Sexual abuse is any form of sexual violence, including rape, child molestation, incest, and similar forms of non-consensual sexual contact. Most sexual abuse experts agree sexual abuse is never only aboutsex. Instead, it is often an attempt to gainpowerover others.
Immediate crisis assistance after sexual assault can prove invaluable and even save lives. A person can report sexual assault by calling local police. Survivors may also wish to get a physical exam at a hospital.
Therapycan also be helpful for those who experienced sexual abuse in the past. Some therapists specialize in addressing the trauma of sexual assault. Long-term assistance may be beneficial to some survivors of sexual abuse.
TYPES OF SEXUAL ASSAULT AND ABUSE
Sexual abuse is common, particularly forwomenand girls. Ninety percent of all rapes are committed against women. One in six women in America have experienced rape. One in five girls and one in 20 boys experience childhood sexual abuse.
Sexual abuse and sexual assault are umbrella terms used to refer to multiple crimes. These crimes include:
Rape: Forced sexual contact with someone who does not or cannot consent. Forcing sex upon someone who does not want it, who is intoxicated, or who is not legally old enough to give consent all count as rape.Date rapeis sexual assualt that occurs between people with an established relationship. A handful of states limit their definition of rape to forcible sexual intercourse. Yet any form of forcible sexual contact can have long-lasting effects on a person. Most states now recognize forced oral sex and similar forms of assault as rape.
Child molestation: Child molestation is any sexual contact with a child. Many children who are molested are too young to know what is happening and may not fight back. Some abusers use the child’s cooperation in these cases as “evidence” that no one was harmed. Examples of child molestation might include fondling or demanding sexual favors from a child.
Incest:Incestdescribes sexual contact between family members who are too closely related to marry. While incestuous sexual activity may occur between consenting adults, this is not common. Most reported incest occurs as child abuse. Over a third of American sexual assault survivors under the age of 18 are abused by a family member, according to latest statistics. However, incest is an underreported crime, so the actual number of incest survivors may be higher.
Non-consensual sexual contact: This category includes any unwanted sexual touching, such as groping or pinching. Attempted rape can also fall into this category.
Non-contact sexual abuse: Not all sexual abuse fits neatly into common legal or psychological definitions. For instance, parents who have sex in front of their children or who make sexually inappropriate comments to their children are engaging in sexual abuse. So-called revengepornographysites, which publish nude photos of people without their consent, are another form of sexual abuse.
The laws governing sexual abuse are constantly changing. For this reason, most professionals who work with sexual abuse survivors rely on the person’s feelings, not the law, when determining whether a sexual assault has occurred. For example, marital rape can be deeply traumatic, especially in an otherwise abusive relationship. Yet marital rape did not become a crime anywhere until the 1970s. It is still a challenging crime to prosecute.
SEXUAL VIOLENCE IN THE MILITARY
Sexual violence occurs in the U.S.militaryin high numbers. According to a 2014 report:
Nearly 5% of all women and 1% of all men on active duty reported experiencing unwanted sexual contact.
Nearly half of reports from women involved penetrative sexual assault (rape or penetration with an object). This rate was 35% for men.
Due to the gender ratios in the military, more men experience sexual violence than women. A man in the military is 10 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than a civilian man.
Most perpetrators commit these crimes out of a desire for domination. Offenders often wish to establish control over their “inferiors.” Sexual attraction is rarely the motivating factor.
Sexual violence among service members is an under-reported crime. Studies suggest only one in four survivors of military sexual assault report their attacks. Among male survivors, an estimated 81% never report their attacks.
People who report their assaults often face retaliation. In 2014, 62% of female reporters said they faced retaliation. Many were shunned by colleagues or blamed for the assault. Survivors of both genders may face consequences in their professional lives. Some are even discharged from the military.
Reporters may also face barriers to mental health treatment. Research suggests the military has falsely diagnosed many sexual assault reporters with personality disruptions as an excuse to discharge them. The Department of Veterans Affairs classifies personality disruptions as a pre-existing condition. Thus, it rarely covers the expense of survivors’ mental health treatment.
MALE VICTIMS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT AND ABUSE
Menwho experience sexual assault can face severestigma. U.S. culture promotes astereotypethat men always want sex. Many people believe men cannot possibly be victims of rape.
When men report sexual assault, they often face doubt and ridicule. Others may blame the abuse on the man’s “weakness” or alleged homosexuality.Victim-blamingis especially likely when a man accuses a woman of sexual abuse.
Due to stigma, male survivors can be reluctant to label their experiences as rape or abuse. Some may not mention the event at all. However, a reluctance to disclose can prevent men from getting treatment. Without professional help, some men resort to substance abuse orself-harmto cope with trauma.
SEXUAL ASSAULT AND ABUSE IN THE LGBTQ+ COMMUNITY
The rates of sexual assault forhomosexualandbisexualindividuals are comparable or higher than the rates forheterosexualpeople. Hate crimes account for many sexual assaults againstLGBTQ+people.
