Sexual abuse counseling to help victims
Sexual abuse has been and remains one of the most hidden forms of the crime. Rape is probably the only kind of crime where, in the public eyes, the victim is supposed to be responsible for the act of violence, committed against her. This position denies the opportunity to seek help and leaves women alone with their pain, which makes their lives unbearable.
Psychological effects of sexual abuse can be immediate and long-term.
The immediate effects of sexual abuse include low self-esteem, caused by the experience of shame, fear and self-blame. Almost all the victims think that their future is ruined. Apart from the low self-esteem, the women survivors of sexual abuse often have emotional disturbances, – they suffer bad mood and tearfulness, depression, anguish and even suicidal ideation. These disorders are accompanied by insomnia or nightmares, panic attacks and obsessive behavior. All this can not but affect the interpersonal communication. As a rule, women, being the victims of sexual abuse, narrow the circle of acquaintances, as they feel distrust of other people, especially men.
The long-term effects of sexual abuse include psychosomatic disorders, sexual dysfunction, smoking, alcohol and drugs abuse. Sexual violence destroys a woman’s idea of a just world order, which exacerbates the feeling of helplessness. A sense of inferiority, which is fed by further numerous mislaps, usually forces the unmarried women, who have experienced rape, to cast their lots with men, humiliating them. Thinking that they have not deserved a better life, women victims of sexual abuse may unconsciously instigate others to different forms of abuse, such as physical or emotional abuse.
Researches describe four stages of psychological reaction to the rape trauma:
- Shock or psychological numbing;
- Severe stress;
- Resolution of the internal conflict, caused by the trauma.
Most often, women victims seek psychological help at the stage of severe stress. At this point, they are afraid, having obsessive thoughts of the experienced trauma, suffer emotional lability, insomnia, depression and low self-esteem.
The main goal of the sexual abuse counseling is to help women to get rid of the psychological trauma, resulting from the experienced act of violence. To do this, the psychologist must carry out the following tasks:
- To help a woman become more aware of what happened to her as a child. This can be made by disclosure of the “terrible secret” that has been kept for many years. And for the first time a woman gets the opportunity to talk openly at the psychologist and remember her pain.
- To help a woman get rid of the feeling of loneliness in result of the secret disclosure.
- To help a women understand her feelings and ability to express them. The important point is dissociation (separation) of the negative feelings in time, i.e. her awareness of the fact that everything what happened to her has gone away.
- To evoke in a victim a sense of responsibility for herself and her life.
- To save a woman from the feeling of guilt.
- To encourage the desire of woman to live a new way of life, care for herself and set goals for the future. Realizing what happened to her, a woman learns how to get what she was deprived of for many years. Then she will have to decide what to do next, – whether she wants to change something in her family situation or not.