Sexual abuse and Christmas

by Theresa Marie Abec, FLT Columnist

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABy Theresa Marie Abec, FLTN Columnist- Yeah, I hear you. What a drab topic to discuss at such a wonderful time of year. But the realities of sexual abuse are horrific. Research reports that approximately 1 in 5 women has been sexually abused as a child, and although abuse is less prevalent for men, this statistic is sickening. Also, those who are victimized or raped usually know the person who took advantage of them, which can compound negative affects on a child’s emotional, psychological and sexual development. Ultimately, a child’s self-worth is negatively affected by sexual trauma.

So now fast-forward to adulthood and it is Christmas time where there may be holiday shopping, family get-togethers, a return to childhood homes or painful memories resurfacing. Hmmm … how does one deal with having to see their offender or having to confront a traumatic past of childhood sexual abuse?

First of all, victims of sexual trauma need to be reminded that they are worthy individuals despite what was done to them. As a child, an older person betrayed your innocence and trust and you did nothing to bring the abuse upon yourself.

I am suggesting that unless this ordeal is dealt with, it can hinder self-worth and have long term devastating effects, some of which are addictions, anxiety, depression, communication problems or rocky romantic relationships. But if sexual abuse and trauma is dealt with in a healthy manner, it can lead to good self-worth and life satisfaction. In fact, one’s one time misery can become a ministry to help others.

So maybe today is your day to acknowledge to yourself or to someone else what happened to you. This simple act of acknowledgement and verbalization has the power to release shame. Next, making yourself feel safe is vital to avoid re-victimization. So if seeing your perpetrator costs too much emotionally, choose to not be around that individual, talk to someone or seek professional help in some cases. But if you are further along in your healing — which means acceptance, no shame, healthy boundaries and perhaps even forgiveness toward the offender and self — you may feel strong enough in your self-worth to be in the presence of that individual.

Ultimately there is no right or wrong answer on how to deal with sexual abuse and Christmas; only you can determine where you are with the issue. So this Christmas—or anytime for that matter—examine where you are today in your healing journey. Be reminded that who you really are is not what was done to you.

Theresa Marie Abec is a Board Certified Clinical Counselor and welcomes new patients looking for assistance with mental, physical and emotional life goals. She provides treatment and diagnosis for adults with mental health issues specializing in: substance use disorders, stress and anxiety, self-esteem issues, depression, grief and loss and overall health and wellness challenges. To schedule an appointment with Theresa call Serenity Health & Wellness Center at 419-891-2181.