Were you Sexually Abused as a Child? How to Tell

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) estimates that here in the UK, almost one in four children (24.1%) experience sexual abuse.

It’s a terrifying statistic, made more sobering considering that being sexually abused as a child can cause lifelong negative repercussions if victims do not find the support they need to heal.

This can include ongoing difficulties with relationships, self-esteem, personal identity, and stress management. You might even find it harder to reach goals or move forward in life.

What is sexual abuse?

It’s important to understand what qualifies as sexual abuse before dismissing an experience you might have had.

Sexual abuse does not have to be between a child and a ‘grownup’. It can, for example, be an older sibling who abuses you. Or it might have been a child of a similar age forcing you to do things against your will.

It is now recognised that sexual abuse does not even have to involve physicality to be extraordinarily damaging to a child and the future adult they will become. Sexual abuse can can be any situation where a child is exploited for the sexual pleasure of another.

Called ‘non contact’ or ‘covert’ sexual abuse, this can be things like an adult who constantly exposed their body to you, forced you to expose your body, showed you pornography, or an adult who constantly talked about sexual things to you.

Something like a child whose father always talks about her body being too sexual when she is going through puberty, or whose mother strips her and makes her stand naked in her room for hours as ‘punishment’ for ‘being bad’, can both result in the same symptoms of other forms of sexual abuse.

For professional support from a qualified therapist, you can visit our sister site harleytherapy.com to book counselling easily and quickly, worldwide. Appointments are available online via Skype, by phone or in person.

Wouldn’t I remember it if I was abused?

sexually abused as a childVictims of sexual abuse often do not remember the experience. In fact having no memory of certain parts of your childhood is often an indicator trauma of some form took place.

Psychoanalytical psychotherapy came up with the still popular idea that when things are too traumatic for the conscious brain they are delegated to the hidden ‘unconscious’ mind. Of course nowadays we understand the brain is not composed of clearly marked ‘closets’, and that trauma affects the brain in far more complicated ways.

So have I been sexually abused? Knowing the signs.

Sexual abuse can cause many issues, not just in your behaviours, but in your relationships, your sex life, the way you treat yourself, and even in your physical wellbeing.

Sexual abuse can cause long-term symptoms of trauma, similar to or including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Do the following symptoms sound familiar?

  • foggy thinking
  • restlessness
  • memory loss around the trauma
  • vigilance – more jumpy with noises and surprises than others are
  • emotional outbursts
  • not liking certain places/situations/smells/sounds without knowing why
  • deep feelings of shame and guilt.

Healthy relationships tend to be very challenging if you experienced sexual abuse as a child. Do you experience some of the following?

Sexual abuse as a child can also really affect the way you approach sex. Do you recognise yourself in the following?

  • promiscuity
  • or, in some cases, fear or dislike of sex
  • saying yes to sex you don’t even want
  • being a ‘pleaser’ sexually
  • secretly not knowing what you really like sexually
  • suffering confusion around your sexual identity
  • dissociation during sex – like you ‘leave your body’ and watch from above
  • needing to escape into fantasy in order to enjoy sex
  • having sexual fantasies where you are abused or raped
  • constantly using innuendo in conversation
sexual abuse as a child

By: Rie H

You might also constantly attract relationships which ‘re-enact’ abuse. This can look like:

Being sexually abused as a child or adolescent can lead to physical symptoms as well, or issues with your body. These can include:

  • obesity
  • constant low grade illnesses like cold and flu
  • unexplained medical symptoms
  • disconnected from your body, like not knowing how you got bruises or high pain tolerance
  • feeling dirty all the time and like you can never get clean enough
  • feeling you can’t trust your body.

The trauma of sexual abuse leads to many other psychological issues. Do you feel you might also suffer from some of the following?

And finally, sexual abuse is linked to the manifestation of certain personality disorders, in particular borderline personality disorder and histrionic personality disorder.

Now I’m worried this might be me – what do I do?

The symptoms above are comprehensive, and many are also symptoms and signs of various other psychological issues. So the first thing to do is not to panic.

Unearthing previous trauma can lead to falling into a ‘vortex’ of research and worry. You can spend days or weeks in front of the computer or on forums and lose sight of the rest of your life. Try to stay balanced and practise good self-care until you can find support.

Support is essential. Reach out to good friends you trust immediately. Then do try to find professional support as soon as possible, whether that is a counsellor or psychotherapist with expertise around sexual abuse, or a local support group.

If money is an issue, you can speak to your GP, or read our guide to low-cost counselling for helpful tips. Don’t forget that if you are feeling very down there are support lines like the Good Samaritans you can call.

If you do suspect you were sexually abused as a child, you might find yourself suddenly experiencing large waves of anger and fury. It is highly advised you don’t react by immediately contacting and accusing all the people who might have abused you.

