If You were Abused

Thank you for coming to this page.  Some are surprised that the subject of childhood abuse comes up on a site that is supposedly dedicated to addiction recovery.  However, some 2 out of 3 individuals being treated for addiction have histories that include childhood abuse.  It is just too prevalent to ignore.  And yes, even in the LDS culture.

I saw a 38 year old woman in my office recently whom had told only one other person of the awful hell of her childhood sexual abuse.  She could not yet speak directly of it. Tears and the remembered fear overwhelmed her. She was nearly unconsolable.  Such is our condition in the beginning.  She is so not alone in the world.  All forms of childhood abuse are present daily around us.  Sexual abuse alone touches one in four girls and one in six boys.  The damage can be profound.  (Please see ksl.com’s story: My Story; The pedophile, the child and me.)

John Briere PhD suggests that trauma from childhood sexual abuse (and other traumas) deflect us off the normal emotional developmental line.  We develop deficiencies in our emotional fabric.  When we get to adulthood, we are poorly equipped for life.  We struggle with relationships, anxiety, depression and fear.

We only seek to love and be loved, but our deficiencies get in the way.  For example, our dysfunction might generate an urge or need that compels us to be controlling.  Our goal in reality is a desperate effort to feel “safe”, truly seeking only comfort and protection, but instead our controlling behaviors create chaos and anger.  While we seek only to love and be loved, we end up feeling frustrated, betrayed, unlovable and isolated.  It gets to be quite a mess.

As I contemplate my own recovery from sexual abuse, I am still surprised by how little I felt the abuse had affected me.  Even when my life and my relationships were in shambles, I couldn’t make the connection between my abuse and my deficiencies.  I knew I was self-destructive, compulsive and had a high tolerance for inappropriate behaviors, but I didn’t understand they were connected to what my perpetrator had done to me.  As my eyes began to open and I felt the beginning of healing, many emotional burdens were released.  A tremendous load was lifted from me, the weight of which I had been unaware of.  Life without that burden is amazingly different.

April was molested by family member for a number of years.  She was a bright, attractive and talented girl.  She had a wonderful testimony of the gospel and the Savior.  But she also had some behaviors she didn’t want or understand.  She became promiscuous, which conflicted her mightily.  It went against everything she had been taught and believed.  And yet when the weekend came around she would find herself acting out sexually.

April worked very hard on her healing.  She read a lot about abuse recovery and was very diligent about her therapy appointments.  She made a number of discoveries about how she perceived herself in light of her abuse.  She realized that she felt somehow to blame for the abuse.  She realized she felt like she was not a good and worthwhile person because of what had been done to her.  As she confronted these issues and began to realize that when pedophiles attack it is not the fault of their victim, and that she was in fact a very worthwhile and good person, her life changed dramatically.  Specifically when the weekend came around, April didn’t need to act out sexually anymore.  Such is the power of healing.

One of the hallmarks of sexual abuse is that we can not ignore it.  We can not just push it away, put a lid on it and pretend it never happened.  It will at some point demand to be resolved and attended to.  Usually by coming out “sideways.”

Claudia was 32, a beautiful, talented mother of two.  She was the Young Womens President and truly loved by her girls.  Her life appeared to be perfect.  The perfect husband, calling and family.  But Claudia had been abused sexually by her baby sitter.  She was quite young and attempted to dismiss it as just a bad dream.

Then one day in Claudia’s perfect life, she could not get out of bed.  Nor could she the next day, nor the next.  The medical doctor found nothing physically wrong.  Claudia’s abuse had come calling to be dealt with and the flood of emotions overwhelmed her.

Marilyn van Derbur, 1958′s Miss America, tells the story of her recovery from her father’s sexual violations in her book, Miss America by Day, Lessons Learned from Ultimate Betrayals and Unconditional Love (missamericabyday.com) She says, Most people have no understanding of how complex the long-term effects of childhood sexual abuse can be–especially if the violator was a family member, priest, coach…trusted friend.  These pedophiles weave their way into our lives.  Most are charming, talented, respected family and community members.  They are not the bearded, stubble faced Charles Mansons.  They don’t make us hate them, they make us hate ourselves.  We don’t want them in prison.  We live a lifetime in a kind of prison difficult to describe.

