Having completed my initial NRS Experiences and Impact Statements (NRS Fact Sheet, 2019), it initially felt ironic that the most nerves I had felt was actually at the final stage: Apologies. Advice that has given earlier indicates that description of each individual instance, together with personal impacts from each of their ongoing effects supports the evidence throughout the Instances and Impact Statements. While I had previously had the wrong POV, that completing Instances and Impact Statements, my work would be over – taking a wider POV, it’s now clearer that each section confirms and complements related matters throughout the NRS Submission.
As exciting as all this may sound, the journey of its lodgement isn’t over. knowmore (Community Legal Service) is another body involved in the National Redress Scheme. There are also Senior Staff within Blue Knot, who are able to offer their advice into the fine-tuning/tweaking of the order, expressions, focus and editing of Preliminary NRS Submissions.
In working my way through some of the updated NRS data, I came across the following list of possible example list of impacts of CSA experiences (Describing Impact of your Application, 2019). In closer focus, it began to both horrify my and reminded me in the instance(s) that I’m drafting up a list of requested apologies. I also realise that I am ‘but one fish in the sea’ of previous CSA Assaults. Although I feel fortunate for the beneficial discussions I’ve had, my deepest request/suggestion goes out to any other Surviving-Victim of CSA: Seeking Help can be done anonymously! When you’re ready to take things further, Expert Guidance is available.
Recognizing common symptoms of childhood sexual abuse can help parents, caregivers, teachers, social workers, counselors and childcare staff alert the appropriate authorities and take proper steps to protect the welfare and safety of our children. It is far too often that I hear stories of adults, who fail to recognize that something is wrong with their child and attribute concerning changes in their kids’ behavior to temperament, age or other misguided explanations.
Because of this, I want to take a quick look at 11 common psychiatric symptoms experienced by victims of childhood sexual abuse but please keep in mind that this is not a diagnostic guide or a substitute for professional consultation. I have tried to clump together common symptoms that bring people (both children and adults) to the therapy office due to past history of childhood sexual abuse but this is by no means a comprehensive list and any of those symptoms taken separately may have other etiologies.
Depending on the age, specific nature of the sexual trauma and the temperament and coping skills of each person, the clinical presentation may look differently. If you have experienced any form of childhood trauma, abuse or neglect, you may identity with some of the behaviors and patterns discussed below. In that case, I would highly suggest seeking out some help.
1.Dissociation. Dissociation is probably the most common defense mechanism the mind employs to protect itself from the trauma of sexual assault. It is the escape of the mind from the body in times of extreme stress, sense of powerlessness, pain and suffering.
2. Self-Injurious Behavior (cutting, self-mutilation). Self-mutilation is another way survivors of trauma employ in an effort to cope with the experience of severe emotional and psychological pain. Some research shows that during cutting or self-mutilation, the brain releases natural opioids that provide a temporary experience or sense of calm and peace that many, who cut, find soothing.
3. Fear and anxiety. An overactive stress response system* is among the most common psychiatric symptoms in survivors of sexual trauma. This is manifested in extreme fear, social anxiety, panic attacks, phobias and hyper vigilance. It is as if the body is in a state of constant alert and cannot relax.
4. Nightmares. Just like the intrusive terrorizing memories of war veterans, survivors of sexual abuse often experience nightmares, intrusive thoughts and disrupted sleep.
5. Substance Abuse. Abusing substances is a common coping mechanism for people, who have experienced trauma. Even the “normal” experimentation with drugs of adolescence is not so “normal,” especially if you raised your kid to know the impact of drugs on the central nervous system, the consequences of addiction and the long-term effects of habitual drug use.
6. Hypersexualized behavior. This is a commonreaction to pre-mature sexual exposure or a traumatic sexual experience. If a child is too young to be excessively masturbating or is engaging in pre-mature sexual play or behavior, this is typically a sign that the child has witnessed, been a participant in or has been exposed to adult sexuality. In adolescence and adulthood, this can take the form of promiscuity, illegal sexual activity such as prostitution or participation in pornography, escort services, etc.
