Without treatment, the effects of sexual abuse can last a lifetime and impact a person’s relationships, work-life, self-esteem and self-image for a long time.
Symptoms of PTSD
Children who are sexually abused show symptoms of PTSD, which continue on into adulthood:
• Distressing intrusive memories of times when sexual abuse occurred
• Nightmares of the events or nightmares without recognizable content
• Daytime flashbacks of the event when something happens that feels similar, even if it isn’t
• Feelings of fear, panic, terror
• A feeling of detachment or numbness in general, or a feeling of detachment from others
• Feeling that one can’t love anyone
• Sudden feelings of anger and anger outbursts
• Difficulty sleeping
• Difficulty focusing or concentrating
• Exaggerated startle responses, being always on the alert for danger
• In children, regression in toilet training or unusual behaviors around urinating or defecating
Effects of Sexual Abuse: Problems with Relationships
The above are just some of the symptoms of PTSD that are part of the effects of sexual abuse. The effects of sexual abuse also create difficulties in relating to others, both in intimate relationships and friendships. For instance, sexual abuse victims may lose the ability to create boundaries when they first meet others—they may lose their sense of self and become sexual quickly without really choosing to do so consciously. They may dissociate during sex, feeling that they are outside their bodies or not feeling their bodies. They may be afraid to become close to possible romantic partners because they fear anyone of the same sex as their abuser. Sex may be physically painful. When their partners ask for sexual positions that are similar to what happened with the abuser, they may have great difficulty saying no and just go along—because that’s what they had to do with the abuser. Getting triggered in this way is also one of the symptoms of PTSD.
Relationships May Be Affected in General
The effects of sexual abuse often generalize to friendships and work relationships, too. Abuse victims may never learn how to socialize easily. They may withdraw and then feel that others are withdrawing from them—and they could be right. When someone feels their awkwardness, he or she may also feel awkward and withdraw. These relationship effects are also symptoms of PTSD.
EFT for Sexual Abuse
EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) is a way of working with the effects of sexual abuse that often can free an abuse victim from the symptoms of PTSD that they carry. EFT often works very quickly with children, because the traumatic impact of abuse hasn’t had a chance to become etched in, and for adults, it can work much more quickly than many other ways of working with the effects of abuse. An expert EFT practitioner gently helps a client work through what happened without retraumatizing the client—something that is very important for sexual abuse victims, be it children or adults. One way is to begin working just with emotions that come up in daily life without tying these to the events of the abuse. After a while, the charge around these emotions is calmed down, and people are able to deal directly with events. Healing from the abuse is evident when a person can remember events without being upset anymore. The events become “just memories.” There’s a feeling of distance and a feeling that one can move on.
For more information, see EFT-Emotionalfreedom.com