…When I was 39 [my daughter] was turning 5, the age I was when the violations began.  Her age was triggering the memories and the feelings as another part of me used every ounce of energy to repress them.  This head-on-collision, this conflict resulted in physical paralysis.  Her remarkable story of healing is an inspiration to all who are survivors.

We are blessed to have access to so much healing wisdom. It was not so a generation ago.  If you are tired of your burden, this may be the time to let it go.  You will be amazed at the help the Savior can be.  The comfort and peace you can find are exquisite.  They are only truly understood by experiencing them.

Please use our site to start your journey.  I invite you to “Leave a reply” and tell your story.  You may be surprised at the healing power of just letting your story out. (This is a safe confidential, anonymous place.)  Or ask the therapist a question, read our blogs or perhaps avail yourself of counseling.  It will make a tremendous difference for you.  May His blessings be with you.

16 Responses to If You were Abused

  1. E. says:

    When I was a preteen, I can’t remember exactly how old, a male cousin, who I am sure was affected by an abusive alcoholic mother and father, liked to play around sexually. He would sodomize me and have me have oral sex with him. This led to my masterbating regularly and needing to be sexually fulfilled through pornography. Over the years of my marriage and having children, I have had various degrees of recovery. I feel I am still not totally recovered. I have talked with various bishops but probably haven’t gotten to the root of the problem. Is there something that I really need to do or say that can rid me of my guiltly feeling?

    • roger says:

      First of all, yes there are things you can do that get rid of that guilty feeling. You can feel “clean” again and you do deserve to feel that. I was feeling a real sadness when I read your story. I am sorry for what you have been put through, you certainly did not deserve it. Many of us came to believe it was somehow our fault and take on tremendous guilt and shame. As one survivor says of perpetrators, “They don’t make us hate them, they make us hate ourselves.” You are not alone, many of us have suffered in a similar way, the good news is that many have found healing and freedom from the pains you are feeling.

      Healing comes in a number of ways. Your faith can be of great service to you and talking with a counselor that has experience with childhood sex abuse issues can really help. There are some websites and books that can be of tremendous help also. There is a work to recovery, but he healing of the wounds will bring you great comfort.

  2. D. says:

    My heart goes out to E. as well. I just said a prayer for E. that he will be able to find help through the church’s Addiction Recovery Program. About me: I believe that I am a chain-breaker. I suffered years of sexual abuse at the hands of my father, until he got a teen-aged girl pregnant; at which time my mother finally divorced him. I was 8 years old. The fallout from the abuse has been extremely difficult, however; I have learned many things from it that I would not trade. The Savior has been there through wonderful family members and other means…I am so blessed to have undergone much healing through much counseling. Everything which I suffered triggered a genetic pre-disposition to depression, intermingled with bouts of mania. I have been incredibly blessed with a wonderful LDS psychiatrist, and have been stable on my mood-stabilizing (not anti-depressant) medications for 5 1/2 years! My husband is now a bishop, and my 5 children are doing well. I thank the Savior for his loving grace. I still struggle with addictive personality traits, including occasional binge-eating. However, I am attending the LDS Addiction Recovery Program meetings and finding incredible help, and strength, there. I am extremely happy to report that I have lost 40 pounds, am now a healthy size 8; and am finding great joy in leaning upon our Savior, Jesus Christ. My next step is to turn other “over-eaters/un-healthy eaters” to the Addiction Recovery Program, as I now have professional training in this area. Thanks for all you are doing for others, Roger. Cordially yours, The Bishop’s Wife.

