Posts Tagged ‘childhood sexual abuse’

On my blog entry entitled Masturbation as a Form of Self-Injury after Sexual Child Abuse, a reader posted the following comment:

I masturbate… A LOT; I do it mostly when I’m frustrated or upset. I don’t hurt myself necessarily but I hate myself the hold time, start crying and picture myself getting abused. I don’t understand why I get all… well you know when I’m upset. Does that have to do with being abused? Or am I just weird… [I]s it normal to touch yourself five times in one day? And is being overly sensitive an effect of being possibly abused or being hormonal or both? Because I’m also very sensitive…. with girls and even more so with boys….And whatever is the cause of being sensitive is there ways to calm it down? …. ~ Kolbey

This is an excerpt of Kolbey’s comment so I can address the questions specifically. Kolbey is a teen, so I will address that as well.

Let’s start with the “normal” part and then move onto the parts that are not “normal.” It is normal for teens to masturbate (both male and female), and the frequency will vary from person to person. Some might not ever or only rarely masturbate, and others might masturbate multiple times a day. Your body is hormonal and transforming into an adult’s body, and your sexuality is being awakened. So, if your question was solely about the frequency of masturbation, hearing about masturbating five times in one day would not concern me a bit. That is the only part of your comment that sounds “normal” (meaning typical for a non-abused teenager) in this comment.

Since I have never been a “normal” (non-abused) teen or adult, my next comment is based upon what I hear is normal rather than I what I have experienced as normal. I have been told that “normal” masturbation feels really good, which is why people do it. When someone who has not been abused masturbates, the draw is achieving an orgasm that feels good and is relaxing. That doesn’t sound like Kolbey’s situation, which is the first red flag I see.

Reacting to masturbation by hating yourself, crying, and visualizing being abused is not “normal.” That is the way I used to react to having consensual married sex, and that also was not normal. When I started having consensual married sex, I had no memory of the sexual abuse. I had repressed all of those memories, but they still colored all of my experiences, including my sexual ones.

At the time, I viewed myself as a very conservative and innocent “girl.” However, to achieve an orgasm, I had to visualize some really sick and perverted stuff. I would climax but then hate myself afterward. I would feel sick inside and filled with shame. Since recovering the memories, I recognize that I was forcing myself to relive the abuse because the abuse and sexual arousal was all intertwined in my head.

I am not sure what Kolbey means by being “overly sensitive,” but I suspect this is a reference to being easily triggered. Someone will say something innocent that triggers a flooding of shame, and Kolbey is blindsided by this. If that is the case, this happened to me throughout my life until going through therapy. The way to calm it down in the short-term is to ground yourself – lots of deep breathing and positive thoughts – “I am OK. I love myself. I am safe…” — That kind of thing.

I think it might be helpful for Kolbey to read through the Incest Survivor’s Aftereffects Checklist. If reading through the checklist feels like looking in a mirror, that is a huge red flag for a history of child abuse. I recommend talking with a trusted adult (perhaps the school counselor) about getting some therapy. In the meantime, the books The Courage to Heal and the Survivor to Thriver Manual are wonderful resources to help you with healing from child abuse.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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In my blog entry yesterday, I addressed the topic of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) after child abuse. The same reader who asked me to cover that topic also requested that I discuss how to tell an intimate partner about past sexual abuse and about having an STD. This reader has been reluctant to date anyone because of this.

First of all, you need to educate yourself about your particular STD if you have not already. You need to make sure that you take every precaution so that you do not infect anyone else. If there is any risk of infecting your partner by engaging in any particular sexual act, don’t do it before you have had a conversation about your STD. Your partner needs to be aware of the risk that he is taking in having an intimate physical relationship with you. If you put him at risk without his knowledge, you are going to sabotage the relationship, even if your partner does not contract the STD.

I would break this into two conversations. The first conversation should be about your history of sexual abuse. Anyone who has been sexually abused has been affected by it … some in very different ways than others, but affected nonetheless. If your partner cannot handle your child abuse history, then he doesn’t need the additional information about your STD.

I recommend Laura Davis’ book Allies in Healing, which is a book written specifically for people in a relationship with someone who was sexually abused as a child. I would take a deep breath and then tell your partner that you were sexually abused as a child. I would answer any questions he might have and then give him a copy of Allies in Healing to read. This book explains things in a way that keeps you from having to do it yourself.

Give your partner time to process the fact that you were sexually abused and to educate himself about how the sexual abuse has affected you. After he has proven that he is going to stand by you rather than run, you can have the second part of the conversation about the STDs. By this time, he might have already considered the possibility, so it shouldn’t come as a complete shock. Be sure to have literature available for him to read about the risks of participating in particular sexual acts with you. Make sure that literature includes ways for having “safer sex” with a person with your particular STD.

If your partner is still committed to you after learning both of these important pieces of information about you, you can feel pretty good about his level of commitment to you. If he runs, it is better that it happens before you enter into a sexual relationship with him and open yourself up to feeling even more vulnerable.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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A reader asked me to write about dealing with Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) that were contracted from childhood sexual abuse. The reader said that she has not seen this topic covered in the blogs she follows and wonders whether she is the only child abuse survivor dealing with this issue. I assured her that she is not.

Years ago, I was a guardian ad litem for an elementary-age child who contracted an STD. Because a child generally cannot contract an STD without being sexually abused, the State got involved, and I was called in to represent the child’s interests. While other evidence of sexual abuse might be able to be explained away, it is pretty hard to get around the evidence of sexual abuse when a child has an STD. It might not tell the “who,” but the “what” is undeniable in most cases.

If you do a Google search of STDs and child abuse, you will find numerous articles about children contracting STDs from being sexually abused. Sadly, children have no say in using condoms during the sexual abuse. Many child abusers have multiple sexual encounters with multiple people (I won’t say “partners” because a child is never a willing “partner” in sexual abuse), which puts the child abusers at a higher risk of contracting an STD which, in turn, can be passed along to the child. Some STDs are incurable, so the child must deal with the STD the rest of his or her life.

My partner over at Adoption Under One Roof has been a foster mother for many years, and she says that some children enter the foster care system already infected with an STD. This is a common issue that the foster care system and foster parents deal with. When you are the one who has been hiding the fact that you have an STD from childhood, you might feel shame in being the only person to have had an STD like herpes since you were eight years old. You are definitely not alone. Only a small percentage of sexual abuse survivors ever enter the foster care system, and enough of them have STDs in childhood for the State and foster parents to have to know how to deal with it. Statistically, a percentage of child abuse survivors who never entered the foster care system have STDs from childhood as well.

The same reader asked me to address how to discuss STDs and a history of child abuse with a potential partner. I will address that in my next blog entry.

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Photo credit: Hekatekris

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