApril 25th, 2015 at 7:46 PM
And I’m the male you.I’m 39 yrs old was sexually abused from age 5 thru 10 by a trusted family frd.I hv three amazing kids and will protect them to the death.I’m 6’2 230 PDS AND have anger the over flows.I hv to please everyone I’m kind but let everyone run over me my wife of 13 yrs well let’s say she us in charge.I hate myself everyday my fAMILY. Pretended it never happened I hv just been told I wz bipolar I just don’t know when this will be over thank y’all for letting me talk I needed to vent God bless u all
ElizabethApril 25th, 2015 at 8:13 PM
Ross – Good on you for surviving and Telling. now the pain is very loud – let its energy keep rolling toward Help! for that little boy, and not “act in” to punish him for surviving and feeling. Ask and seek and knock till you get a trauma-skilled therapist, and if you need/choose meds to keep the demons at bay for a time, please do what you would do to help the boy who deserves to have a real life and future without haunting. Dont let the mean people win.Others of us have walked thid grueling path and are rooting for you! You can do it, one breath at a time…
MPApril 25th, 2015 at 10:04 PM
I empathise and connect with all of you who have choosen to share your stories. I see mine in yours. I feel it is not only sexual abuse but physical and emotional abuse too thAt leads to this. I grew up in a violent home with alot of DV and a mother with some serious rage/npd issues. The level of violence she inflicted on me and my sisters, shocks me even now. It was always in the name of love and discipline. There was stonewalling, gaslighting and a complete denial of me as a human being. i was merely an extension of her and existed to please her. Alongside i experienced sexual abuse from various people and bullying at school from the teachers And children. It has left me with depression, anxiety and “wounded attachment.” I have spent years overcoming my pathological way of connecting with people and now enjoy healtheir relationships. I am also aware of my needs and respect them. It is a struggle but i comtinue my healing journey. I have faith that people can love me for me and i can overcome my deep fear of emotional attachments.
KennethApril 28th, 2015 at 11:46 AM
Currently im 16 years old and i am semi beginning into a relationship with a girl that is my age her and i really care about each other but her ex- boyfriend had forced her into things like oral sex and would blow up at her in anger all the time saying stupid wrong things and then afterward he would buy her chocolates and flowers write her little love poems to suck back up to her and she was afraid to not do things for him because the way he was raised and he acts exactly like his father who is abusive.
Her and i were able to hang out a few times and we had an amazing time then one night we were up real late talking online and things got a bit well sexual and it wasent a problem at first and we hung out a few more times we never did anything sexual in person but did talk sexually via text again and its not that that’s what i wanted out of a relationship with her i want an actual deep relationship but the last few times we hung out she would kinda be distant want her space and she started having much worse flashbacks and nightmares and she said she wanted to be just friends for a while so she could deal with the problem before we got back together and i agreed to it because i understood but nothing has gotten any better and i just want some help because i do want to have a wholesome relationship with her without bringing up the memories of her ex and what he did
Karen SJune 14th, 2015 at 12:15 PM
You don’t often hear of your mother participating in the sexual abuse. Mine did starting at age 7 . . She made me watch her and my stepfather have sex . . I tried to get away and finally slipped away to my room. I now know I was horribly traumatized. . It still replays to this day. This man when I was 10 began to touch me and would have done more if I had not begged my mother to leave or I would tell my teacher and principal.
She later abandoned me, I was taken from her and ended up with my grandmother. Never had counseling and should have because so much unresolved pain affected me all my life. If you go through this . . The gift of getting help an save your life!!
hannahJuly 18th, 2015 at 12:07 PM
Hi, ive recently started to deal with abuse that happened when I was 4 til 7 by an older cousin. Ive only realised now I’m in my 30s that sex does not mean love….i have a wonderful partner, understanding, caring amazing, loving but with a low sex drive….i had an affair and it is only now I realise why, I was feeling unloved because he didn’t want to jump me every day….ive always had this thing about pleasing men, I dont really care if I am pleasured but I feel better(short term) if I can ‘prove’ myself….and I fell into a trap, feeling unloved, started a very sexual relationship with a married man, thought because we were having great sex I was in love, and suddenly I have woken up because of a comment made about child abuse, I realise what happened has influenced so many of my decsions, I tried to have sex voluntarily with a boy when I was 10, lost my virginity when I was 14, became very promiscuous until the age of 23, trying to ‘prove’ myself with lots of older men, often starting relationships with mentally abusive partners and only this year have I realised, after lots of reading on forums like this and research that it is all linked. I love my partner very much and I have my first counselling session next week, I just need to try and sort things and make sense of them in my head, then I will need to approach telling my partner of the affair. I would really like any advice anyone can give. Please. H xx
You will be healedJuly 21st, 2015 at 4:04 AM
I will pray for you. You will be healed. Never give up on yourself. Try to love yourself day by day!!
KennethJuly 21st, 2015 at 11:34 AM
Good for you.. ive been in therapy for almost a year and my life is really opening up.. i am in the middle of my second divorce because i hadnt learned how to be in a relationship. Sex can be very confusing for us. You are not alone and what happened to you was NOT YOUR FAULT
hannahJuly 22nd, 2015 at 1:00 PM
Thanks Kenneth. I just hate its taken so long to start working out who I actually am and the fact ive had an affair on the one person that I feel is right for me but ive probably messed that all up! Time will tell. 😞
MiguelAugust 7th, 2015 at 5:34 PM
I’ve been in therapy for 4 yrs and its been worth working through the emotional parts that are hidden in your soul. I do seek every venue for happiness including church. Because sometimes we will hurt others along the way. I’m divorced and have had 3 relationships since . it’s a long healing process but I’m very hopeful for a future with one woman only. Keep up the therapy and never give in to the past.
