How prevalent is child sexual abuse?
There are more than sixty million survivors of child sexual abuse in the United States alone. Depending on which statistic is used, anywhere between twenty to forty percent of girls, and five to sixteen percent of boys have experienced molestation or rape. 1 The United States Dept of Justice says that one in twenty men has molested a child. 2 Forty to sixty percent of men who abuse women, also abuse their children. 3 About 5.5 children per 10,000 children enrolled in day care are sexually abused. 4 Many alcoholics, drug users, and women in prison were sexually abused as children. Ninety five percent of prostitutes have a history of child sexual abuse. 5 People who perform in pornographic films are also frequently child sexual abuse survivors. Only about five percent of children tell someone that an adult is sexually assaulting them. 6
Are all people who sexually abuse children also pedophiles?
No. There are situational offenders who only abuse children because the child was available to them, not because they have a preference for children. Pedophiles prefer to have sex with pre-pubescent children, but can engage in sex with adults. Situational offenders are often in an on-going adult sexual relationship during the period of time that they molest a child. Lack of sex has nothing to do with why a person sexually abuses a child. In fact, the more a person has sex, the more they want to have it.
What are some of the symptoms of having been sexually abused as a child?
Lack of trust, unusual fears, withdrawal, low self-worth, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts, irritability, rage, drug or alcohol use, anxiety, prolonged depression, nightmares, excessive worry about dying or loved ones dying, insomnia, becoming recluse, sexual dysfunction, unnecessary guilt, psychosomatic symptoms, spaciness, and symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder give evidence that a person may have been sexually abused. 7 One or two of these symptoms in an individual does not necessarily mean they were abused. However, if a person has many of these indicators then the probability exists that they have a traumatic past of some kind.
What is trauma?
A personal experience with an event that involves either witnessing or being a victim of death, of a death threat, or serious injury. Witnessing or being a victim of an event that includes intense fear, horror, or feeling helpless. 8 A perceived event can also cause trauma (some abusers use fake blood or dolls to traumatize a child).
What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?
PTSD is frequently experienced by war veterans, ex-prisoners of war, children who were tortured, and people who were sexually abused as children. Adults who have been raped or otherwise severely traumatized can also develop PTSD. According to the Sidran Institute, about thirteen million people suffer from PTSD at any given time. PTSD affects the mind and the body. The symptoms can include, exaggerated startle-response (extreme jumpiness), depression, obsessive fears, problems with cognition or memory, a constant feeling of impending doom or unknown threat, flashbacks, anxiety, nightmares, feeling estranged from others, outbursts of anger, irritability, avoiding people, nightmares, insomnia, dislike of being touched, inability to trust, control issues, feeling crazy or different, abrupt mood swings, frequent or uncontrollable crying, excessive shyness, phobias, panic attacks, unreasonable feelings of unworthiness or inferiority, obsession with a need to insure safety of self or loved ones, frequent/excessive/unwarranted washing (especially of the genitals). Body memories are also a part of life for most people with PTSD.
What is a “body memory?”
The brain is a part of the body; in fact, it is the head of the body, so when the mind goes through something, it is often experienced in the body. This is evident in people’s reactions to disbelief (nausea), stress (chest pains, constipation), fear (diarrhea), excessive worry (stomach aches), etc. A body memory is when the brain (usually the subconscious mind) of an abused person sends an indicator to a part of the body which correlates with an abusive, fearful, emotionally devastating, or traumatic experience. It’s a reminder signal. At times it can be a warning because until a previous victim heals every aspect of having been abused, their subconscious mind will continue to think they are still being abused, betrayed, or in danger, and their body will react accordingly. It is unhelpful to make it seem as though the cells in the body have a ‘photographic image’ of memories not yet recalled. This creates a comical view of this very real and debilitating phenomenon. Albert Einstein, who split the atom, has himself said, “People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”
Even though body memories are usually associated with people who had previously repressed memories of abuse, these physical sensations and pain can be experienced both by people who have always remembered being abused, and by those who have remembered abuse after a long period of having amnesia for the events. Those who are still repressing or dissociating from their memories also have body memories. These physical sensations have been recorded by researchers and are a common reaction to being abused. They have even been documented in Holocaust survivors. 9
What are Repressed Memories?