7. Psychotic-like symptoms. Paranoia, hallucinations or brief psychotic episodes are not uncommon for survivors of child sexual abuse.
8. Mood fluctuations, anger and irritability. Children are often unable to verbalize their feelings so instead, they act out on them. Sometimes, the same is true for adults. Mood fluctuations, irritability and disrupted neurotransmitter systems in the brain that present as depression, mania, anger and anxiety are common among trauma survivors.
9. Disrupted relationships and difficulties maintaining long-term friendships or romantic partners. Following the aftermath of sexual abuse, people are not experienced as safe, trustworthy and available so maintaining long-term relationships based on honestly is difficult and often tumultuous.
10. Regressive behaviors (mostly in children). Enuresis (bed wetting) and encopresis (involuntary soiling ones’ underwear with feces) in a previously potty-trained child, unexplained and sudden temper tantrums or violent outbursts, as well as clingy, uncontrollable or impulsive behaviors that were previously missing from a child’s way of being with others is another common indicator of something gone terribly wrong.
11. Physical complaints, psychosomatic symptoms or autoimmune responses of the body. Many clinicians from different schools of thought have written on the subject of the way the body stores and remembers trauma in response to the mind rejecting, forgetting or dissociating from the experience. Psychoanalysis terms these reactions “unconscious” as they express an experience out of language, out of words and often out of what is perceiveable by an individual.
When the unthinkable happens such as in several of the clinical cases described by Dr. Bruce Perry in his book “The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog and Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist’s Notebook: What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us about Loss, Love and Healing,” the mind copes by mobilizing the body to express something that is otherwise inexpressible with words. We see in Dr. Perry’s neuroscientific approach to the understanding and treatment of traumatized children how the physical brain responds to the experience of trauma and how the mind communicates and eventually heals from this experience in the safety of the therapeutic relationship.
*I am borrowing the term “overactive stress response system” from Dr. Bruce Perry’s book “The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog and Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist’s Notebook: What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us about Loss, Love and Healing.” Many of the symptoms I have listed in this post are also discussed in his book, including dissociation, self-mutilation and hyper sexualized behavior.
Bridget Sipera, a teacher at Camden Catholic High School in New Jersey, has been charged with sexually assaulting a male student less than half her age . The two repeatedly had sex over an 18 month period.
Western society tends to view sexual activity among teens as part of the natural process of development. We bombard teens with sexual images. Discouraging sex seems repressive to us.
While we may be protective toward our daughters, some of us actually cheer our sons on. Sex with a teacher is seen as the ultimate fantasy.
But there are serious dangers associated with early sexual activity. And sex between an adult and child is as damaging to boys as it is to girls.
Teens who engage in sex are likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors in adulthood .
They are more likely to have multiple sexual partners, and less likely to use condoms. This increases their chances of contracting a sexually transmitted disease or HIV, and having an unwanted pregnancy.
Ten million of the sexually transmitted diseases newly reported each year are acquired by young people between the ages of 15 and 24 . It bears mention that the brain is not fully developed till age 25.
Early exposure to sexual content can, also, give rise to sexual addiction [4A].
Best estimates are that 3% – 6% of American men suffer from sexual addiction . However, women can fall prey to sexual addiction, too.
Sexual addiction can destroy relationships, compromise finances, and contribute to criminality.
Typically, sexual addiction is characterized by one or more of the following [4B]:
reliance on pornography and/or prostitutes;
an endless succession of meaningless sexual encounters;
use of fetishes in place of human interaction;
sexual sadism or masochism.
Addicts persist in these behaviors despite the negative consequences.
In an attempt to better understand the underlying causes, some psychologists classify sexual addiction into categories . These categories help explain why certain individuals are more susceptible to sexual addiction than others. The categories can overlap.
Biological – Most sexual addiction has a biological component. Where the biological component is predominant, fantasy can supersede or replace relationships altogether. Triggers must be identified and carefully regulated, so that the brain can be retrained to new neural pathways. A sponsor who will hold the addict accountable for lapses can be beneficial.