Among cisgender women, the lifetime prevalence rates for rape are:
46% for bisexual women.
13% for lesbian women.
17% for heterosexual women.
Rape statistics among cisgender men are limited. The lifetime prevalence rates for sexual assaults other than rape are:
47% for bisexual men.
40% for gay men.
21% of heterosexual men.
Around 64% oftransgenderpeople will experience sexual assault in their lifetimes. This statistic includes transgender people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Transgender youth are particularly vulnerable to sexual assault. In a 2011 survey, 12% of trans youth said peers or educational staff had sexually assaulted them in a school setting.
Sexual crimes in the LGBTQ+ community are often not reported. Survivors may fear revealing their gender identity or sexual orientation to others. They may not trust the legal system to protect them. Survivors could also fear inciting further violence.
Like other survivors, LGBTQ+ people often encounter stigma after they report sexual violence.Discriminationin the health care system may prevent survivors from getting care. Friends and family may believe stereotypes about LGBTQ+ people and blame the victim. In cases of domestic violence, members of the local LGBTQ+ community may refuse to believe the survivor or hold the offender accountable.
LGBTQ+ survivors of sexual assault canget help from a therapist. Mental health professionals cannot disclose one’s personal information to others. Therapy is a confidential place where one can find support without judgment.
RACE/ETHNICITY AND SEXUAL ASSAULT
In the U.S., certain races andethnicitiesare more likely to experience sexual assault. According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS), the lifetime prevalence rates for rape are:
9.5% of Asian or Pacific Islander women
15.0% of Hispanic women
19.9% of white women
20.7% of black women
28.9% of American Indian or Alaskan Native women
31.8% for multiracial women
The report in question did not include data on male survivors.
Racismcan place racial/ethnic minorities at higher risk of sexual assault. Many people of color are fetishized as “exotic,” hypersexual beings. As such, survivors are more likely to be labeled “willing” participants. Sexual assaults on white people are often punished more harshly than assaults on people of color.
As such, people of color are much less likely to report their sexual assaults. Some people may not trust the legal system to treat them fairly. Others may fear “betraying” their community by disclosing personal information. In some cases, cultural values create extra stigma for people who report. These factors can also prevent survivors from seeking mental health treatment.
CHILDHOOD SEXUAL ABUSE
The sexual abuse ofchildrencan take many forms. It may involve a stranger or someone as close as a parent. A child doesn’t need to be touched to be sexually abused.Voyeuristic actions, such as watching a child undress or shower, count as sexual abuse. Adults who expose their genitalia to children are also committing abuse.
An adult who sexually abuses children may, in some cases, have asexual attraction to children. Yet sexual attraction is not necessary to commit abuse. Often, a perpetrator abuses a child to gain power over them.
Childhood sexual abuse is common. In the United States:
44% of sexual assault victims are under the age of 18.
Children are most vulnerable to childhood sexual assault between 7 and 13 years old.
10% of American children are abused before the age of 18.
Among children who are sexually abused, 20% experience sexual abuse before age 8.
Despite being common, children who experience abuse do not always report it right away. This may be partly due to power the offender has over the child.
Up to 93% of children who have been sexually abused know their attackers well. An offender will often threaten or manipulate the child to prevent them from disclosing the abuse.
Over a third of abusers are part of the child’s family.
73% of child targets do not disclose the abuse for a year or more.
45% of child targets do not disclose abuse until at least five years have passed.
Although sexual abuse in children can be difficult to recognize, detection is possible. If a child shows the following warning signs, there may be cause for concern:
Sexual behaviors or knowledge that are not age-appropriate
The above signs are not necessarily proof a child is being sexually abused. Children may show these behaviors due to another issue. However, one does not need proof to report child abuse. Finding proof is the job ofChild Protective Services. To report abuse, one only needs “reasonable suspicion” that abuse is taking place.
Reporting sexual abuse may prevent a child from having mental health concerns in adulthood. People who experienced sexual abuse as children are at greater risk of substance abuse or eating and food issues. They are also more likely to be sexually abused as adults.
If you think a child is being abused, you can call your state’s Child Protective Services to investigate. You can also call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453).
WHAT IS SEXUAL HARASSMENT?
Sexual harassment often falls under the umbrella of sexual assault. While the definitions of both sexual assault and sexual harassment include non-consensual sexual contact, there are some distinct differences.
The term “sexual harassment” is often used in a legal context. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, sexual harassment includes:
Unwanted sexual advances or contact
Harassing a person on the basis of their sex
Making offensive comments or jokes about a particular sex
Pressure to go on a date or perform sexual favors
Sexual harassment can occur anywhere, but many of the laws that protect people who may experience sexual harassment refer to harassment in the workplace. The broader definition of sexual harassment can include cat-calling, making sexual gestures or comments toward a person, staring, referring to someone using demeaning language such as “babe” or “hunk,” and giving unwanted or personal gifts.
MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES RESULTING FROM SEXUAL ASSAULT
After sexual assault, survivors may feel their bodies are not really their own. Survivors often report feelings such asshame, terror, andguilt. Many blame themselves for the assault.
Due to the trauma and negative emotions linked to sexual abuse, survivors may be at risk for mental health conditions. Survivors of sexual abuse may develop:
Depression: The loss of bodily autonomy is often difficult to cope with. It can create feelings of hopelessness or despair. It may also reduce one’s sense of self-worth. Depressive feelings may be mild and fleeting, or they can be intense and long-lasting.
Anxiety: The loss of bodily autonomy can also cause severe anxiety. Survivors may fear the attack could happen again. Some may experience panic attacks. Others may develop agoraphobia and become afraid to leave their homes. In some cases, a survivor may develop a chronic fear of the type of person who harmed them. Someone who was raped by a tall, fair-haired man with blue eyes may instinctively dislike, mistrust, or fear all men who match that description.
Posttraumatic stress (PTSD): Someone who survived sexual assault may experience intense memories of the abuse. In some cases, flashbacks may be so disruptive they cause a survivor to lose track of surroundings. A person may also develop a related condition called complex posttraumatic stress (C-PTSD). C-PTSD yields a chronic fear of abandonment in addition to symptoms of traditional PTSD. Some people with C-PTSD also experience personality disruptions.
Personality disruptions: Sexual abuse can sometimes result in personality disruptions such as borderline personality. The behavior linked with personality disruptions could actually be an adaption to abuse. For instance, a characteristic of borderline personality is a fear of abandonment. That fear might not be adaptive in adulthood. Yet avoiding abandonment might have protected someone from sexual abuse as a child.
Attachment issues: Survivors may find it challenging to form healthy attachments with others. This is especially true among children who have been abused. Adults who were abused as children may have insecure attachment patterns. They could struggle with intimacy or be too eager to form close attachments.
Addiction: Research suggests abuse survivors are 26 times more likely to use drugs. Drugs and alcohol can help numb the pain of abuse. Yet substance abuse often leads to the development of different concerns.
Sexual abuse does not only leave psychological scars. It can also have long-lasting health consequences.
A person who is assaulted may sustain bruises and cuts. They could also have more severe injuries such as knife wounds, broken bones, and damaged genitals. Others may developchronic painwithout an obvious physical cause.
Some survivors experience sexual dysfunction andfertility issues. Others may develop sexually transmitted infections. Contrary to myth, it is possible for a sexual assault to result in pregnancy. In cases where a child becomes pregnant, giving birth may be physically dangerous.
COUNSELING AFTER SEXUAL ASSAULT AND ABUSE
Many survivors develop mental health conditions after sexual assault. Having a mental health concern does not make you “weak” or “broken.” People cope with trauma in different ways.
Child sexual abuse statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.d2l.org/site/c.4dICIJOkGcISE/b.6143427/k.38C5/Child_Sexual_Abuse_Statistics.htm
Child sexual abuse statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.victimsofcrime.org/media/reporting-on-child-sexual-abuse/child-sexual-abuse-statistics
Incidents of rape in military much higher than previously reported. (2014, December 5).Military Times. Retrieved from http://www.militarytimes.com/story/military/pentagon/2014/12/04/pentagon-rand-sexual-assault-reports/19883155
Marital rape. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.rainn.org/public-policy/sexual-assault-issues/marital-rape
NISVCS: An overview of 2010 findings on victimization by sexual orientation. (n.d.) National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/cdc_nisvs_victimization_final-a.pdf
Paulk, L. (2014, April 30). Sexual Assault in the LGBT Community. Retrieved from http://www.nclrights.org/sexual-assault-in-the-lgbt-community
Rape and sexual assault. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=tp&tid=317
Recognizing child abuse. (n.d.). Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance. Retrieved from http://www.pa-fsa.org/Mandated-Reporters/Recognizing-Child-Abuse-Neglect/Recognizing-Child-Abuse
Reporting rates. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://rainn.org/get-information/statistics/reporting-rates
Sexual Assault & LGBT Survivors. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://sapac.umich.edu/article/58
Sexual Assault: The Numbers | Responding to Transgender Victims of Sexual Assault. (2014, June 1). Retrieved from http://www.ovc.gov/pubs/forge/sexual_numbers.html
Sexual Assault of Young Children as Reported to Law Enforcement: Victim, Incident, and Offender Characteristics. (2000). Bureau of Justice Statistics. Retrieved from http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/saycrle.pdf
Sexual harassment. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/sexual_harassment.cfm
“Son, Men Don’t Get Raped.” (2014).GQ.Retrieved from http://www.gq.com/long-form/male-military-rape
Van der Kolk, B. (2014).The body keeps the score: Brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma(1st ed.). New York, NY: Viking.
