When a child is violated by a trusted adult or any other person who is older, more powerful, or is in a position of authority over him/her, it creates overwhelming feelings of fear, confusion and overstimulation for the child. The message sent to the child is that his/her body is not his/her own; and his/her sense of comfort, privacy, safety, and trust are severely damaged by such actions. Typically, the child believes that it is his/her own fault, he/she is dirty, he/she has somehow caused the other’s actions towards him/her or he/she deserved the abuse. Feelings of intense shame, guilt, and fear and then embedded into the child’s concept of who he/she is.
A child is NEVER responsible for an adult’s behavior or feelings. It is NEVER the child’s fault that he/she was exposed to, or involved in, sexual contact with an adult or older sibling.
The following is a list of experiences and interactions which are inappropriate and abusive for children.
- Being bathed in a way that feels intrusive or is sexually stimulating to either party.
- Being objectified, ridiculed or teased about their body.
- Being told, “All you are good for is sex.”
- Being involved in child prostitution or pornography.
- Being shown sexual movies or subjected to sexual talk or descriptions of specific sexual acts.
- Being subjected to pose for seductive or sexual photographs.
- Being subjected to unnecessary medical treatments or procedures (i.e., enemas, douches).
- Being kissed by an authority figure in a lingering or intimate way.
- Experiencing rubbing or fondling of breasts, abdomen, genital area, inner thighs, or buttocks.
- Being involved in oral/genital contact.
- Experiencing finger, penis or object penetration of either the rectum or the vaginal area.
- Being exposed to chronic nudity or nudity at inappropriate times.
- Being forced to hear and watch others having sex.
- Being exposed to sexual name calling.
- Living in constant fear of sexual abuse occurring in your life.
- Being watched while dressing, undressing, bathing, or using the restroom.
- Being watched or watching another while masturbating.
It is not uncommon for a child to partially or even totally repress any conscious awareness of the abuse. Often the excruciating feelings are present and lurking just below the surface, but there seems to be no reason for them. Until the work of recovery and healing is well underway, many survivors of childhood abuse have extreme difficulty in relationships (i.e., trouble trusting, inability to be emotionally intimate, boundary issues, and control struggles).
For many, the opportunity for healing does not come until he/she has the skilled assistance of a therapist. For others, trusting and supportive friends can make all the difference in the world. My hope is for all wounded adults of child abuse to be heard, comforted, and helped to heal.
 Heart Paths, A Denver, Colorado nonprofit: Healing & Preventing Childhood Abuse