Facts About the Trauma of Abuse
By Barbara Fane, LCSW, BCD
When someone is abused by someone they trusted, a core part of the injury is the betrayal. That changes not only your sense of safety but also your view of the world and who you are in it.
Abuse survivors can end up making many choices based on reactions to their past abuse rather than present circumstances.
Survivors of childhood sexual abuse are often overwhelmed by the legacy of abuse which shows up as the signs listed above. The legacy of abuse on those who are abused as adults – such as in domestic violence, rape, or assault situations – is quite similar.
The impact of trauma or abuse leaves emotional scars long after the physical ones have healed. It is not uncommon for survivors of trauma and abuse to doubt, self-blame, or criticize themselves or their actions. I often hear clients comment:
“I should have been able to stop him.”
“I thought that if I loved him enough he would change.”
“Why did I provoke him like that?”
Because the very nature of abuse takes away your sense of control, power, and choice, a central part of healing is finding your own voice in the present, experiencing a sense of empowerment, and learning to make positive choices that work for you.
The experience of trauma, whatever its form or degree, changes your life forever. Because it is a core human need to feel safe, when we experience a traumatic event such as rape, physical assault, or domestic violence, we are often left feeling unsafe and vulnerable.
Some people try to avoid all emotions. Others experience emotions in such an extreme way that it brings a great deal of pain to themselves and others.
Trauma counseling with a skilled therapist can help abuse survivors learn to create healthy, safe, and nurturing relationships with themselves and others, and begin to regain positive momentum in their lives.
Experiences with trauma or abuse can impact your emotions and decision making for years afterward.
Therapy can help you overcome the wounds and regain your freedom.
You can learn to understand, express, integrate, and let go of the pain and confusion that may stem from abusive experiences. You can learn how to manage the emotions related to the abuse in an adaptive way and begin to develop new responses and behaviors.
For many survivors of childhood abuse or Domestic Violence, a key to reducing distress is to develop skills in the present to cope with the anxiety, volatile anger, and overwhelming sadness.
The form of abuse, the age it took place, and whether you had emotional support all affect how you cope with that experience. The main objective of psychotherapy after abuse or violence in an intimate relationship is to help people separate past events from the way they think about who they are, now and their value in the world.
In short, goals of therapy or counseling for Survivors of Childhood Abuse or Domestic Violence are learning how to:
- develop a greater sense of control
- identify and manage emotions
- move beyond feelings and experiences of victimization
- gain a sense of wholeness, competence, and strength
- discover and experience how to set boundaries
- create safety in relationships
- identify triggers of trauma flashbacks
- examine harmful and healthy reactions and patterns
- deepen understanding and compassion
- develop strategies to cope
- moving toward new experiences
- enable change, growth, and healing
Whether you were hurt as a child or an adult, abuse does not have to be a life sentence. You can move from being a victim to a survivor. You can start reclaiming control and safety today.
About the Author:
Barbara Fane, LCSW, BCD is a licensed psychotherapist with a private practice in Shrewsbury, Monmouth County NJ. She has been providing affirmative, compassionate, and individualized help to Individuals, Couples, and Families since 1990.
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