    • roger says:

      Thank you for your comment, and thank you for your faith and example. I too beleive you are a chain-breaker! I am sorry for the terrible abuse of your father, but celebrate your courage and resilience. It gives us all a little more hope when we learn of the healing of others. Some are surprised that the Recovery Program can help with recovery from childhood abuse or food issues. The reality is I haven’t met a person yet that I did not think would benefit from humbly working the steps. They are life changing and teach us how to build a strong relationship with the Savior. Bless you for he example you are…

  3. EV says: says:

    I am amazed at how many women I have met that have been abused in some form or another during their early childhood. That makes me very sad. As a girl, I grew up with all brothers. One, in particular, had a talent for doing things he shouldn’t do. I beleive I was nine years old when he learned what sex was. I guess I was his only avenue to explore his newly found sexuality. I don’t remember how long this went on, but whenever we were left alone he would have me undress so he could touch and feel and get excited and simulate intercourse as he understood it. I’ve been told he was only experimenting and that he had no malicious intent. However, that does not change the affect it had on me. I have battled depression all my life. I even had a plan to take a small raft out into the middle of a lake in the middle of the night and just fall in and never surface again. Through my dark times, I was provided glimmers of light that brought me back to a better place. I still have battles with depression, although not so severe, and I do have an addiction that I’m sure stems from my brother’s “experiment.” On the flip side, though, when other women share their stories of abuse, I understand them. I can accept their stories and empathize with them. In some small way, I think that helps them in their dark hour to know they are not alone. What a cursed blessing that is…

    • roger says:

      But perhaps in some way your compassion and empathy mean that the terrible personal suffering has not been in vain. The studies tell us that 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused, 1 in 6 boys. Pretty staggering to consider. And many suffer as you have. The “fact” that your brother was “just experimenting” is pretty hollow comfort, you were still devastated by his actions, no matter the intent. Your burden still remained no matter his motivation. When we are abused by those we should be able to trust it changes us and adds very difficult dimensions to our emotional lives. I am sorry for what you have had to bare. Please know that you are not alone, and all of us that are survivors feel your sorrow and pain.

  4. B says:

    I hope you don’t mind me posting all over your site, but I really appreciate the work you are doing and the insight you have brought to the process of addiction recovery. It is saddening to read all of the above posts and my prayers go out to each of you as well. In my experience with recovery groups and sexual addiction, I too have found that so many addicts have been abused both physically and sexually. However, something I found difficult to understand with regard to my very serious sexual addiction I struggled with for so many years was that I had never been sexually or physically abused. In fact, I came from a “seemingly” typical LDS household. I had a good childhood with a brother, two sisters, a mom and a dad, and I had great friends. However, once I discovered a certain swimsuit magazine at the age of 12, I became immediately hooked and endured many, many years of addiction which led to an eventual divorce and disfellowshipment from my church. I never understood why I was a candidate for such a serious, uncontrollable addiction, especially considering my background, however, the more I learned about the different ways a child can be emotionally abused while growing up, the more I realized that I fit the mold perfectly of someone who had been wounded early on and had carried those wounds into adulthood, which emotional wounds, or traumas, caused me to relapse over and over again in my addiction. Uncovering and healing those traumas has been key to the success I am enjoying today as I strive to remain sober one day at a time.

  5. S says:

    I was sexually abused by a cousin when I was very young. I kept it quiet until long after I became an adult. I am now 64 years old and have been in the ARP program for over three years. Through this I have come to realize how much this (plus very condependent parents) affected every aspect of my life.
    I have been married 4 times to very abusive men and I came into the class to find out why. Now that I have the answers my life is free and I can make clear choices based on truth.

    • roger says:

      Hey S, thanks for your post. Your story sounds very familiar, the toll of sex abuse on victims is devastating. We all struggle to recover and “find truth”. I applaud your courage in continuing to struggle and find the answers. You are an example to us all. Thank you.

  6. J says:

    It has been easy for me to see the links of where I am in my life now, the things that I’ve done, and the connection to being abused for 4 years starting at the age of 14. I understand clearly that one single event changed the rest of my life. I see the cause and the many effects.

    The problem is though, unlike the overall theme I see on this page, I have to disagree. I may be the victim, but the events that took place back 22 years ago really were my fault. As the church teaches, I was past the age of accountability and I knew that it was wrong, no matter how slick the techniques or the words of my abuser. I made a choice day in and day out for those 4 years to allow myself to be abused. I am responsible, I am accountable, I hold fault and yes I hold sin.

    I have spent my entire life in a state of depression. I have never understood or maybe it is cared about the meaning of life. I do not have any friends (I really don’t like people) and despite being married for 16 years with 4 kids I really don’t know that I even understand the concepts of Love.

    I have felt as if I have wasted my existence through a series of bad judgment. Although I have fantasized about suicide, I could never take such action for the pain I know it would cause others, but that doesn’t prevent me from wishing for an early death and release from this prison of my life.

    As for today I am deep in a moral struggle. With my son reaching the age when my abuse started and the recent passing of my father has made me at least want to give my kids something else, maybe a better shot in their lives. It’s better to believe in something then believe in nothing.

    Now I am faced with the dilemma , as I have tried to come back to church I am being forced to face my demons head on. Only the desire to indulge in my addiction seems to be stronger then the desire for a clean life, and eternal life. (Note: Eternal life has never seemed like much of a selling factor to me, This life has been bad enough why would I want to live forever with not way out?)

    As I said, I understand clearly where I am in my life and how I got here. I am responsible and I did make many wrong choices. It is important to me that I do not place blame anywhere besides myself. This is the life upon which I will be judged. The least I can do on judgment day is hold my head high and accept sole responsibility for my actions.

    Call it Denial by Right and Hopelessness, with a little bit of Rationalization for good measure.

    In the end what does any of this really matter anyway?

    • SP says:

      The one thing I noticed that was missing from J’s message was Christ. J talks about his responsibility and accountability for his actions. He is taking all his issues upon himself, which is an EXTREMLY heavy burden. I have done that most of my life and depression and suicidal thoughts have been the result. Like Joel, I take full responsibility for the mistakes I have made in the past. Lately, though, I have come to realize that even though I knew better than to make those wrong choices, there is still someone who is willing to help me. I have two books that have really helped me along my path. They are “The Shack” and “Believing Christ”. These books have helped me to understand that no matter what I do God still loves me and that Christ will always help me out of whatever situation I have chosen to get myself into. God is full of MERCY!!!

      For J, I would have him look at his own children. Does he stop loving them when they make bad choices? Is he not willing to help them even when they are bad? God is even more so with His children. He knows the mistakes we will make, and yet He offers His love and guidance if we will just look to Him.

      The road back may be VERY difficult, but is it worth it for you and your children?

      I’ve come to the conclusion that in this life we will create our own demons. The purpose is for us to accept what we have created, face our demons, and finally overcome those demons. We usually don’t create our demons by ourselves, and the beautiful thing is that God has not left us to overcome them alone either. Seek the love and support of your family to help you overcome your demons. Most importantly, though, seek your Savior to share the burdens you bear. He is willing and ready.

      There is a story in the Bible about a man who borrowed some money. When the amount came due, because of his poor choices the man could not pay the money back. He begged for mercy, but the debtor demanded that justice be served. How could mercy be given without robbing justice? Just when the man was about to go to jail for not paying his debts, a “savior” stepped in and offered to pay the debtor. He also provided mercy to the man to allow him to pay back his debt whenever he could. Justice and mercy can both be satisfied through a “savior” who will intercede on our behalf.

      I am working through facing my demons right now. It’s not easy. I have stumbled and fallen many times. The difference is I will never fear that my Savior will not help nor will my God stop loving me, therefore, I will keep trying to do my best for Them.

    • SS says:

      My heart goes out to this man because yes he may have been beyond the age of accountability, however, many of us are.One of the more important aspects is to forgive and stop blaming ourselves.

