Sexual abuse is a major problem in today’s society, going far beyond domestic violence, sexual exploitation has become a major multi-billion dollar business exploiting and trafficking human lives to sexually gratify one person at the expense of another. Although, in the case of human trafficking, this gratification goes far beyond one person’s gratification, as a whole industry is gratified lucratively for monetary value at the expense of innocent lives sold into slavery to fulfill a greedy lust for power, money and sexual addiction, and perversion. Let’s face it, to pay for sex with an unwilling participant is cruel to say the least, but goes to prove that we have an incredible problem with sexual addiction in our culture. Only sexual addiction and lust for power and greed can ignore the humanity of another to gratify one’s own lust. The purpose of this blog is to discuss sexual abuse and not sexual addiction, so I will not go in depth on that particular subject, but I will say this much before moving on: sexual addiction is not even about sex. It is coping mechanism for early childhood boundary violations, or trauma, or to cope with a lack of nurturing. It is a ‘quick fix’ to deal with much deeper issues of isolation and emotional neglect, or other issues a child cannot figure out how to deal with that are traumatic in their life. It is a way to temporarily ‘feel better.’ it may even be caused by being sexually violated themselves in childhood.

So let’s take a look at domestic violations that seriously affect a child on into adulthood, often for the rest of their lives without divine intervention and intense healing to allow the consequences of the violation to be made whole.

Sexual abuse is a form of physical abuse, as it is a physical violation, involving a lot of shameful emotions. It is also a boundary violation, coming back to the series I did on boundaries, one of the boundaries that we have is physical, involving who can touch us and how. The problem with sexual abuse, especially in childhood, is that this boundary is completely disregarded, teaching the child that they do not actually ‘own’ this boundary, or the right to say ‘no’ to unwanted and inappropriate touch. Just like the out of control problem with sex in our culture I just mentioned, the same principles apply in domestic cases of sexual abuse. It is the same issue: one person exploited and taken advantage of for another’s sexual pleasure.

Children take in a lot of information and pick up on everything. They are very observant and can feel that something is inappropriate or ‘not quite right.’ But they lack the development to know what something healthy should look like if it is not modeled. The problem of sexual abuse is that suddenly a child becomes unsafe in their own home. They lose all ability to know what ‘safe’ should be. Sadly, this carries on into adulthood, and a recurrent pattern of sexual abuse continues throughout their life.

Some of the effects and consequence of sexual abuse that happen in the life of the one abused, is that they learn that they do not ‘own’ their own bodies, that they do not have the right to say ‘no.’ the same shame and secrecy and threats from childhood resonate deep within their spirit. Often the abuser threatens with ‘don’t tell anyone, or else’ messages. The child can grow up believing she must give herself away, and is not allowed to set limits on other people’s behavior, or that she is powerless to do anything about it, as she was powerless in childhood to her childhood abuser.
All sorts of confusion can arise. Everything from confusing sex with affection, nurture and intimacy or she may become rigid and avoid sex and fear affection believing affection will cause sex which has all kinds of negative experiences associated with it in her mind, because sex was not a mutually beneficial experience for her. Sex and affection are interpreted as ‘exploitation.’ Sex may not be seen by someone who has been abused and violated as something enjoyable and safe. It often involves fear or a resigned detached participation believing she is powerless against it, to the opposite extreme of offering her body willingly to anyone, in search of finding affection and nurture, but because these things were distorted from sexual abuse, she lacks the understanding of knowing what authentic nurture, affection and intimacy really are.

Other common effects are an inability to trust, ana an altered sense of impaired judgment to determine what is ‘safe’ from ‘unsafe’, unable to properly judge character, as this part of them has become shattered by previous abuse. Often we choose people to connect to very subjectively. We base it on who we feel a connection or sense of attraction to, or what “pulls us” toward someone. This in and of itself is not necessarily a ‘bad’ thing, but for one who has been abused, the sense of ‘familiarity’ is what draws a person to repeat abusive cycles. We are drawn to the familiar. We are also drawn to ‘complete’ our growth & development. If there is some unfinished business in the area of growing, we are attracted to what feels familiar in order to complete that growth. Unfortunately, attempting to complete that growth without awareness of what the unfilled need is, ‘pulls us in’ to cyclical patterns, doing the same thing over and over hoping for a different or better result. This is why those who have experienced abuse of any kind, need retraining in a sense. They need to understand a healthy set of boundaries to teach them how to be drawn to healthier relationships. This is because some of the basic tools for living were not taught or distorted in their early development. As I mentioned above, trust is one of those areas that becomes distorted from sexual abuse, the same applies to boundaries, and can also distort our decision making processes, (ie. being drawn to unhealthy people, inability to follow through with promises, inability to make decisions, or trust their decisions,) and it can also cause problems with planning and organization.

