Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse

An adult survivor of sexual abuse often has a lot of common issues or damages relating to the abuse. We might see depression, anxieties, a loss of trust to a partner or to authority, dysfunctional relationships, anger issues, sleep disturbances, addictions to drug or alcohol. These are the kind of things that we too often see with victims of sexual abuse who have never gotten help. The message to adult survivors is that it’s not too late. Often times, I’ll get a phone call from an adult who was abused as a child, and they’re not sure if there’s anything they can do. And I try to explain to them simply by making that phone call is a beginning. It’s a beginning of the healing process.

The most important thing I can do for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse is to help them heal. To do that, I try to empower them. I help them go through that process and take back control in their life. There’s no reason to suffer in silence, and the civil process, the civil lawsuit that we might be able to file, can really help the healing. And the reason it helps the healing for an adult survivor is that number one, it validates what happened to them. Number two, they know that by participating, they’re exposing predators and the institutions that protected those predators. By doing that, they are protecting children in the future. They’re saving kids’ lives, a child that may have never met, never will meet in their life, but they know that by coming forward, they are protecting a child.

Something else that happens when a victim comes forward as an adult, other victims see them coming forward, and will share in that empowerment. I often get phone calls from a victim who saw another victim come forward, and they say, “You know what? I was suffering in silence. When I saw this person brave coming forward, I decided it was my turn. It was my time to get help. So, I picked up the phone and I called.” And that’s fantastic. And I know my clients have told me that when they hear that another victim came forward because of them, that’s empowering. That makes a difference in their lives, and that’s healing. By coming forward as an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse, the victim is kick-starting the healing process. They go from being a victim to a survivor.