Living proof exists all around us…proof that the road is well travelled. People are wounded; some may walk, but many are stopped in their tracks unable to move forward, some lie under the covers to hide, some run in fear or fight in anger, many abuse drugs/alcohol, but they all require assistance to survive. This is the road of childhood sexual abuse (CSA).
The concept of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among the general population has increased due to the awareness of emotional/psychological wounds experienced by war veterans, the 9-11 attacks, the many mass shootings, and the news of violence in daily reports. There has been some increased recognition of domestic violence (DV) prevalence, and more is needed.
Yet, there continues to be less conversation and less of an outcry from society concerning CSA. The religious and coach abuse of children has made news and stimulated some cognizance, yet there is an entire population of children who live with their abusers, are children of their abusers, and who then experience trauma in a different way than other populations. These children have no war comrades, no firetrucks and emergency personnel rushing to bind their wounds. They live in profound silence, alone, vulnerable, and confused. This population walks through our neighborhoods, our schools, our businesses, and our medical offices daily. This population may be highly compliant, flying under the radar during childhood, yet fallout often occurs later during adolescence or adulthood. And some are not silent compliant, but act out the abuse emotions and their behavior often masquerades as other mental health disorders. Chronic abuse and complex post-traumatic effects negatively change bodily chemicals. The effects of CSA are destructive to a successful life, with the effects following into the next generation, and the next...
Perhaps, we do not realize the profound impact of CSA that is affecting us all. The impact affects victims’ abilities to trust, shames them into silence and fractured realities, impacts them to have inappropriate rage, impacts abilities to think clearly, impacts abilities to parent with sound skills, impacts abilities to remember appointments and dates, creates illness and chronic illness, impacts the ability to be a stable employee or experience relational difficulties with bosses and peers, many abuse drugs/alcohol, many experience DV, many become disabled, and some may reactively abuse others without understanding what stirred their behavior.
The prisons and jails are filled with victims of CSA. If one took the number of people with mental health challenges, it is eerily close to the number of abused children. As a nurse practitioner, I have seen the majority, upwards past 90 percent of individual clients in the behavioral health field, have CSA backgrounds. CSA impacts our communities in healthiness and it inflates our service and court budgets astronomically, while it destroys individual healthy childhood development. It is known that 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys experience CSA, yet discovering the actual count is less important than knowing that it is highly prevalent and significantly damaging to our society. There is living proof all around us that there is a need to change our children’s society.
Yet, desensitization has occurred. The words of childhood sexual abuse roll off our tongue so easily. Perhaps, because this is a difficult subject to approach. Yet, who are we as a community? Will we stand for the most vulnerable and push for change? Up until this point we have asked the children and grown victims to shoulder the burden of their wounded life, demanded they have responsibility without understanding their need. Yet, what do we do with veterans and victims of other tragedies? We have compassion, we support, we develop programs to help them move forward, we empathize with their pain.
If we, the wider circle of society, more clearly support and intervene on behalf of protecting children, in the end all our lives will be improved, and I dare-say our societal budget will be improved. We will find there are more stable workers, better students, and healthier people that would be able to fully share their talents in our community. Holding another’s face with dignity and compassion for their wounds is never a loss of effort. Please support Child Advocacy Center and Tu Casa efforts to intervene early in identified situations, as early intervention offers the most hope for successful outcomes. And let us all seek to proactively prevent CSA in all homes by increasing the conversation and call for CSA and childhood harm to cease in our community.
Visit the Tu Casa website at www.slvtucasa.net or contact the office for more ways to prevent and intervene at 719-589-2465.
Laura Hays, PhD., Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, RXN