What is sexual harassment? (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.un.org/womenwatch/osagi/pdf/whatissh.pdf
Who are the victims? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.rainn.org/get-information/statistics/sexual-assault-victims
Women of color and sexual assault. (n.d.) Connecticut Alliance to End Sexual Violence. Retrieved from https://endsexualviolencect.org/resources/get-the-facts/woc-stats
These are just some of the ways you can practice self-care. Taking care of yourself can be done in little ways that do not take much time as well as bigger ways. What is important is that you try and do something when you can that lifts your spirits. You have been through a terrible ordeal and the important thing is that you focus on you and make self-care a priority, because you deserve it!
Keep in mind that it is normal to have bad days. It is normal to have days where you think you can face what has happened, and days when you feel like you cannot get through another moment. Recovery from sexual assault is about helping you to get your life back to a place where you feel like you are in control. Beginning to do some self-care is a good place to start, even if it means that you do only one thing for a few minutes and build on it on the good days.
Thankfully, I’ve kept one of the booklets I was given yrs ago. Now that I’ve had a chance to focus on particular items, I went straight to a section that is meaningful for CSA Survivours. Now is the time, that I can start looking after myself. Getting to this stage could still be hard for other Survivours & RCbbc Blog still has copies of Living Well’s Booklets, whose Downloads are at https://www.livingwell.org.au/get-support/living-well-app/.
Nick Lloyd’s Supreme Court Trial brought with it some great attention. Although the Trial had been disbanded, many Old Boys (past BBC Students) have had their emotions effected. It’s typical for any of this such news to rekindle angst, that had remained hidden for decades. As families should understand what effects may be had, it’s suitable that Counselling is arranged.
If you need immediate support, 24-hour telephone assistance is available through: (from NationalRedress.gov.au)
While we are quietly confident at some reasons for the sudden jump to around 600 visitors, each & everyone of you are welcome to ask any questions, post any comments & piece together how you may want your location layer out.
We are planning an update to this site, in the near future. Your rapid visit, may be the motivation needed!
How many people are in the group?A large gathering means you get to hear from more people. A small one can give you more time to work through your own feelings. Apsychologistor another therapist can help you decide which size suits your needs.
Do all the members have anxiety?There are lots of different kinds of support groups. They often work best when most of the members have similar issues.
What are the rules for sharing in this group?A therapist won’t share anything you say to her. Group members aren’t supposed to, either. Ground rules about keeping what’s shared during therapy confidential can help the members build trust with each other.
What to Consider
One of the biggest advantages is that you’ll get support from other people who feel like you do. That can improve your mood and make you feel less alone.
Other people who have started to treat their anxiety may inspire you. You might pick up tips or techniques that help you deal with your own situation.
Helping problem-solve for your fellow group members can also remind you that you know a lot about managing anxiety. That can prompt you to use those skills in your own life. And group therapy is often less expensive than individualcounseling.
There can be drawbacks, though. If one person doesn’t want to open up to the group, others may hesitate to share their thoughts. That can make sessions less effective.
While you may get helpful ideas from other members, don’t take their opinions and comments more seriously than the therapist who is leading the group.
If you have concerns about how your group is going, you may want to privately talk to the therapist who leads it to see if they can change how things are done. Or you may want to try another group or one-on-one therapy.
Anxietycan make you feel like you’re all alone in your fears. But many people live with this condition every day. Hearing from others who know what it’s like can make you feel less isolated and help you find new ways to deal with nervous feelings. Grouptherapyis one way to make those connections as part of your treatment.
What a Group Is Like
Group therapy usually includes five to 15 people with a common issue — in this case,anxiety— who meet, usually every week for an hour or so. Yours might be for people with all types of anxiety or for specific types, such associal phobia. Most groups are held in person in a space like a community center or hospital. Others meet online.
A trained therapist will lead the sessions. Your therapist will talk to you and the group and make suggestions about dealing with anxiety. You’ll also talk with other members of the group, who share their experiences and may make suggestions to each other. The goal is to learn about yourself and find new ways to ease your anxious feelings. You might improve yourrelationshipswith others, feel more connected, and be more satisfied with your life, too.
Groups that focus on anxiety often use cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). In CBT, a therapist helps you identify negative thoughts (including anxious ones) and replace them with healthier, more realistic ones. Some sessions may include outings or social events.
You may decide to see a therapist on your own and also go to a group, along with using other treatments for anxiety, such asmedication.
Finding the Right Group
Before you join, it can help to ask the organizer or therapist running the group these questions:
Is this group open or closed?Can people join at any time, or does everyone begin together and meet for a set period of time (for example, 12 weeks)? Starting together as a closed group may help you get to know the members better, making for good, productive conversations. But with an open group, you can starttherapyright away instead of waiting for the next open session.
It has been said that “no one escapes childhood unscathed.” But sayings like these can have an especially significant meaning for a person who was abused as a child. Unfortunately the effects of childhood abuse don’t usually stay confined to childhood — they often reach into our experience of adulthood.
Maybe your experience growing up with abuse left you with a steady internal monologue of not good enough, not good enough, not good enough whenever you try to accomplish a task. Maybe the only way you can fall asleep is if you rock yourself to sleep — literally rocking back and forth on your bed. Or maybe you experience intense internal shame that no one sees behind the smile you plaster on your face every day.
We wanted to know what “hidden” habits people who were abused as kids have now as adults, so we asked our Mighty community to share their experiences with us.
No matter what your experience of childhood abuse was, it is important to remember you are never alone and there is help available. If you need support right now, reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.
Here’s what our community had to say:
1. Rocking Back and Forth Before Going to Sleep
“I rock myself back and forth to sleep every night. I can’t stop myself from doing it unless I concentrate really hard.” — Vade M.
“I sleep in [the] fetal position every night. I rock back and forth when I get too emotional. I run at any sign of yelling or raising of the voice. When someone cusses at me, I get defensive and angry.” — Leo G.
2. Hiding Food
“I hide food. It sounds ridiculous but I have random stashes of canned food spread throughout my house in the most ridiculous places. I always got shamed for being hungry and fighting for food was commonplace in my house because my parents thought a dinner meant for two people could feed their two growing kids as well as themselves. If I didn’t get much dinner to eat then, ‘Oh well, better luck next time.’ So when I got a little older, I got smarter about stockpiling cans of tuna and soup to eat with the money I made from walking other people’s dogs. It wasn’t too bad then, but it’s still prevalent in my life 14 years later whenever I go grocery shopping.” — Ai L.
3. Engaging in Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors
“Biting and chewing at the inside of my cheek until it bleeds. I’ve also developed a bad habit of picking until I create holes in my feet.” — Patience A.
“I shake my leg and/or fidget with my skin, sometimes causing small sores.” — Princess K.
4. Carrying a “Grounding” Object
“I carry a special pillowcase with me wherever I go. It’s my security blanket. I can’t go anywhere without it. I will play with seams with it in my purse and it’s weird that my hand hangs out in my purse all the time but it’s how I handle my anxiety and my flashbacks and just life.” — Kimberly L.
5. Always Having a Secret “Escape Plan”
“I have a really hard time with people walking up behind me. I always have to have an escape plan, and I hate being cornered or my movement restricted in any way. I was chased and cornered a lot as a child, so it’s very triggering. I also struggle with physical contact, especially when I don’t initiate it.” — Shalene R.
“I always know where every exit and possible hiding place is in a room. It’s the first thing I look for in a new place.” — Jenn S.
6. Having Imaginary Friends
“I’m 37 years old with six imaginary friends. One is a comforting mother to me, and three are parts of little girl me at different traumas in my life that I comfort, as if someone was comforting me during those traumas.” — T B.
7. Not Eating Around Others
“Not eating much when I’m around people, then sneaking and stealing food later. One parent was lenient with what I ate so the other one made up for it by trying to ‘keep me healthy.’ Doesn’t help that the first one was always trying to lose weight and not hiding it.” — Sadie B.
8. Sleeping With a Flashlight
“I sleep with a flashlight always on my bed or constantly in reach of my bed ( so I can see what’s coming if I hear any noise or footsteps). I’ve been doing this since I was 3 years old and never felt safe.” — Linda C.
“I was taught as a child to lie. I was forced to lie to cover my abuser, I was forced to lie by my mother to cover the fact that she didn’t protect me, I was forced to lie by my school system because they didn’t zero in on the fact I was being signed out by my abuser once a week so he could abuse me on his schedule. As an adult, I feel compelled to lie to protect people I shouldn’t have to. It’s an everlasting revolving door.” — Jammie G.
10. Having a Complicated Relationship With Sex
“I started to believe I was only an object. I let people use me because I thought that was what I was supposed to do — especially men. I felt I was supposed to have sex when they wanted to, not when I was ready.” — Maria M.
“I get shameful and feel dirty if I enjoy sex.” — Debbie C.
“[I] couldn’t say no to sexually pleasing others, even if I didn’t want it.” — Miranda D.
11. Feeling Responsible for Other People’s Feelings
“I often feel responsible for how other people feel. I feel guilty when others feel bad, even when the situation has nothing to do with me. I sacrifice my own needs in order to make others feel good.” — Kaitlyn L.
“I feel responsible for other’s feelings and their state in life. Like it’s my responsibility alone to make sure their bills are paid etc. I also adopt animals, and most recently learned that it’s probably because animals don’t withhold affection when they are ‘upset’ with you.” — Summer S.
12. Being Unable to Fully Relax
“I am hyper-aware of my surroundings and find it hard to relax and just be. Sometimes I find myself in a fight-or-flight mode, even if I know I’m safe.” — Anthea V.
13. Never Asking for Help
“I’m too afraid to tell people what’s wrong or ask for help. The first time I went to my mother about an issue (I was being bullied in school), she told me to deal with it myself. As a result, I’ve just allowed things to build up because I’m so afraid I’ll be rejected, that I may as well keep it to myself.” — Veronica S.
