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Did you know that according to a meta-analysis conducted for 216 studies in 2017, the mean global prevalence of child sexual abuse in forensic settings was found to be 64.1%?
Being subjected to obscene abuse throughout my childhood and into adolescence, I wouldn’t have been surprised if the figures revealed were much higher. Instead, it rather compels me to think, “Are these figures really close to the whole truth?”
Come to think of it; self-disclosure surveys, however genuinely filled out, have limited access. It might have reached the majority of us, but there’s a very likely chance that it didn’t reach the distraught little girl in a small county or even half of the agonized victims who’ve locked themselves in. It’s fair to think that the numbers are misleading, and that child sexual abuse, as a victim of it myself, is much worse than it seems.
But here I am now, addressing it openly and ready to drag anyone like me out of the dark and vicious cycle that they believe is a permanent part of their life. Trust me, at my stage, you’ll be surprised.
Childhood Trauma: The Impact on Adult Health
According to psychologists, around 15% of sexually traumatized girls develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – the episodical re-experiencing of the events in their minds that makes them hyper-vigilant against the warning signs that may re-enact their trauma. They cower in fear, avoid anything that reminds them of the distress, and find it debilitating to repair their fractured sense of self-worth. They get bouts of mood swings, irritability, and explosive anger. At other times, they wallow in withdrawal, shock, and hopelessness. Insomnia, nightmares, fatigue, and anxiety are common physiological symptoms. Some of the victims also experience aches, pains, and muscular tension.
For a child who doesn’t know about sexual activities, does not have a sense of consent, and is easily threatened for molestation, the impact on adult health is monumental. Here’s a roundup of the trauma’s long-term effects.
- Feelings of distrust, poor self-esteem, and self-destructive behavior.
- Loss of interest in normal activities including sexual appetite and fear of intimacy.
- Adverse effects on the health including the risk of asthma, diabetes, heart diseases, and stroke.
Living with a crippling sense of identity and existence is a criminal offense. Abuse has to be healed, at all costs, and rebuilt into a force to be reckoned with that explodes into freedom, strength, and happiness. For those of you living in that dark abyss, my words may appear cliché. But I’ve been there, scrambling to escape, and have successfully channeled my years of torment into a powerful beam of light that not only healed me but also made me a qualified hypnotherapist.
Channelling Pain to Healing & Empowerment
I, Anu Verma, born and bred in England, suffered the highest degree of childhood sexual abuse and spent years stuck in one vicious, traumatic cycle.
It was dark, bleak, and disastrous. Beginning from my childhood, the abuse went well into my adolescence and I was debilitated. I couldn’t make peace with what had happened to me. I struggled for years for some sort of comfort, any clue of healing, and a way out of the abyss. At that time, help was quite far away – yet still, I healed. Wholesomely.
Today, I am a graduate in Physiology and Health Sciences, a Master’s graduate in Sports Science, a Cambridge Qualification holder in English teaching, and a proud Reiki Master and Emotional Freedom therapist. I am a trained Strategic Intervention Life Coach, grade 4 counselor in Neuro-Linguistics, and currently pursuing a Postgraduate Diploma as a PTSD and Trauma specialist. I have a beautiful son and I’m living the best life anyone else could live out there. The cherry on top is that I’ve published a book on my life story; spreading the details of my trauma out in the open and how I’ve found renewed strength thereafter.
My former life’s achievements, even in writing, have overshadowed the violence I faced as a child. Reading this, you wouldn’t believe I have been through worse. And that makes me happy; it’s a part of my dream come true.
The victim’s world is oppressive. Should the abuser’s intent remain with you for several years after? Is your life so insignificant that it’s wasted over a criminal?
Most of you would say no. But that’s the end of the story.
The next steps forward are baffling.
And it is that I want to change.
Healing from trauma requires the victim to believe in a better tomorrow. You have to find the strength to get out of the past, rise from the ashes, and move on with your life. As a fighter, I yearn to help you along the way.
Rising From The Ashes: The Guide From Victim to Victor
I wouldn’t say it's easy to face and accept the traumatic experiences of your childhood. It’s akin to treading on pieces of broken glasses. From investing emotionally and mentally to recognizing the changes you’ve brought to your life; the journey of empowerment is beautifully carved out.
Up until now, you would have read up pieces that tackled recovering from child sexual abuse from an informational point of view. Now that you’ve met me, a survivor who went through roller coasters of emotional turmoil, fighting back with dreadful memories that almost destroyed her, here’s the road to healing that I embarked on.
Step 1: Grieve your heart out
Allow yourself to grieve for the childhood you never had. Release the pain, accept the truth, and realize that whatever happened was not your fault. It’s important to go through the five stages of grieving: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
Step 2: Do not go into isolation
Victims tend to isolate themselves following a traumatic experience, which makes things worse. On the contrary, interacting face to face with people who care for you helps you heal faster. You don’t have to talk about the trauma. Ask for support, seek comfort in others, and share your feelings with a parent, a trusted family member, or a counselor.
Reconnect with old friends, volunteer in social activities, and make new friends. Remember, isolation chips away at your stability.
Step 3: Repair your nervous system
Trauma affects four parts of the brain: the hippocampus, amygdala, prefrontal cortex, and brain stem.
You have to self-regulate your nervous system with a mindful breathing practice. Every time you feel confused, disoriented, or upset, simply take 60 breaths, focus on your exhalation, and watch yourself calming down.
If a certain sight, smell, or taste helps you feel better, latch onto it. It can be anything; from petting an animal to listening to music or adopting a hobby. This is called sensory input that helps with stress release techniques.
Acknowledge and allow your thoughts and feelings about the trauma to bubble up when they do – projecting them out is the only way to do away with it.
Step 4: Take care of your health
Physiological health is proven to help with the stress of the trauma. You have to take care of your health to properly heal your mind.
Start with fixing your sleep; aim at 7 to 9 hours of regular sleeping time no matter what.
Avoid alcohol and drugs as they tend to exacerbate the traumatic feelings.
Increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids and avoid sugary or fried foods.
Make sure your energy is kept up which will help minimize mood swings. And conclusively, incorporate relaxation exercises such as yoga, meditation, or deep breathing. Surround yourself with things you love and work you love to do. If you’ve got the time and money, head out on a travel tour!
Early-Age Enlightenment Can Help Heal Faster
As a child, I remember how vulnerable I felt when I was subjected to abuse. How, despite my brain blocking the comprehension of the situation, I felt violated, debilitated, and threatened. Traumas experienced as an adult allow the processing of the events more maturely as compared to the child who’s at loss about handling the situation. If left unchecked, these experiences can cause serious developmental and behavioral problems.
If I had known what exactly was happening to me, I would have asked for help. I strongly believe the relevance of early-age enlightenment, such as knowing “bad” touch, keeping distance from strangers, not letting anybody get too close, or reporting weird instances to adults immediately is highly important.
You have to teach the children around you to look out for signs that border abuse or harassment. Merely observing for telltale signs post-abuse, however important, are not enough. To prevent abusers from exploiting any more children around us, there need to be deliberate sessions that inculcate the information early on. Within the same context, ordaining steps towards healing and recovery from childhood trauma will become easier to address.
The Need of Public sessions At Schools, Churches and Mindful Organizations
Episodical public speaking sessions on child sexual abuse must be arranged to educate masses for the unfortunate occurrence, enable adults and children to take actionable steps to prevent it, and encourage the path to heal for those who’ve fallen victim to it. Going through abuse shouldn’t be the end of the world; however tragic it may appear right now, it’s absolutely curable. All that needs to be done is to find the strength to voice the struggle, find help through acceptance, and emerge victoriously.
Childhood trauma is a dark place to be in, but there’s always a ray of hope. Its vice-like grip can be slackened and ultimately released by a step-by-step guide to recovery, and via mass awareness through public speaking consciously instituted.
Like I clambered on a self-exploration journey to strength, freedom, and empowerment, I aim to guide this generation to do the same and emerge from a victim to a victor.