The Cinderella Story
Joyce views her life, as a Cinderella story – the only difference, she says, is that the evil stepmother in Joyce’s story was her biological mother. Her mother was verbally and emotionally abusive, and her father sexually abused her on a daily basis starting when Joyce was around the age of five. Joyce had many chores to do and was worked until she was physically exhausted. Her two older brothers didn’t have to do any chores. Joyce’s oldest brother, Joe, sexually abused her and her middle brother. At age 16, Joyce ran off with an older man, Mark, who owned a bar. She “earned her keep” by doing all chores, and was continually sexually exploited. After leaving Mark, Joyce went through two divorces, both times to physically abusive alcoholics.
Finally, at 37, she met her prince charming: “He’s the best guy in the world!” Joyce smiles contentedly and tells me she really feels happy at last, just like Cinderella.
In many ways, sexual abuse is the same as physical, except that it is more secretive. It is harder to detect but the emotional wounds go very deep. Trust has been violated; it impacts relationships with their significant other/spouse.
Post traumatic stress can be triggered by certain things such as a simple touch on the arm or a pat on the back. A perpetrator may have rubbed the victim’s arm first which led into the abusive incident.
With sexual abuse, the victims have an incredible amount of shame and guilt, particularly if they were told by the perpetrator “you wanted it, or “you like it”– that creates such conflict in a person’s psyche, until they believe that they were a child victim.
Another dynamic that can happen is that the victim can be more easily seduced or lured into a career in prostitution or involved in the pornographic industry.
Sexual abuse is not just about rape or “bad touches” or molestation, but an adult can sexually abuse a child by just looking at them in a sexual way, and that is still abuse. For example, even patting them on the butt, eying them up and down “elevator eyes,” going out on dates with their child, where they are giving the child attention as though they were the boyfriend/girlfriend rather than the father/mother, etc., are all forms of sexual abuse.
1. Watch for some sexual abuse symptoms, which may include the following behaviors: excessively touching their genital area, touching adults or other children at school in their genital areas, and exhibiting withdrawn behavior. Child sexual victims frequently report feelings of loneliness and isolation.
2. If your child verbalizes to you that inappropriate touches are happening, believe them, and take them to a doctor for an examination.
3. You may need to get a restraining order or remove your children from the home. Try to ensure the child does not have any unsupervised contact with the perpetrator.
4. Find a support group and counseling for you and your child or children. Often if one child is a victim in a family, the siblings’ are also at high risk for being abused. Both individual and family therapy are important for the psychological healing of the family.