Psychological – This form of sexual addiction is a reaction to childhood abuse or neglect. As many as 80% of sex addicts may fall into this category. For them, sex has become a maladaptive means of self-soothing. Their underlying psychological pain must be addressed before a healthy self-image can be re-established, more appropriate means of coping substituted, and the addiction overcome.
Trauma-Based – This form of sexual addiction is the direct result of sexual trauma in childhood or adolescence. Trauma drives the repetitive behavior. To heal, the addict must first make the connection between such trauma and his/her acting out. Suppressed feelings surrounding the trauma must be explored and resolved.
Mood Disorder – Sexual addiction can co-exist with anxiety and depression (as well as lead to those). Teens and young adults may use sex as a way of “managing” their mood disorder, and find themselves addicted to the sexual response.
Spiritual – This form of sexual addiction is an attempt to fill an emptiness inside only God can fill. As the philosopher/mathematician/scientist/theologian Blaise Pascal put it, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ.”
That sexual addiction is a challenging and tenacious disorder does not absolve sex addicts of the harm they inflict on others.
 National Center for Biotechnology Information, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, PubMed Central, “Understanding and Managing Compulsive Sexual Behaviors” by Timothy Fong MD, November 2006, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2945841/.
This is a very well-timed read, in this current COVID-19 age. Particularly those, whose health has been effected (e.g. CSA) may be extra vulnerable to the pandemic that’s already taking higher amounts of impacts. Although there will always be social disputes, COVID + CSA will never have a 😊 ending: 😳!
In response to the outbreak of COVID-19 (Coronvirus), Blue Knot have prepared some fact sheets to help members of the community, as well as health professionals take care of themselves and others during this challenging time.
Here at Blue Knot Foundation, we will continue to provide as many of our usual services as we can. As the health and wellbeing of our staff is our absolute priority we are rapidly transitioning our teams to working from home. We will still deliver all of our counselling services – Blue Knot Helpline and redress application support as well as the National Counselling and Referral Service supporting people affected by or engaging with the Disability Royal Commission. Our counselling services will maintain the high degree of professionalism, privacy and confidentiality currently provided. Should there be any disruptions to our services during this transitions, we anticipate that they will be minor and temporary. Our focus is for our trauma specialist counsellors to continue to provide the counselling, support and information currently provided through all the usual numbers and channels (see below for further information).
We will also continue to disseminate our monthly Breaking Free and quarterly Blue Knot Review publications as always. Blue Knot will be additionally releasing new publications and fact sheets in the coming months, including resources related to caring for ourselves during the Coronavirus outbreak.
Ongoing Counselling and Support Services
Call 1300 657 380 Mon-Sun between 9-5 AEDT to reach our Blue Knot Helpline and redress services.
Call 1800 421 468 to reach our National Counselling and Referral Service (supporting the Disability Royal Commission) or go here and to find out the other ways with which you can connect with this service.
The Australian Government has released an official app with the information you need to know about Coronavirus (COVID-19).
Psychologists at California State University, Northridge, studied 234 professional performers, looking for a reason why mental health disorders are so common in the performing arts.
“The notion that artists and performing artists suffered more pathology, including bipolar disorder, troubled us,” dance coordinator and psychologist Paula Thomson, a co-author on the new study, told Psypost.
“No one seemed willing to also include the effects of early childhood adversity and adult trauma and its influence on creativity and psychopathology.”
The study examined 83 actors, directors, and designers; 129 dancers; and 20 musicians and opera singers. These study participants filled out self-report surveys pertaining to childhood adversity, sense of shame, creative experiences, proneness to fantasies, anxiety, and level of engagement in an activity.
The participants were able to be categorised into three groups: those who reported a high level of childhood adversity; those who had experienced a lower or medium level; and those who had experienced little to none.null
It’s the high-level group that demonstrated the greater extremes. These performing artists had much higher anxiety, much more internalised shame, and reported more cumulative past traumatic events. They were also more prone to fantasies.
But they also seemed more connected with the creative process, the researchers said. They were more aware of it, and reported feeling more absorbed in it. They reported heightened awareness of a state of inspiration and a sense of discovery during the process.
They were also able to move more easily between the state of absorption and a more distant state for critical awareness, and were more receptive to art.