Other problems that result from sexual abuse are anxiety and stress disorders, depression, eating disorders, panic attacks, compulsive behaviors, rage, self mutilation, self hatred, problems with concentrating and much much more.

Some of the disruptions that take place for normal development involving any kind of abuse include a lack of predictability, sense or order, love, acceptance, nurture, safety and security, appropriate attention and healthy affection and recognition and appreciation for the talents and abilities and simply the God given sense of a healthy self esteem.

One thing I have not yet mentioned is why it is that once people are in an abusive relationship of any kind in adulthood, why it is that they often feel they cannot leave.

According to Dr.s Henry Cloud and John Townsend, PhD,

“our lack of connection is a big reason why we choose unsafe people. If we are not able to connect in an intimate way with others, then we will often pick people who are unable to connect as well. If someone is isolated inside, she will pick isolating relationships until she addresses her problem. Fear of abandonment fuels an ongoing isolating connection. Many times someone who is in a painful relationship should set strong… boundaries or cut off a relationship altogether for a time. But he fears being alone so much he can’t do it. Every time he thinks of standing up to the other person, or getting out of the relationship, he is overwhelmed by feelings of loss and aloneness, and he either avoids the difficult step to begin with, or he quickly caves in. Because he doesn’t have primary safe and supportive relationships, he would rather have the unsafe relationship than nothing at all. This all-or-nothing split keeps the isolation and abandonment going.”

Sexual abuse in childhood most often leads us to abusive relationships later in life. They may not always be sexually abusive, but the lack of a healthy understanding of one’s physical boundaries can lead to allowing yourself to put up with mistreatment of any kind. As well as the lack of connection and feelings of isolation keeping us locked in a relationship that involves mistreatment of any kind, due to a fear of being alone, disconnected and isolated. Any kind of abuse leads to all sorts of problems. Even if you were not sexually abused as a child, if you have undergone any other type of abusive interactions, these same principles apply, the same lack of understanding of boundaries, the same lack of connection that leads one to try and find some way to fill the void.

There is hope for recovery. There is hope for being totally restored, change can take place. Your patterns of being drawn to unsafe, unhealthy relationships can change as you begin to develop a stronger sense of your self worth, and an understanding of healthy boundaries. The more you begin to value these things, your values will change and you will begin to be drawn to others with the same healthy values. Like attracts like. There IS hope.

Stay tuned for next week as I touch on workplace bullying, and the following Friday as I close the series with learning some tools to break the cycle of abuse, and how to get out of unsafe, and unhealthy abusive relationships. How to know when and if there is hope for change in the relationship, or if you are simply staying for the reasons mentioned above: fear of abandonment.

As I have mentioned from my previous blogs on this sensitive subject, if you or someone you know is being abused, in the words of the song twenty seven million, “We’ve got to rise up, open our eyes up, be her voice, be her freedom, come and stand up!” Contact the appropriate authorities, Children’s aid, or the police, or whatever the situation calls for. Go to a shelter for battered women if you are a woman being abused. Seek help! If you are a mother or father who has a child coming to you telling you they are being abused, take them seriously, listen to them, stand up for them and don’t ignore it. Do not be passively involved in allowing it to continue. If you are not standing up for your child for fear of your own safety, you need to seek help for yourself as well. It is likely you too, are being abused in some form or another.

If you’d like to look at another great resource, check out my one-on-one Boundary Development Program which will help bring control back into your life!

I would also like to mention on a closing note, that my coaching business, Freedom Life Love, supports the A-21 Campaign, an organization devoted to fighting against human trafficking and rescuing those sold into slavery, and helping to rehabilitate, restore and re-establish these victims back into society. I would also recommend downloading the song “Twenty seven million” by Matt Redman and LZ7 from iTunes on the subject of human trafficking, as the proceeds from your purchase of this song go towards rescuing these innocent children and youth from their exploiters.

Let us ‘rise up’ together, and be the voice, be the freedom, be part of the solution to the problem of abuse!

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If you have any questions on today’s blog or would like help on taking steps forward, I’d love to hear from you!  Post a comment below or visit my website and register for your Complimentary Strategy Session to discuss your situation in more detail.

Katie Meilleur – Certified Relationship Life Coach

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