You will be doing this from a vulnerable place, and can put yourself at risk of attack, psychological manipulation, and emotional abuse. You might even in the process alienate yourself from other family and friends whose support you count on.

Again, seek professional support first. A qualified mental health professional will help you process the experience and reach a more stable place. Then you will be better prepared to decide if, how, and when you will approach those involved.

At Harley Therapy all of our therapists have a minimum of five years of experience working with clients just like you. They create a warm, safe environment for you to work in, and can be booked at five London locations.

For affordable counselling worldwide, please visit our sister site harleytherapy.com to book therapy by Skype, phone or in person with our qualified, professional counsellors and psychotherapists. We have appointments available seven days a week, so whenever you’re ready, we’re here to help you book therapy easily and quickly, wherever you are.

We are pleased that after 12 years of operating London’s largest group of psychotherapy clinics we are now able to connect you with high quality therapists on a more affordable and accessible basis.

 

Question we didn’t answer? Or want to share an experience with other readers? Comment below.

find a therapist

Related Posts

    Desktop - CTA Journalist Tablet - CTA Journalist Mobile - CTA Journalist

    close icon

    ASK US A QUESTION

    Dr. Sheri Jacobson

    ARE YOU A JOURNALIST WRITING ABOUT THIS TOPIC?

    If you are a journalist writing about this subject, do get in touch - we may be able to comment or provide a pull quote from a professional therapist.





