One of the most common questions that I am asked is, "Why didn't I run away?" Childhood abuse is not easy to talk about, due to intense feelings of shame, and guilt. You may often feel confused about the exact events, and are only able to recall parts of the abuse, which often leads to self-doubt and self-blame. You might even feel that you somehow encouraged the abuse, or that you deserved the abuse, because you were a "bad" child. Abusers are masters at manipulating the feelings, and thoughts of the children they harm. They are very skilled at making you feel it is your fault, and that you somehow made them do it. The truth is, you did not encourage the abuse, you did not deserve the abuse, and you were not a bad child. No one asks to be abused, threatened or harmed in any way.
Childhood abuse is more common than we would like to admit. Some statistics say that 1 out every 6 boys has been sexually abused. That means in a typical classroom of 18-20 students, 3 boys in the class may have experienced sexual abuse. If the abuse was not addressed as a child, it can carry over into adulthood affecting behavior, and relationships. I work with many men that are no longer intimate with their partners, because the memories have come back. A common statement I hear is, "It happened so long ago, why is it still bothering me, after all of these years?" When you are in a life or death situation your brain either tells you to fight, flight, or freeze. The brain chooses what reaction it is going to have in milliseconds; you do not have a conscious choice which one of the responses your brain has chosen for you. That is why you froze, and didn't run when you were being attacked, and abused; it has nothing to do with you choosing how to respond.
Once the traumatic event has happened, your brain holds onto that memory, to be addressed at a later time. In the meantime, your behavior is being influenced by the past trauma on an unconscious level. The unresolved memories will continue to have a hold on you, unless they are processed, and resolved. Often, that later time comes in adulthood, that is why you are remembering the abuse, after all of these years.There are many therapists that specialize in childhood trauma, I encourage you to find a therapist that you feel safe, and comfortable with, to address your past trauma, and to truly understand why you didn't run away.
If you, or someone that you know is needing help, please feel free to call me at 615-982-5710 , and together we can start the healing journey.
Ginger Poag, MSW, LCSW