“Lastly,” the researchers wrote, “[this] group identified greater appreciation for the transformational quality of creativity, in particular, how the creative process enabled a deeper engagement with the self and world. They recognised that it operated as a powerful force in their life.”
Obviously the study has caveats, as self-reported studies can be prone to personal bias. Also, since it was limited to performing artists, comparisons couldn’t easily be made with other subsets of the population.
Nevertheless, the finding, the researchers said, may indicate that adult performers who have experienced childhood adversity are better able to recognise and value the creative process; and the ability of that group to enjoy the creative process could indicate resilience.
“We are saddened by the number of participants in our study who have suffered multiple forms of childhood adversity as well as adult assaults (both sexual and non-sexual),” Thomson told Psypost.
“So many participants in our sample have experienced poly-traumatization and yet they also embrace their passion for performance and creativity. They are embracing ways to express all that is human.”
Long suspected throughout many CSA Victims’ childhoods, in 2018 Scientific Alert published the following article on the proven-identified link: “Scientists Have Found a Strong Link Between a Terrible Childhood And Being Intensely Creative”. Opening with ‘exposure to abuse, neglect or a dysfunctional family’ throughout a victim’s childhood, expands to join together how these impacts have a clear linkage. Complemented through Counselling and verifying some Victims’ long-held suspicions, this Article gives another (Scientific/Journalistic) POV – which may also satisfy those of us who often felt disbelieved, palmed-away or ignored. We knew what we were/had survived; we just didn’t know how to word, or should I say ‘Scientifically categorise’ what we ‘endured’! … WTF ?!!!… we were only young, innocent kids at their time: the perfect hunting ground, for these Criminal-Pedophilic-Dirty-(typically)-Senior/Old-(WO)-Men.
I apologise for going off on an emotional-outburst, yet this is a toned-down form of many of the conversations had with Victims, Parents and Relations; Thankfully, their mutual aim is to protect this triggering news from younger Siblings; As horrifying as this possibility is to consider, perhaps this is (another) layer of defence which the Criminal-Pedophilic-Dirty-(typically)-Senior/Old-(WO)-Men know of + exploit. Having (naturally?) always having entered the Arts, this Article gives many reasons and answers questions, yet more interests may be shown. Perhaps this is an underlying advantage of Creativity, yet CSA Survivours I’ve spent any time with each have their own ‘checklists’ to work through. At this point, I’ll aim to re-publish the complete Article ASAP, in addition to again providing the Private + Confidential Counsellors. Of great interest, is the amount of focus I am working through with my Counsellor on the “minor and inconsiderate” events, which are actually mounting up to explain the devastating impact which may result.
Hopes are that each of you, your loved ones and each of our ecosystems copes alright throughout this COVID19 Pandemic.
Does the mention of any of the terms of ‘corruption, abuse, deception, obstruction’ cause a creepy feeling, the hairs on the back of your neck stand, or a chill run down your spine? You may have been effected by any of inappropriate issues, that are still becoming prevalent today. Most of us are familiar with the saying of “Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts, absolutely”. (Lord Acton)
Translations of this are often made into areas of vulnerability: Teacher-Students (pedophilia), Church Leader-Youth (child sexual abuser), Sports Coach-Player (privatelessons), Disability Carer-disabled (manipulation), Government-Indigenous (stolen generations), Caretaker-Retiree (aged care abuse) and Banks-Customers (coercion). Thankfully, there’s been many Royal Commissions called, with more to come. Our ‘RoyalCommBBC’ is only a small example of what can be possible, when the Sharing of beneficial Information-News-Experiences-Solutions are made.
A great part of any Institution, is that like members typically stick together. It’s been found that when ‘reality hits home’, many of us acknowledge that they’re not alone AND there is a simple solution available. This is where RCbbc can help, in supporting past Students, Parents and Friends in contacting experts in their fields.