    Yes, I am a journalist Click here to confirm you are a journalist

    351 Responses to “Were you Sexually Abused as a Child? How to Tell”
    1. Beth
    2. Harley Therapy
    3. T T
    4. Harley Therapy
    5. Grace
    6. Lydia
    7. Harley Therapy
    8. Harley Therapy
    9. Milly
    10. Amy
    11. Harley Therapy
    12. Bri
    13. Lyndsey
    14. Maya
    15. Harley Therapy
    16. Harley Therapy
    17. Harley Therapy
    18. Harley Therapy
    19. Karla
    20. Harley Therapy
    21. Unknown user
    22. Harley Therapy
    23. Nicolar
    24. Nicolar
    25. Delina
    26. Harley Therapy
    27. Harley Therapy
    28. Harley Therapy
    29. Annie
    30. Jessica
    31. Joe
    32. Harley Therapy
    33. Harley Therapy
    34. Harley Therapy
    35. Ash
    36. Jade
    37. Jane
    38. Harley Therapy
    39. Lisa Wood
    40. kirsten
    41. Harley Therapy
    42. Harley Therapy
    43. Harley Therapy
    44. Harley Therapy
    45. Heidi
    46. Lisa
    47. Harley Therapy
    48. Harley Therapy
    49. Katrina
    50. Caroline
    51. Aaron
    52. Harley Therapy
    53. Jenny
    54. Harley Therapy
    55. Harley Therapy
    56. Carina
    57. Lauren
    58. Aisha
    59. Harley Therapy
    60. Harley Therapy
    61. Kate
    62. Harley Therapy
    63. Harley Therapy
    64. Harley Therapy
    65. Jamie
    66. Jessie
    67. Harley Therapy
    68. Diane
    69. Harley Therapy
    70. Claire
    71. Norea
    72. Harley Therapy
    73. Noah
    74. Paige
    75. donna
    76. donna
    77. Harley Therapy
    78. Harley Therapy
    79. Harley Therapy
    80. Harley Therapy
    81. Harley Therapy
    82. Harley Therapy
    83. Joanna
    84. Harley Therapy
    85. Sonia
    86. The me not me
    87. Harley Therapy
    88. Jay
    89. Harley Therapy
    90. Harley Therapy
    91. Ellie
    92. Harley Therapy
    93. AS
    94. Harley Therapy
    95. Louise
    96. Silas
    97. Blake
    98. Harley Therapy
    99. Harley Therapy
    100. Harley Therapy
    101. Blake
    102. Harley Therapy
    103. Donovan
    104. Harley Therapy
    105. A
    106. toni
    107. Jenny
    108. Mon
    109. Harley Therapy
    110. Harley Therapy
    111. Harley Therapy
    112. Harley Therapy
    113. April
    114. steph
    115. Harley Therapy
    116. Harley Therapy
    117. my
    118. Sandy
    119. Harley Therapy
    120. Harley Therapy
    121. Mila
    122. Harley Therapy
    123. Unknown
    124. Ceridwen
    125. Elllie
    126. Harley Therapy
    127. Harley Therapy
    128. Harley Therapy
    129. Angel
    130. izzy
    131. Harley Therapy
    132. Harley Therapy
    133. V
    134. Harley Therapy
    135. Ana
    136. Dorcas
    137. Harley Therapy
    138. Harley Therapy
    139. Teri
    140. Harley Therapy
    141. Arman
    142. Harley Therapy
    143. Sharday
    144. Linda
    145. Jeris
    146. Merly
    147. M.
    148. Seph
    149. Anonymous
    150. Harley Therapy
    151. Harley Therapy
    152. Red Fox
    153. Merly
    154. Harley Therapy
    155. Harley Therapy
    156. Harley Therapy
    157. Harley Therapy
    158. Harley Therapy
    159. Harley Therapy
    160. Harley Therapy
    161. Dove
    162. Harley Therapy
    163. Luca
    164. Harley Therapy
    165. Lauren
    166. Lonely and abused
    167. Harley Therapy
    168. Harley Therapy
    169. Anonymous
    170. Harley Therapy
    171. Izak
    172. Brianna
    173. Harley Therapy
    174. Harley Therapy
    175. Unsure17
    176. Harley Therapy
    177. Dani lou
    178. Harley Therapy
    179. Lenny
    180. Harley Therapy
    181. unknown
    182. Harley Therapy
    183. unknown
    184. Harley Therapy
    185. Unknown
    186. Harley Therapy
    187. Cody
    188. Harley Therapy
    189. Melissa
    190. Harley Therapy
    191. Brit
    192. Harley Therapy
    193. CT
    194. Harley Therapy
    195. SC
    196. Harley Therapy
    197. BC
    198. BC
    199. Harley Therapy
    200. Anon
    201. Harley Therapy
    202. Helena
    203. Harley Therapy
    204. EA
    205. Harley Therapy
    206. teresa
    207. Harley Therapy
    208. anonymous
    209. Harley Therapy
    210. Jess
    211. Harley Therapy
    212. Jess
    213. Harley Therapy
    214. Jess
    215. Harley Therapy
    216. Jess
    217. Harley Therapy
    218. Jamie
    219. Harley Therapy
    220. Jess
    221. Harley Therapy
    222. Will
    223. Harley Therapy
    224. Ana
    225. Hopeless
    226. Perla
    227. Harley Therapy
    228. Harley Therapy
    229. Harley Therapy
    230. Creyci
    231. Andrea
    232. A
    233. Harley Therapy
    234. Elisia
    235. Harley Therapy
    236. Nathalie
    237. Harley Therapy
    238. O
    239. Harley Therapy
    240. Unknown
    241. Unknown
    242. Harley Therapy
    243. Harley Therapy
    244. Noname
    245. Harley Therapy
    246. Mark
    247. Harley Therapy
    248. Sam
    249. Harley Therapy
    250. anonymous
    251. Harley Therapy
    252. Anicka
    253. Liz
    254. Harley Therapy
    255. Harley Therapy
    256. Cate
    257. Harley Therapy
    258. Teacup
    259. Harley Therapy
    260. Teacup
    261. Harley Therapy
    262. H.
    263. Harley Therapy
    264. Nova
    265. Harley Therapy
    266. The dust in the air
    267. Harley Therapy
    268. Terri
    269. Harley Therapy
    270. Isla
    271. Harley Therapy
    272. Natalia
    273. Harley Therapy
    274. Anonymous
    275. Harley Therapy
    276. MC
    277. Manuela
    278. Harley Therapy
    279. Harley Therapy
    280. Richard
    281. Harley Therapy
    282. Richard
    283. Harley Therapy
    284. Anders
    285. Harley Therapy
    286. Corinne
    287. Harley Therapy
    288. JR
    289. Harley Therapy
    290. IS
    291. Harley Therapy
    292. aurora
    293. Harley Therapy
    294. anvi
    295. Harley Therapy
    296. David
    297. Mona
    298. Manvi
    299. Harley Therapy
    300. Harley Therapy
    301. Harley Therapy
    302. Angel
    303. Harley Therapy
    304. Dayanna
    305. Harley Therapy
    306. Anonymous
    307. Harley Therapy
    308. Beth
    309. Beth
    310. Harley Therapy
    311. Harley Therapy
    312. Steph
    313. Harley Therapy
    314. Daniella
    315. Harley Therapy
    316. Megan
    317. Harley Therapy
    318. Elin
    319. Harley Therapy
    320. Lena
    321. Harley Therapy
    322. Jamie
    323. Jane
    324. anonymous
    325. Harley Therapy
    326. Harley Therapy
    327. Harley Therapy
    328. Anon
    329. Harley Therapy
    330. Anonymous
    331. Harley Therapy
    332. Joana
    333. Harley Therapy
    334. Stef
    335. Harley Therapy
    336. Matt
    337. Magali
    338. Harley Therapy
    339. Harley Therapy
    340. B
    341. Harley Therapy
    342. Rachel
    343. Harley Therapy
    344. K.c.
    345. Harley Therapy
    346. Misty
    347. Harley Therapy
    348. shane
    349. Harley Therapy
    350. Brit
    351. Harley Therapy

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *