The current news coverage regarding the alleged sexual abuse perpetrated by Sandusky can potentially be activating of old memories for many men and women. Most people react with disgust, rage, and shame due to their own abuse histories that involve being sexual violated. Some others may find themselves acting out or acting in without consciousness of the trigger for their behavior. Regardless of the outcome of the Sandusky case, there is help and more importantly hope for survivors of sexual abuse. It is imperative to process thoughts and emotions regarding the abuse. Vital is for the individual to recognize that they did nothing to cause the abuse. They are not to blame. An Insidious feature of sexual abuse is for the victim to internalize and carry the shame of the shamelessness of the perpetrator. Feelings of shame and guilt are pervasive. Feelings of anger and rage often are expressed directly and indirectly to others. A classic question most, if not all, survivors ask is "what did I do to cause this to happen?" Men, in particular, have a greater propensity to express their emotions with rage, covert / hidden depression, and if the perpetrator was male - homophobia. Hope for the survivor comes with processing the abuse and engaging trauma treatment modalities such as EMDR and Somatic Experiencing to gain some resolution of what happened to them. Surviving sexual abuse, particularly from childhood experience, allows the individual to establish sanity in their lives, intimacy with loved ones. It affords the individual the opportunity to embrace the joy that can be found in life. Message to the survivor: "you did nothing wrong", "you did nothing wrong". Stepping out and accessing help in the form of counseling, peer support, or inpatient treatment is the first step in the journey of healing. You are not alone. Secrecy binds the individual to the trauma. Secrecy allows the abuse to continue. We all have a legal, moral, and ethical obligation to ensure the safety of all children. Report, report, report.
Michael Cooter, MSSW, LCSW