According to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services statistics for 2006, approximately 905,000 U.S. children were found to have been maltreated that year, with 16% of them reported as physically abused (the remainder having suffered sexual abuse or neglect.)1 In other studies, it’s been noted that approximately 14-43% of children have experienced at least one traumatic abusive event prior to adulthood.2 And according to The American Humane Association (AHA), an estimated 1,460 children died in 2005 of abuse and neglect.3
The AHA defines physical child abuse as “non-accidental trauma or physical injury caused by punching, beating, kicking, biting, burning or otherwise harming a child.”3 However, it can be challenging to draw the line between physical discipline and child abuse. When does corporal punishment cease to be a style of parenting and become an abusive behavior that is potentially traumatizing for its child victims in the long-term?
A recent episode of the popular television show Dr. Phil featured a woman whose extreme disciplinarian tactics later resulted in her arrest and prosecution for child abuse. A featured video showed her forcing her young adopted son to hold hot sauce in his mouth and take a cold shower as punishment for lying. Audience members were horrified—as was Dr. Phil—but the woman insisted that she couldn’t find a better way to control her child. Many child abusers are not aware when their behavior becomes harmful to a child or how to deal with their own overwhelm before they lose their tempers.
At its core, any type of abuse of children constitutes exploitation of the child’s dependence on and attachment to the parent.
Another therapeutic term that is used in conjunction with child abuse is “interpersonal victimization.” According to the book Childhood victimization: violence, crime, and abuse in the lives of young people by David Finkelhor, interpersonal victimization can be defined as “…harm that comes to individuals because other human[s] have behaved in ways that violate social norms.”5 This sets all forms of abuse apart from other types of trauma-causing-victimization like illness, accidents, and natural disasters.
Finkelhor goes on to explain: “Child victimizations do not fit neatly into conventional crime categories. While children suffer all the crimes that adults do, many of the violent and deviant behaviors engaged in by human[s] to harm children have ambiguous status as crimes. The physical abuse of children, although technically criminal, is not frequently prosecuted and is generally handled by social-control agencies other than the police and criminal courts. “5
What happens to abused children?
In some cases—depending on the number of reports made, the severity of the abuse, and the available community resources—children may be separated from their parents and grow up in group homes or foster care situations, where further abuse can happen either at the hands of other abused children who are simply perpetuating a familiar patterns or the foster parents themselves. In 2004, 517,000 children were living in foster homes, and in 2005, a fifth of reported child abuse victims were taken out of their homes after child maltreatment investigations.6 Sometimes, children do go back to their parents after being taken away, but these statistics are slim. It’s easy to imagine that foster care and group home situations, while they may ease the incidence of abuse in a child’s life, can lead to further types of alienation and trauma.
For children that have suffered from abuse, it can be complex getting to the root of childhood trauma in order to alleviate later symptoms as adults. The question is, how does child abuse turn into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder later in life? What are the circumstances that cause this to happen in some cases and not others?
Statistics show that females are much more likely than males to develop PTSD as a result of experiencing child abuse. Other factors that help determine whether a child victim will develop PTSD include:7
The degree of perceived personal threat.
The developmental state of the child: Some professionals surmise that younger children, because they are less likely to intellectually understand and interpret the effects of a traumatic situation, may be less at risk for long-term PTSD).
The relationship of the victim to the perpetrator.
The level of support the victim has in his day-to-day life as well as the response of the caregiver(s).
Guilt: A feeling of responsibility for the attack (“I deserve it”) is thought to exacerbate the changes of PTSD.
Resilience: the innate ability to cope of the individual.
The child’s short-term response to abuse: For instance, an elevated heart rate post-abuse has been documented as increasing the likelihood that the victim will be later suffer from PTSD.
Carolyn Knight wrote a book called Working With Adult Survivors of Childhood Trauma that states: “Trauma, by definition, is the result of exposure to an inescapably stressful event that overwhelms a person’s coping mechanisms.”6 She points out that an important aspect of an event (or pattern of events) is that it exceeds the victim’s ability to cope and is therefore overwhelming. A child should not have to cope with abuse, and when abuse occurs, a child is not equipped psychologically to process it. The adults in their lives are meant to be role models on how to regulate emotions and provide a safe environment.
