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Wednesday, July 7, 2010
The Reality of Sexual Abuse
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
In past months I have written a number of posts about sexual abuse and assault. (To find them, scroll down the long, alphabetical list of Labels in the right-hand column of this blog page. Click on "sexual abuse/assault.") In those posts, I've defined sexual abuse and described common feelings people have when they are abused in this way. I've offered resources to look into.
As I've also said before, people of all ages, genders, educational levels, financial backgrounds, religions and cultures experience sexual abuse. These photos represent this diversity. As sad as they are, I encourage you not to turn away. The sadness, shame, confusion, loneliness and fear you see in these faces reflect the reality for many. If you find these images and words difficult to take in, imagine what it is like for those who have experienced the abuse themselves.
Do not leave them alone with their pain any longer.
Current official statistics indicate that 1 out of every 3 females experiences sexual abuse before the age of 18. One in every 6 males does, too. Many who work in the field believe the numbers are higher, but due to the power of this terrible secret, many victims never disclose the abuse they endure.
No matter what the numbers may actually be, here is a way to turn the stats into human reality. Think of any common setting in which you find yourself on a regular (or irregular) basis -- the grocery store, church, work, an airport, etc. Stop and look around. Count off every third or or sixth person in that place and realize that the chances are very good that you are seeing the number of people who have been or will be abused sexually.
Every third or sixth person in your community has been touched sexually without giving permission; or has been forced to look at sexual pictures against his or her will; or has been raped; or has been forced to perform sexual acts on another person or an animal; or has been exposed to some form of unwanted sexual touching or activity.
Every third or sixth person has felt so terrified, betrayed, threatened and confused that she or he cannot tell what has happened. He or she may not even have words to describe the abuse, even if they wanted to try.
Every third or sixth person you see around you is doing his or her best to carry unbearable memories deep inside...and still live daily life as "normally" as possible.
If you have never encountered sexual abuse yourself, you may find it hard to believe, accept or face. But be assured, sexual abuse is a regular, nightly, daily occurrence around the world. In your town. Probably on your street. You owe it to yourself, your loved ones and your community to learn about sexual abuse. Find out what you can do to support healing for those who need it.
Healing is absolutely possible!
If you are one of the people I am talking about, give yourself huge credit for making it this far. You're not as alone as you may feel. You are not to blame. You can learn to understand what happened to you and deal with your difficult and overwhelming feelings.
Everyone can make choices to help themselves and others move forward. Talk to a counsellor, trusted friend, police officer or religious leader. Read about sexual abuse online and in books.