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We survivors carry a lot of baggage with us into adulthood, often unaware that these are the results of our childhood experiences. Facing, understanding and healing from the abuse can have a drastic effect on many of these problems that we mistakenly assume are natural personal traits.

On this page:
The scars we pretend we can't see
Not so comfortably numb
Our bodies remember
When pain implodes
Needing someone, anyone, or no-one
When love's just a four-letter word

The scars we pretend we can't see ..

All survivors are affected by the abuse, in varying degrees. Trauma in childhood, when our personalities and beliefs are being formed, does impact our emotional and psychological development. No human child could be entirely unaffected by the abuse. Any adult who claims such supernatural strength is lying either to you or to him/her self.

Not all survivors are affected in the same way, or to the same degree. A child who is severely abused over a period of many years may be affected differently from a child who was abused once. A child abused by an adult they trust and love may be affected differently from a child who was abused by a stranger.

The way the abuse was handled during childhood also affects its impact. If there is compassionate and effective intervention, healing begins immediately. In my experience with survivors, I have learnt that the scars, however subtle, are always there.

Not so comfortably numb ..

Many survivors struggle with addiction. It is estimated that about three-fourths of all female alcoholics have a history of childhood sexual abuse. But alcohol or other drugs are not the only addictions that can cause problems in a survivor's life. We can be addicted to food, to sex, to abusive relationships, even to work.

Click here to learn more about addictions and compulsive behaviour

When pain implodes ..

As children, we pushed down our pain, terror, rage, grief, and betrayal. And we survived. But repressed emotions find expression somehow, if not outward, then inward. The scientists now tell us that the emotional trauma of abuse on a child has actual physical impact - bio-chemical and growth alterations within the brain. The degree of impact varies, but many of us survivors struggle with anxiety, depression, mood or personality disorders, or other mental illnesses, as a result of our childhood abuse.

Click here to read more about depression and other mental illnesses

When love's just a four-letter word ..

Some survivors develop a devil-may-care attitude and indulge in a lot of risky sexual behaviour. Others may go to the other extreme: they fear or avoid any sexual contact. We may find it physically painful or repugnant, or emotionally distressing, triggering traumatic memories or flashbacks. Or we may just "switch off" mentally to remove ourselves from the situation. Some survivors may also go through a period of confusion about their sexual orientation as a result of the abuse (although abuse cannot "cause" a person to be heterosexual or homosexual).

Click here to read more about sexual issues

Our bodies remember ..

Even if we refuse to recognise our issues, our bodies don't keep quiet. From psychosomatic conditions such as unexplained back pain or frequent headaches, to defence and coping mechanisms such as eating disorders and self-injury - our bodies shout out the message of issues that need to be resolved.

Click here for more info on body issues that result from childhood abuse

Needing someone, anyone or no-one ..

Growing up, my motto was, "Trust no-one". Sadly, childhood teaches many of us to repeat this mantra. So we grow up trying to keep ourselves as safe as we can, in control, and not letting anyone near us. Or else we go the other extreme and let all and sundry take whatever they need from us. Some child victims of abuse go on to become adult victims of domestic violence. Survivors rarely get to have truly healthy relationships, and often have issues not just with partners, but with parents, children, employers or friends.

Click here to read more about relationships and issues with trust and control

Woman w/ light bulb over head

Click the links below for further reading:

The Ace Study on Adverse Childhood Experiences and Their Long-term Effects

Adult Children of Alcoholics

Adult Women Survivors

Common Characteristics of Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families

How Adult Survivors React to Childhood Abuse

The Incest Survivor's Aftereffects Checklist

Overcoming the Effects of CSA

Reasons for Different Effects on Individual Victims

Today's Victim Could Be Tomorrow's Predator

What Are Body Memories?

What Are Some Effects of Incest?

When A Child Is Abused

Why Can't I Get On With My Life?