According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, some of the particular symptoms of child PTSD include:8
Frequent memories and/or talk of the traumatic event(s)
Once a child has grown to be an adult, however, symptoms of PTSD can become more subtle as he or she learns how to cope with this in day-to-day life. The symptoms of PTSD can be quite general and can mimic other disorders: depression, anxiety, hypervigilance, problems with alcohol and drugs, sleep issues, and eating disorders are just a few. Many have problems in their relationships and trusting another person again. Many even end up in abusive relationships and find themselves re-enacting the past.
Community support is a vital tool in preventing child abuse and the PTSD that can result from it. If you suspect that you or a loved one is suffering from child abuse, please report it to your local Child Protection Services — or the police, if a child is in immediate danger. The longer that abuse continues, the higher the risk of causing severe symptoms.
If you or a loved one may be suffering from delayed effects of trauma due to childhood abuse, I encourage you to make a therapyappointment with someone who specializes in trauma and who can put you on a path of healing.
1 Child Maltreatment 2006. Washington DC: US Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children Youth and Families Children’s Bureau; 2008. 1-194
Children who suffer trauma from abuse or violence early in life show biological signs of aging faster than children who have never experienced adversity, according to research published by the American Psychological Association. The study examined three different signs of biological aging—early puberty, cellular aging and changes in brain structure—and found that trauma exposure was associated with all three.
“Exposure to adversity in childhood is a powerful predictor of health outcomes later in life—not only mental health outcomes like depression and anxiety, but also physical health outcomes like cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer,” said Katie McLaughlin, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at Harvard University and senior author of the study published in the journal Psychological Bulletin. “Our study suggests that experiencing violence can make the body age more quickly at a biological level, which may help to explain that connection.”
Previous research found mixed evidence on whether childhood adversity is always linked to accelerated aging. However, those studies looked at many different types of adversity—abuse, neglect, poverty and more—and at several different measures of biological aging. To disentangle the results, McLaughlin and her colleagues decided to look separately at two categories of adversity: threat-related adversity, such as abuse and violence, and deprivation-related adversity, such as physical or emotional neglect or poverty.
The researchers performed a meta-analysis of almost 80 studies, with more than 116,000 total participants. They found that children who suffered threat-related trauma such as violence or abuse were more likely to enter puberty early and also showed signs of accelerated aging on a cellular level-including shortened telomeres, the protective caps at the ends of our strands of DNA that wear down as we age. However, children who experienced poverty or neglect did not show either of those signs of early aging.
In a second analysis, McLaughlin and her colleagues systematically reviewed 25 studies with more than 3,253 participants that examined how early-life adversity affects brain development. They found that adversity was associated with reduced cortical thickness—a sign of aging because the cortex thins as people age. However, different types of adversity were associated with cortical thinning in different parts of the brain. Trauma and violence were associated with thinning in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which is involved in social and emotional processing, while deprivation was more often associated with thinning in the frontoparietal, default mode and visual networks, which are involved in sensory and cognitive processing.
These types of accelerated aging might originally have descended from useful evolutionary adaptations, according to McLaughlin. In a violent and threat-filled environment, for example, reaching puberty earlier could make people more likely to be able to reproduce before they die. And faster development of brain regions that play a role in emotion processing could help children identify and respond to threats, keeping them safer in dangerous environments. But these once-useful adaptations may have grave health and mental health consequences in adulthood.
The new research underscores the need for early interventions to help avoid those consequences. All of the studies looked at accelerated aging in children and adolescents under age 18. “The fact that we see such consistent evidence for faster aging at such a young age suggests that the biological mechanisms that contribute to health disparities are set in motion very early in life. This means that efforts to prevent these health disparities must also begin during childhood,” McLaughlin said.
There are numerous evidence-based treatments that can improve mental health in children who have experienced trauma, McLaughlin said. “A critical next step is determining whether these psychosocial interventions might also be able to slow down this pattern of accelerated biological aging. If this is possible, we may be able to prevent many of the long-term health consequences of early-life adversity,” she says.
More information: “Biological Aging in Childhood and Adolescence Following Experiences of Threat and Deprivation: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” Psychological Bulletin (2020). DOI: 10.1037/bul0000270