Think You Were Abused?

by Andrea M. Darcy
Reviewed by Dr Sheri Jacobson

Suddenly having strange images flashing through your head? Think they are abuse memories, and not sure what to do?

Not sure if it was or wasn't abuse?

Not only does sexual abuse not have to involve penetration, it doesn’t even need to be physical.

It is now recognised by UK law that sexual abuse does not have to involve touching, but can be mental and psychological, now called ‘non contact’ abuse.

Things like forcing a child to see sexual images, or saying sexual things to a child, can also have devestating long-term effects.

Don’t blame or shame yourself.

Child sexual abuse is not your fault. A child is vulnerable and easily manipulated, and adults are supposed to help and not hurt children.

And even thought you might feel different and suddenly isolated if you suspect you were abused? You are less alone than you think. Sexual abuse is far more common than talked about, and there are people will understand.

Don’t start the accusations now.

Abuse memories come with a a tsunami of emotions, chiefly rage. And anger can make it feel urgent that you go after your abuser.

But it actually doesn’t benefit you right now. When you start to have abuse memories you are in a very emotionally and psychologically vulnerable state, no matter how clear-headed you think you are being.

Accusing others can also backfire and mean you lose the very support of those you most need, such as close family members. Take time to work through your emotions and find proper support, and come out with your story when you are feeling steady.

Up your self-care.

If ever there was a time to practise self-care, it’s now. This is not just about watching alcohol intake, eating well, and getting sleep.

It’s about taking time outs from people who drain you, not taking on too much work, and avoiding things that are known stressors for you.

Push yourself to do things that are wellbeing activities for you instead, whether that is a class at the gym, a walk in nature, or a chat with a friend who is always on your side.

Don’t get caught up in the ‘what really happened’ trap.

It’s normal to want to know exactly what happened. And to feel tormented by not knowing.

But endlessly thinking and obsessing over what exactly did or didn’t happen to you, and what your abuse memories do or don’t mean? It doesn’t change anything.

Unless someone invents a time machine and we can spy on our past selves? The truth is we will never know exactly what happened. Ever.

What we DO know is how we feel right now. What our symptoms are. And that is what you have to focus on. Because only by healing your symptoms will you ever feel better.

But what if they are false memories?

It’s absolutely possible that you are having false memories of abuse. This can happen if, for example, another kind of trauma happened you have forgotten. Your mind, in its struggle to raise the memory, thinks it must be abuse, because that’s something you’ve read about recently, or a friend has shared happened to them.

But even if they are false memories, if they are powerful enough that you are anxious, stressed, or depressed? If you daily life is suffering because of these memories? Then that is serious.

Remember, focus on healing the symptoms. You might uncover other memories in therapy, or through journalling. You might not. The point is to take care of yourself and get help regardless.

Ready to get the support you deserve with navigating abuse memories? Book a therapist now who understands just what you are going through.

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