These are memories (usually of trauma or sexual abuse) that are blocked from the conscious mind. When the memories return they are often a shock to the individual, but after a period of time, most people allow themselves to finally see that evidence of the trauma had always been present in their lives but they had skillfully pushed the clues aside as being insignificant or they flatly ignored them out of denial.
Most professionals use either “repression” or “dissociation” to describe how a victim of child abuse can develop amnesia for their experience. Freud explained repression as the process of defense that a victim uses in order to push the horror, trauma, and overwhelming experiences into the subconscious mind, where it remains unavailable to the conscious mind.
“Dissociation” was preferred by Pierre Janet who felt that the traumatic events were more ‘split off’ from the conscious mind, instead of held back. Some experts disagree about which method is used by victims of sexual abuse and other trauma. Some professionals still interchange “dissociation” and “repression,” but dissociation appears to be favored by most mental health professionals. 10 Dissociative Amnesia (Repressed Memory) is a valid diagnosis and is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV).
How often does a victim mentally repress or dissociate from having been abused?
Up to fifty-nine percent of women who suffered childhood abuse will experience Dissociative Amnesia for all or portions of the trauma and for various periods of time. 11 As much as ten percent of victims have complete loss of memory about their experience. 12
How can anyone possibly not remember having been sexually abused?
There are various factors which contribute to why one victim retains continuous memory for their experience and why another develops dissociation or repression. There are numerous articles on this Blog which address this subject at length. Each abuse experience is unique to the victim, even if the child is abused by the same perpetrator, in the same home, and in the same way.
Are there studies, research, or other proof that people can mentally repress trauma and abuse for many years?
There are more than seventy studies that give evidence of discontinuous memories of childhood sexual abuse, phsycial abuse, or trauma. 13 There are also corroborated cases of Dissociative Amnesia for child sexual abuse, which include confessions from the perpetrator. 14
What contributes to these Repressed Memories?
According to experts, there are many components which create the climate where traumatic and emotionally disturbing experiences become unavailable to the conscious mind. Some of those reasons include threats of death or harm to the child or a loved one, severe and prolonged abuse and incest, and when a child must rely on their perpetrator in order to survive. There are many other reasons for a child’s mind to push traumatic events into the subconscious.
Are continuous memories of abuse any more reliable than previously repressed memories?
According to most experts, research has not proven one way or another which kind of memory is more trustworthy. Some studies have shown that continuous memory and delayed memory are comparable in accuracy. 15 In addition, studies show a corroboration rate of forty-seven to eighty-six percent in the core of the memories in delayed recall. The evidence used to substantiate the memories included other victims, legal and medical records, diaries, and confessions by the abusers. 16
How often does a child or an adult make a false accusation of abuse?
Statistically, false claims of child sexual abuse are rare. 17
You have totally healed from myalgic encephalomyelitis (chronic fatigue immune dysfunction syndrome) by remembering and dealing with your abuse, does this mean everyone with that disease was abused as a child?
No, but there is a high percentage of people with CFIDS who had an unsafe childhood, and research is discovering a link between childhood abuse and CFIDS. A number of the symptoms associated with CFIDS are often found in those who have always remembered being sexually abused, and symptoms of abuse are present in many people with CFIDS. The disease predominately afflicts women and usually strikes a person within the ages of twenty-five to forty-five. This is also the average age range found in adults who recall having been sexually abused after repressing it.
Personal experience and common sense speak volumes. Other people with CFIDS could be burying repressed pain from a traumatic childhood. It would be astounding if I were the only person with CFIDS, who had Dissociative Amnesia for child sexual abuse, and whose CFIDS was induced by my mind’s reaction to the abuse.
How do I know if a physical problem is psychosomatic?
There is no way of knowing for certain without seeking medical attention. Over a period of two years, I repeatedly saw several of the best medical doctors and specialists in my state in order to find a physiological cause for my suffering. When I was diagnosed with CFIDS (ME), and when I was told that the doctors could not treat or cure me, I stopped seeing doctors and turned to hypnoanalysis.
What is hypnoanalysis?
Click here to find out:
What is the subconscious mind and how does it function?
