Childhood abuse can consist of many different forms of abuse, whether it is emotional, physical, sexual, neglect, or witnessing abuse in the home. Adults who have had similar experiences as a child are often referred to as adult survivors of childhood abuse. Whether it is a child or an adult survivor of abuse, both of them learn very quickly on how to protect themselves by using defense mechanisms. Some common defense mechanisms that are used by children and adults alike are: denial, withdrawal, acting out, blaming oneself, and completely turning off their feelings.
Being able to survive the effects of child abuse, whether you are an adult or a child simply takes time. Being able to get help from a professional counselor is very important. People can and do recover from abuse. The recovery process whether it is a child or an adult usually follows these steps: denial, acceptance, anger over what occurred, and finally a resolution. There is no timeline on how long this process takes. Sometimes, it can take months and sometimes this process will take years. In order for children and adults to finally recover from abuse, they must stop blaming themselves and put all the responsibility of what happened on the perpetrator.
How does one recover from abuse?
Simply stated, nobody can actually do this without a little help. Close friendships are often very helpful but rarely is this enough to recover from abuse. Professional help is by far the most effective way to overcome the after effects of abuse. Make sure counseling is with a therapist you trust and feel comfortable speaking with.
What can family and friends do to help?
- Give them time to heal. Do not crowd them and ask them over and over how they are doing. This makes people nervous.Be supportive of their feelings.
- Give them time to vent, even if they are screaming and yelling and crying. Children and adults need to discuss what happened to them.
- Convey to the abuse survivor that you are there for them no matter what.
- Encourage them to seek out professional help if they have not already done so.
- Love the abuse survivor unconditionally and without reservation. Tell them that you love them “no matter what.”
Kara T. Tamanini, M.S., LMHC
Therapist and Author
Founder of Kids Awareness Series