The trauma of abuse

All Woman
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Dear Counsellor,
I was the outside child for my father and was raised by his elder female relative. She was very religious and protective. When I was nearly 15 years old I was playing on a poorly lit road in my community when I was dragged into the darkness, fondled, and violated by a man in his 20s. I never told my father's relative, my father or my other relatives. I was ashamed and knew they would react violently. Soon after this incident I celebrated my 15th birthday and became a Christian.

I have been a Christian all my life. I was always ambivalent about sex and intimacy. I was married, which ended in a divorce more than 10 years ago. I met a man two years ago and my treatment of him has caused me to critically assess my motivations for sex or intimacy.

My marriage was a disaster emotionally and sexually; sometimes I would be interested in sex and sometimes I would lock down. I'd feel tired and fed up with sexual intimacy. All I would want to do was sleep or focus on my kids. It is the same even now.

About five years after my assault, my guardian's sonstarted making sexual advances. Because I would rebuff them, he would get into fits of rage and start accusing me of theft and troubling his possessions. The decision was then made that I should go to stay with my mother. While with her I had my first sexual encounter and was sent back to my father's relative, pregnant. I married the father of my child several months later.

Meeting this new person has made me realise that I never gave myself freely, unafraid, unguarded, or unashamed. I have never really shared or made myself vulnerable, and now I am very sad. I have been considering counselling for some time now.

How do I overcome my coldness towards sexual intimacy? I realise that I have feelings of resentment towards men who expresse sexual interest in me. I cry when I think about the emotions I feel for this person, but can't articulate them, whether verbally or with actions. Now he's treating me coldly as I have always refused his need for any form of intimacy.

Trauma associated with sexual abuse is most times quite deep and difficult to manage, especially if the victim has not received treatment. Most people who go through this horrible experience are too embarrassed to disclose the occurrence and instead bottle up the emotional pain and hurt for years. Others blame themselves and go around with a deflated self-esteem that negatively impacts them and those around them, particularly those with whom they are romantically involved.

Having endured two such traumatic events in your life, it's not uncommon to encounter post-traumatic stress disorder which is evidenced in flashbacks and vivid recollections of the acts of violation perpetrated against you. The emotional numbness you displayed is also indicative of the psychological impairment which occurred from the ordeal.

Your detached sexual response is in accordance with the symptoms of a victim who suffered sexual abuse. Your sexual desire and/or sexual arousal can be diminished to the extent that your sex life becomes non-existent which would pose a relational problem with your partner.

All that you have shared is quite distressing and you now must begin to address the unresolved issues that have been left unattended for so long. As soon as possible, seek out a counsellor and begin therapy sessions immediately.

You are quite aware of how these unfortunate occurrences have affected you emotionally, socially, mentally, and psychologically, and so you must do what is required to repair the damage.

Such a traumatic effect on your psyche will not go away by ignoring or denying they ever took place. You must, as it were, go through a period of unearthing, expressing and effectively disposing of the emotional pain and anguish associated with the ordeal.

A warm and engaging counsellor will walk with you on the journey to full recovery. You must, however, be patient with the process as the journey can be long and sometimes painful, but it is worth the ride.

Do take care of your self and all the best to you.

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Wayne Powell is a relationship counsellor. Write to agapemft@gmail.com. Check his Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/MFTCounselor/.

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