In short; trauma, betrayal, abuse, and emotions that are normally ignored or shoved aside in order to survive, or to get along with or be accepted by those who harm us, end up accumulating in the unconscious. These emotional energies can subsequently create disharmonious relationships, psychological disorders, and disease in our body.
Aren’t memories recalled in a state of hypno-analysis more likely to be false?
No. Many people convey an inability to be persuaded into an untruth while under hypnosis. It has been shown that hypnosis brings out deep truths that the person has pushed aside in order to maintain a relationship with their perpetrator or in order to ‘function’ in life. They do this to survive mentally and emotionally, but this system only lasts for a number of years and one day, the subconscious cries out for help by causing physical, psychological, emotional, and relationship problems.
How do I know if I was abused as a child?
If a person has no memory of child abuse then there is no reason to assume that abuse took place or to go searching for abuse memories that may not even be there. If a person has multiple symptoms associated with child sexual abuse, if they have no memory for huge chunks of their childhood, and if they cannot find peace in their life because of anger and relationship issues, drug or alcohol problems, and because of depression, anxiety, or excessive fears, then they ought to seek liberation from those problems. Child sexual abuse is not always the cause of these issues, but some form of external influence has caused these physical and emotional problems. People do not (and should not) have to live with their suffering. If you were a victim of child sexual abuse or if you have emotional or psychological problems, you can learn how to reach my therapist by clicking on the “How to Liberate Yourself” page.
What is “False Memory Syndrome?”
“FMS” has absolutely no scientific basis and there are no documented cases. No such syndrome exists. There have been cases of people who were led to believe they were sexually abused when they were not (These instances appear to be highly uncommon) and there are some people who make up stories of abuse (This is statistically rare), but these facts are not synonymous with a “syndrome.”
The False Memory Syndrome Foundation was founded in 1992. It was started by the parents of Jennifer J. Freyd, a highly respected psychology professor, who privately accused her father of sexually abusing her as a child. 22 Jennifer’s father denied Jennifer’s memories and her parents formed the False Memory Syndrome Foundation. Jennifer’s mother is the executive director of the FMSF.
The FMSF was supported and encouraged at its inception by therapist Ralph Underwager, who became a board member. 23 Underwager was quoted in an interview with the editor-in-chief of Paidika: The Journal of Pædophilia. He said, “Paedophiles need to become more positive and make the claim that paedophilia is an acceptable expression of God’s will for love and unity among human beings.” 24 Underwager has since resigned from his seat on the board.
The now deceased, Richard A. Gardner, M.D., who was also an FMSF board member, proclaimed that society’s “excessively moralistic and punitive reactions” about pedophiles surpass what he felt to be the magnitude of the crime. 25 Gardner also suggested that when a child has been molested and has feelings of guilt about the abuse, the child may be ‘helped’ by being told that, in other parts of the world, child molestation is accepted as “normal.” 26 Gardner further asserted that if the child’s sexual urges continue after the abuse ends, the victim should be “encouraged to masturbate.” 27 Interestingly, much of Gardner’s work concentrated on false accusations of sexual abuse, yet he admitted that “probably over 95%” of sexual abuse allegations are legitimate. 28
At one time, the FMSF defended the members of their organization, who had been accused of child molestation, by saying their innocence was evident because they had graying hair, they were well-dressed, they smiled a lot, and were healthy. 29 Now the FMSF seems to base proof of this so-called “syndrome” on the denial of the accused and their wives, and because some people have retracted their allegations of child sexual abuse. Although some of the retractions are probably valid, recanting claims of abuse is highly common among children who have been sexually assaulted; it is not surprising that some adults would do the same.
Some people have memories of being sexually abused by their mother. Isn’t it rare for a mother to perpetrate sexual abuse on her children?
Prior to the 1970’s very little was written about child sexual abuse in psychiatric, psychological, medical, and sociological journals. Any professional writing on child sexual abuse, especially incest, was dominated by skepticism of the victim and incest was considered rare. 30 There is a strong probability that in the second half of the twentieth century, and now, in the twenty-first century, professionals have traded in the myth that incest and child sexual abuse is rare, for the myth that same-sex parental incest is rare.