14. Being Hypervigilant
“I’m hypervigilant. Physical touch isn’t something I do easily, [and I’m] always looking for exits. I size people up, look for physical vulnerability, [have] strong boundaries [and] over-protect my children. That translates to an overly ‘hermitty’ existence, but I’m not complaining.” —Yoli T.
“Hypervigilance 24/7. It’s helped in some of the jobs I’ve had where you need to be on alert, to mask the true source of my hypervigilance. Being overwhelmed and exhausted and needing time to recharge my batteries after going out with friends. I love to be around people, like going to concerts and stuff, but it takes a few days for me to recover from the sensory overload. Insomnia I’ve learned to just accept is part of my life now.” — Jason T.
15. Pushing People Away
“I push people away when they get close to me. I push people away when I get in fights with people. I am reactive. Negative self-talk. I feel guilty a lot.” — Ryan C.
16. Reminding Yourself You Deserve to Live
“When I’m alone I tell myself I deserve to live, that I deserve to be happy. It’s a struggle every day. I still have suicidal thoughts sometimes, but thankfully I have the most supportive group of people around me who love me. Without them I don’t know where I would be.” — Ginna B.
This video started with a conversation. In fact, it started with many private and professional conversations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men who have been sexually abused about how difficult it was to speak about what happened to them as a child, about how their lives and relationships had been negatively impacted and about how isolated and alone they felt. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has highlighted this over representation and sexual abuse of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children within government, community and church run institutions and the difficulties they face in being heard and accessing support.
Anthony Newcastle, Gordon Glenbar and I were discussing how to reach out and offer further support and encouragement to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men who have been sexually abused in childhood. Many of these men have said they will never speak publicly about what was done to them, they have said how difficult it is to access support, how they do not know who to trust and how they are unsure if healing is even possible. These men have also said how important the connection to community and country is for them and how the encouragement and support of fellow community members is particularly meaningful and important for them. —Gary Foster, Living Well.
A starting conversation with Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander men
by Anthony Newcastle, Natjul.com. In late 2015, I met with Gordon Glenbar, an Aboriginal man working as a special projects officer for Link Up, supporting community members to engage with the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, and Gary Foster from Anglicare: Living Well Service who works with men who had been sexually abused in childhood. Gordon and I have known each other a long time. We’ve always talked about our community, about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and about the ongoing challenges our communities face confronting the negative impacts of colonisation and resulting inter-generational traumas.
Gordon, Gary and I spoke together of how to raise awareness and offer support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait men who have been sexually abused in childhood. We spoke of how individuals, families and communities are so often struggling to cope and live life in the present that the subject of helping men sexually abused as children is not talked about. We discussed how difficult it was to raise this subject, how the men themselves struggled to talk about it. We acknowledged the importance of qualified and connected individuals and organisations to lead discussions and negotiate community workshops and the extensive work done by many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in addressing sexual violence. We also discussed how important it was for local Aboriginal men to take responsibility to start supportive conversations with Aboriginal men and their communities about this issue.
The didgeridoo group
Every second Sunday I run ‘Didgeri’ at an inner city park in Brisbane. Didgeri is an Aboriginal men’s didgeridoo group. Didgeri has between 9 and 15 men. Didgeri is a place or gathering where we as Aboriginal men can come along and learn the didgeridoo as a way to connect or re-connect with culture and heritage. It is also a place where we talk about community, identity, culture, about raising kids, dealing with anger, about family and about being a good dad or husband.
All the men who come along know they are welcome to bring a son or nephew, grand-son or friend. Didgeri is a place where Aboriginal men can build and enrich connection. No alcohol or drugs, no carry on or yukai. The boys and young men are encouraged to show respect to older men, to each other and to the purpose of the gathering. At times wives, mothers or grand-mothers do come along. They generally come to drop off family and say hello, but they don’t stay as part of Didgeri.
It was at Didgeri that I raised the idea of the men putting their voices to supporting men who had been sexually abused as children and now living with the consequences. We discussed the idea of us, as every day community members acting to help raise awareness and offer support.
The discussions at Didgeri
On a couple of occasions I found myself standing with three or four other men, all leaning on our didgeridoos talking about what to do about this, and how to support the men and families who suffer as a result of this issue. We talked about community and organisational responses to women who have been sexually abused, and of the advocacy groups, which so rightly wrap around these. None of us could think of a group or advocacy organisation established for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men who were sexually abused as boys.
We talked about taboos and silences within the community. The idea of creating a video that makes a public statement addressing this issue started to sound important. It would be an expression of solidarity and support, by community members, for community members. It would be a way to start a conversation.
There was some talk about approaching well known footballers to see if they would like to participate. I’m happy now that talk lasted about 10 minutes before we moved on. Real happy. We had some quiet respectful discussion about who would be involved, we did not want the message being misunderstood, or not responded to, because we included men facing domestic violence charges or public nuisance charges. What was significant here was that ‘we as men’ from the community were talking about supporting men who had suffered sexual abuse as boys and young men – something we had not discussed before.