MiguelAugust 8th, 2015 at 4:04 AM
I am 54 and I didn’t confront my abuse until 4 years ago. It was only because I couldn’t maintain a healthy relationship ever in my life. I was married 14 yrs and I have never told her about my sexual abuse at 7-8 yrs of age by a male and female. I had an affair while married and like I stated earlier I’m 4,yrs into therapy and I have good and bad days. It’s really tough finally knowing why I can’t maintain a relationship right now. I’m hoping for a better future but it’s not easy.
hannahAugust 8th, 2015 at 11:43 AM
Thanks Miguel. I have now told my partner about the affair i had and we are going to try and work through that as well as my problems. It will be a tough journey and I’m hoping I can find strength from lots of things including my partner and other people who have been through similar things. Hoping things continue to get better for you.
MiguelAugust 11th, 2015 at 12:06 PM
Honesty is a real friend to those of us who have had to live with the pain of sexual abuse. It’s an important part of healing ,being honest with our selves and knowing that we are good people in our hearts. Dealing with our issues every day even if it’s just a moment is a true strength that works for me. It’s easy to open up with a therapist thank goodness they are there for us.Hiding our past only keeps our pattern of survival continuing and that’s a threat to us and people we are trying to trust. Try an open up to as many people that you love and hope they understand what we are dealing with everyday.
MiguelAugust 11th, 2015 at 5:30 PM
Your welcome Hannah, the person who posted our therapy is a long process is so right. Its painful especially because I kept it inside for a very long time and I’m getting answers to my behavior patterns. But honesty with the ones u care for is a big start ,it goes a long way. The secrecy we have kept inside is damaging to ourselves. Talking to a therapist is recommend because its like a demon inside that isn’t our fault.
BernadetteAugust 21st, 2015 at 8:30 AM
Great article. I am a social worker/counsellor/childhood sexual abuse by a parent survivor. I am doing my masters thesis on this very topic. It is one of the least understood and talked about aspects of CSA. Thanks for bringing it forward especially because many survivors are told to put it in the past and through relationships it is evident that it can be very challenging.
CJAugust 26th, 2015 at 10:34 PM
My girlfriend is a survivor and she has had several bad relationships like the ones described in this article. I am the first boyfriend she’s trusted with her secret of her past abuse, however, she seems to be creating a situation were I am a bad person and she wants to end the relationship. It seems to contradict the idea that the survivor tends to want to please the abuser, which in this situation she seems to be creating in her mind is me. Is my willingness to help and discuss feelings more threatening than her dysfunctional boyfriends of the past? Anyone has any thoughts on this? Thank you!
NinaAugust 28th, 2015 at 10:37 AM
Does anyone here have experience with either limerance or ASMR? Both are thought to be products of trauma and issues of attachment.
anonymousSeptember 14th, 2015 at 3:56 AM
It’s not an easy answer. I tried to leave or felt like I should several times within my relationship. he’s a wonderful man but it’s hard to not feel like we don’t deserve something good, or we know you will eventually get sick of putting up with our issues and leave. it’s easier to push those who you truly care about away so you won’t get hurt when they inevitably find something better. (this is what we think). we are programmed to feel like we don’t deserve something good, it feels foreign and wrong. perhaps she’s pushing you away because she feels like you deserve someone better and it’s easier to be the bad guy. simply saying, “you deserve someone else” and walking out doesn’t make sense and won’t work, you’ll talk and YOU think they do deserve you so you’ll fight to make it work. but breaking up after sabotaging the relationship and making you hate each other will make you give up and do what we wanted all along, find someone better. I unknowingly have done this in so many ways but my husband knows better. he knows it’s a defense mechanism and refuses to let me sabotage things. he talks to me and the truth of my insecurities eventually come out in a huge long balistic panic attack. I was with my husband 5 years before I finally said I would marry him. I had to know he could handle my issues and not leave but a barrier will always be there. it’s hard to admit but true. so realize that too. you can’t fully let someone in. I’ve been to countless psychiatrisTs and I do what makes me feel safe. I know if I need to I always have a plan to get out if needed. all women, not just those who are abused should in my opinion but that’s another story. I love my husband and want no one else but I will always want my independence to feel secure. my suggestion, work with her, don’t let her push you away but realize she does need space to be her own woman, maybe she is relearning who she actually is outside of just being an abuse victim. its hard to reclaim your identity and takes time. so the confusing answer is be there for her but don’t smother her. if she starts to push remember it’s a defense mechanism to save herself because it’s a lot harder when the good guy hurts you (soul crushing) but easier to go back to abuse and what you are used to. just reassure her you arent going anywhere and some times thats all we need to hear. does this make sense at all?
CJSeptember 20th, 2015 at 6:16 PM
Thank you so much for your reply! I knew it was her defenses but this last time when I tried to let her know how much I care and that I’ll always be there for her she told me how awful of a person I am and how she’s not going to let me manipulate her anymore. After she unleashed on me with one insult after another I asked her why she was saying those things and she said I’m crying while I’m saying them but I want you to hurt like I hurt. It’s very sad that that’s how she views me. None of it seems to make sense. I left her a message to meet up and talk the next day but I got no response. She no longer answers any of my messages. In addition, she’s now seeing a guy that lives in another country. Does any of this make sense to you?
CJSeptember 20th, 2015 at 6:41 PM
Again, thank you so much!! I have a couple follow up questions. I recognized a lot of the behavior you mentioned. You said you had an escape plan… Are you consciously aware of trying to escape and trying to sabotage the relationship while it’s happening? Do you think she truly believes in this “alternative reality” where I’m the bad person trying to hurt her?
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