It is difficult to know how prevalent it is. Most victims of this kind of betrayal are too full of shame and the fear of not being believed to talk about it openly, much less report it to authorities. Many victims of mother/daughter and father/son incest are probably even repressing or dissociating from the abuse because of a deep denial, and because the violation is much greater than it is with opposite-sex parental incest. Society wants to think that mother/daughter and father/son incest are rare, but human nature and common sense tell us that there are a vast amount of victims who are hiding their experience from the public and some are even keeping the knowledge of the abuse from themselves.
Why are you publicly exposing your family’s business?
Humanity is my family. It is more important for me to try and help other survivors and current victims, than to worry about what my biological people think of me.
I was the victim of serious crimes, and I have a right to talk about what happened to me. If every child who experiences incest were told by society to keep the family secrets, then those who abuse children would have a green light to continue to molest and rape children. Being sexually abused by a parent or another relative is neither criminally nor morally different from being abused by a stranger. Every victim has a right to speak about what has happened to them, and to give strength to those who have not yet found the courage to tell.
How can I move past being ridiculed and excommunicated by my family because they liked it better when the secret was still hidden?
I have been liberated from my need to be accepted by my family. These articles also explain how other survivors can also release themselves from those binding ties.
How do you still believe in God when you have suffered trauma and abandonment?
I was not abandoned and traumatized by God; I was abused and abandoned by my earthly parents. However, when an authority figure assaults a child, the victim often grows up associating God with someone who punishes and takes good things away, and who causes suffering. I experienced this kind of belief in God, and because my “mother” was a hypocrite (calling herself a Catholic) I lost all faith in God for twenty-five years.
How Can I Contact You?
1. Childhood Trauma Remembered: A Report on the Current Scientific Knowledge Base and its Applications, The International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, Section 1, Prevalence and Consequences of Childhood Trauma, page 3
Children’s Bureau of Southern California
Sports Illustrated Magazine article on Mark Mc Gwire’s work on child abuse
Finkelhor & Williams 1988
Anonymous Sexual Abuse Recovery of Canada
2. U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs Office for Victims of Crime, Washington, D.C., June 1999
3. American Psychological Association, Violence and the Family: Report of the American
4. Finkelhor & Williams, 1988
5. U.S. Dept of Justice, Close to Home, Mark McGwire Foundation for Children and Big Year Productions, Vanessa Roth and Alexandra Dixon Producers, Discovery Health Channel, 2002
6. Treat the Abuser, Reduce the Risk?, Linda Marsa, Los Angeles Times, May 13 2002 S-1
7. Aggression and impulsive behavior International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, 2000
8. DSM-IV, APA 1994, p. 427-31
9. Holocaust Survivor’s Mental Health, T.L. Brink Ph.D. Editor, page 50 [Also published as Clinical Gerontologist, Volume 14, Number 3 1994], 1994 Haworth Press, Inc. Birmingham NY
10. Recovered Memories, Linda Stoler, Kat Quina, University of Rhode Island, Anne P. DePrince, Jennifer Freyd, University of Oregon, 2001
11. Recovered Memories, Linda Stoler, Kat Quina, Anne P. De Prince, Jennifer J. Freud, 2001, Encyclopedia of Women and Gender, Volume Two, page 909, Academic Press
12. Jim Hopper, PhD
13. Recovered Memories, Linda Stoler, Kat Quina, Anne P. De Prince, Jennifer J. Freud, 2001, Encyclopedia of Women and Gender, Volume Two, page 906, Academic Press.
15. The Leadership Council, Research Regarding Accuracy of Returned Memories
16. Recovered Memories, Linda Stoler, Kat Quina, Anne P. De Prince, Jennifer J. Freud, 2001, Encyclopedia of Women and Gender, Volume Two, page 913, Academic Press.
17. The Leadership Council, Research Regarding Accuracy of Returned Memories
United States Dept. of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office for Victims of Crime, Washington D.C., June 1999
18. Hypnosis: A General Review, Hypnotic Investigation of Psychodynamic Processes, Milton Erickson, The Collected Papers of Milton H. Erickson on Hypnosis Volume 3, Edited by Ernest L. Rossi Irvington Publishers, Inc, 1980, page 13
19. American Psychological Association, The Division 30 Definition and Description of Hypnosis