We talked about how men struggled, how many had attempted suicide, some dying. We talked about the guilt and pain many men carry about not being able to protect their friends, brothers and sisters from the abuser when they were children.
What became part of our discussions, is that by putting our voices and our images to this, we are giving voice to something that is almost silent, something almost invisible. We are saying silence is no longer OK. We want to lend our voices to acknowledge this as a challenge in the lives of men in our community. We very much wanted to offer support to families that are falling apart, where wives and children are seeing their husband and fathers become changed men because the demons from the past visit them late at night and torment them during their day.
We talked about how men found it difficult to talk with their families about why they are coming apart at the seams. Even though these men love their families dearly and would die without them, the taboo around this issue means it is difficult to speak about. Men do what men too often do. Push it down, ignore it, drink your way through it, yell at it, yell at others, feel ashamed, feel responsible, feel judged, feel alone, blame yourself, but don’t talk about it. As one man said:
“How the bloody hell do you talk about it anyway, and to whom?”
We want to find ways to talk about sexual abuse of males that invite participation. We want to communicate this in a way that invites empathy, understanding and respect, and says no more. Over the weeks we discussed how, if people aren’t talking about it, then nothing is being done. Some of our discussions had long pauses, or some changing of subject, before resuming. Some men stood in silence. We concluded that if nothing is being done about it and our brothers and our sisters lives are falling apart because of it, let’s do something.
We wanted to address the isolation and silence. We wanted to say,
“We know this happened to you and we are sorry it did. We want you to know that you are still our brother.”
We want to help address the fear of being judged and the feelings of shame. The shame is not yours to carry.
We talked about the importance of speaking, not just to men who have been sexually victimised, but to men and women across our communities.
Over the following weeks I rang, met with, and talked to about 20 people. All of the Didgeri group wanted to participate in some way. There were men who said straight away, “Yes, I want to support that and I will say it to camera.” Some said that they really wanted to offer support in some way, but because of family, work or how their involvement might be seen, they couldn’t be part of the video at present. There were men who said that although they felt for the fellas, they didn’t know if they could do it, as any talk of sexual abuse of children was hard for them to be around. Those who did not appear on camera, shook our hands and said, “Good on you for doing this.”
Making the video
Eleven of us gathered in a studio at the 4BE Multi-cultural radio station at Kangaroo Point to record our bits. We decided that in the room we would have only the person speaking to camera, the camera operator and myself, in order to help people relax and feel comfortable. We wanted to remove any shame-job. But with eleven Aboriginal people together in the waiting room, among the chats and yarns, people talking about who their mob were, and where their people are from, as always, family reconnections were found. “Hey, your mob from Roma? Your uncle is George from that cattle station? That’s my uncle too, that’s my tribe, we cousins.”
As people felt more comfortable with each other, as personal connections were made and a feeling of being in this together came over the group, then people started pairing up, saying, “Do you mind if I do it with Wayne, because he my cousin and we never met before.”
Others would say things like, “Brother, I never done anything like this before, can you sit with me and do one together?”
Before we knew it everyone was in the room supporting each other with comments like, “Oh that sounded deadly (really good) what you said then sis.” Or, “You two fellas look and sound good there when you said that.”
Ownership had shifted. Now the participants were making suggestions and talking about how good a project this was to be involved with.
It was on this day in the studio that some of participants spoke of how personal this was for them, their families and community. This issue impacted on members of the Didgeri and had not been discussed before that day. The gathering became an opportunity to talk and make a difference. The mood in the room changed, embracing connection, listening, caring, sharing and laughing together, offering support and genuine regard.
Talk turned to, “When this being released, we going to get to see it before?” and, “Do you think we can do another one?”
Six weeks later
It is now NAIDOC week and this Sunday afternoon we will have a first public showing of the video on a big screen at the Musgrave Park Cultural Centre in South Brisbane, where the guests of honour are the eleven people who participated, their families and friends. Over the weeks I have been constantly asked by those involved about when everyone gets to see the video.
This Sunday many of our Didgeri group will bring their didgeridoos and we will have our didgeridoo lesson aside before the video showing. My wife is making sandwiches, a curry and rice and some finger food. Gordon has been a constant source of encouragement and Gary has had almost boundless energy to keep pace, to bring this project together.
Now only days from the launch of our video I think about our first meetings (Gary, Gordon and I). I think of how appreciative I am of those individuals and organisations who work to address sexual violence and its impacts on our communities. I am however, particularly pleased that this project and these discussions happened in and amongst a group many would call grass roots. I am pleased that Aboriginal men and women stepped forward and put their face and voice to raising awareness and generating discussion that offers support to men who have been sexually abused in childhood, as well as their families. Community taking action and responsibility for community.
I was reminded of a discussion about suicide prevention and response I had with a 72 year old Aboriginal man on a remote Cape York community some years ago. When I asked him, “What can we do about this lack of counsellors and social workers and psychologists who can support people in remote places like this?” The old man said:
“When someone is finding it hard to live, we all know they might be finding it hard to live because we are a small town. Sometimes the best thing you can do for somebody else is go and see them, and sit on their porch and sit down and have a cup of tea with them. Even if you don’t know what to say about that thing that is a problem for them, you can still have a cup of tea with them. And they will know.”
We wish to express our appreciation to the men and women who have supported the development of the No More Silence: It’s Never Too Late to Start Healing video. This video reflects the power of everyday community members to make a difference.
We are only too aware of the profound impacts child sexual abuse can have on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander boys and men, girls and women and their communities:
Isolation, feeling alone and different.
Guilt, shame, self blame, distrust.
Feeling overwhelmed, hurt, angry, not good enough.
Disconnection from family, community and country.
Mental health problem, depression, anxiety.
Flashbacks, nightmares, sleep problems.
Suicide, self harm.
Relationship and sexual difficulties.
Drink and drug abuse.
Involvement with police and criminal justice system, prison.
Physical health problems.
Barriers to speaking
Men sexually abused in childhood report multiple barriers to speaking about what happened and accessing support:
Fear he won’t be believed or will be judged.
Sense of shame.
Concern his sexuality or manhood will be questioned.
Worry he will be seen as less of a man or people might think he will go on to abuse.
Distrust of authority, police, of anyone.
Fear of being blamed or that he will face payback for speaking up.
Worry that he will fall apart if he starts talking.
Being told to keep quiet that the community is not ready to talk about this.
Wanting to protect family members and others who were abused.
Having no-one to talk with.
Pressure from the abuser and others to keep the silence.
As well as hearing how difficult it is for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men to speak about childhood sexual abuse, we hear that the pressure not to talk increases the sense of isolation, and makes it difficult to get the help they deserve.
A conversation starter
The video is designed as a conversation starter. Sharing the video is one way for community members to raise awareness and offer support, encouragement and hope to those who have been sexually abused in childhood. It sends a message to all those who have been sexually abused or sexually assaulted across Queensland and throughout Australia to say:
You’re not responsible for what happened to you as a child. You are not alone. We care. The blame is not yours to carry. The shame is not yours to carry. Keep talking until you get the help you deserve. Take care of yourself, you’re worth it. It’s never too late to start healing.
1800 Respect Website: 1800respect.org.au 24/7 telephone and online crisis counselling, information and referral for anyone in Australia who has experienced or been impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence. Staffed by trauma specialist counsellors. Phone: 1800 737 732 Online Counselling: 1800respect.org.au/telephone-and-online-counselling
Lifeline Website: lifeline.org.au 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention. Phone: 131 114
Link Up (QLD) Aboriginal Corporation Website: link-upqld.org.au Provides counselling, healing and culturally appropriate support for indigenous Australians. Phone: 1800 200 855
Healing Foundation Website: healingfoundation.org.au The Healing Foundation is a national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisation with a focus on building culturally strong, community led healing solutions. Phone: 02 6272 7500
Micah Projects Inc / Lotus Place (Find and Connect QLD) Website: lotusplace.org.au Support and resource service for Forgotten Australians and former child migrants. Phone: 1800 161 109 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Relationships Australia QLD Website: raq.org.au Family, children and relationship counselling. Relationship Australia are committed to offering the best possible counselling, mediation, education and support services in a professional, relaxed and confidential environment. Phone: 07 3423 6890 Phone: 1800 552 127 Government Funded
Bravehearts Website: bravehearts.org.au Specialist case management, counselling and telephone counselling for child and adult survivors, non-offending family members and friends. Services include counselling, support engaging with the Royal Commission, preparation of written statements, attending private sessions and public hearings. Phone: 1800 272 831 (8am – 8pm AEST/AEDT, weekdays) Email: email@example.com
Blue Knot Foundation Website: blueknot.org.au (Formerly Adults Surviving Child Abuse – ASCA). National professional phone counselling, information and support for adult survivors of child abuse with referral database of experienced professionals and agencies. Provides workshops for survivors, family members, partners and friends. Professional development for health professionals is also available. Phone: 1300 657 380 (9am-5pm AEST/AEDT 7 days) Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Murrigunyah Website: murrigunyah.org.au Murrigunyah Family & Cultural Healing Centre is a community based sexual assault support service run by Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander women of Logan City. Phone: (07) 3290 4254 Email: email@example.com
BeyondBlue has programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and general information on mental health, including how to recognise depression and where to get help. Phone 1300 22 4636
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service (ATSICHS) Call the ATSICHS Healing Centre on (07) 3240 8907 to access culturally appropriate counselling services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Brisbane affected by mental illness.
Townsville Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Services (TAIHS) The TAIHS Social and Mental Health Unit offers mental health counsellors and run regular men’s and women’s groups to help cope with:
Prison and court matters.
Phone TAIHS on (07) 4759 4022 to book a counselling session or join a group.