      I have come to know through much prayer, counseling, scripture study and understanding relationships that when we are in “that depression” we only see through a glass darkly as he is now. I feel the wisdom I can impart to this man is to go through an ARP program first to get his self-worth back. 2nd realize that he has created tremendous pain in the lives of his family and that there is much seeking forgiveness and forgiving oneself for the past.

      It sounds like J needs to get some HOPE back. Of course as with him engaging in his abuse “so he says” it is his choice if he wants to get that hope back. If he wants to start to let go and have hope again then it is important that he find someone he can completely trust. My feeling is that it has been a long time since he has had someone because he stated that he doesn’t like people very well.

      As far as being accountable. Yes, he may have been past the age of eight years. But when and until someone understands the purpose of life and the atonement of Jesus Christ accountability seems to be a relative thing. In other words the doctrine says we are to be accountable but if our heart doesn’t understand or believe it then as he explained “we wonder about our existence.”
      Maybe he was never taught about the meaning of life, the love our Heavenly Father has for us and the reason for his atoning sacrifice.

      Again, get him into an ARP program so he can begin his HOPE process and understand his Eternal worth.

    • M says:

      Your story brings up memories of my own life and I recognize the feelings of accepting the responsibility of blame on myself. I can truly say at this point in my life I am happy and at peace most of the time. I have tried many different methods to help me heal and it has been a long process, but it has been way worth it to feel free and loved again. I have attended a few ARP classes in support of a friend, but have found a healing power there for me and I am discovering that coming to Christ is on ongoing journey, but it can be experienced in joy.

      I had always been aware of my abuse. I was the only girl in my family and a brother was introduced to pornography. He “shared” his new found “fun” and “normal adolescent curiosity” with me starting when I was about 9 or 10.

      Another brother was brought into the situation and things continued until I was about 15. We had made a fort and filled it with stolen items to make it more like a “home”. This place was used for sexual acts, fantasying, mock tortures, and other things that bring tears to my eyes and cause me to shake as I write this. My spirit was wounded and I did not understand what I had done to deserve a hellish life. I felt like no one understood me or cared. I started doing things on my own that were inappropriate, but felt helpless to change; I swore terribly to show others that I was tough; I had no emotion so people left me alone. I fought a lot, but it was usually in defense of the underdog and so I felt justified, like that was going to make up for my sin somehow. Some people saw that as a strength. I just felt dead inside.

      Because this was part of my experience here on earth I have spread some negative actions to people I came in contact with, inviting them to join me and others in sexual stimulating activities. I hated my self, I hated my brother, I hated my mother, and I hated God. (at times I denied His existence)
      I was finally able to curtail my actions and attend church more and avoid the sinful acts, but I still had guilt. I talked with my Bishop and “resolved” many issues about being the victim, but never really addressed the part of me being the perpetrator. I believed I was a bad person and that God could not love me, but I followed priesthood counsel that “it was not my fault” and that I was “still clean and worthy to enter the temple”.

      On the outside I was the perfect mother and wife. I was reading my scriptures, praying, I held a calling in the Relief Society Presidency, I had a temple recommend and attended sessions, my husband was a worthy priesthood holder who loved me, I had a home to call my own, but I HATED ME! I could not identify why I felt so discouraged and worthless.

      I remember feelings of wanting to just disappear. That my family would not even notice if I was gone, in fact I figured I thought they would be better off without me. I too thought about how I could disappear, but could never actually do any of them.

      It was really hard for me to accept that I needed help. I had a great fear (or expectation) of not being trusted because when I was young I had to live a lie to cover up all the sexual activities I was experiencing. At church I was being taught that Families are forever…..well guess what….I did not want my family forever. My reality was so different from what I was being taught that I became very good at pretending. I could not even tell what truth was or not.

      I found people who understood and had training in this area and it was what I needed. (I needed more than instruction to “read my scriptures, pray, attend my meetings, and the Lord will heal you”.- I needed someone to hold my hand and lead me out of the darkness, someone to stand beside me). I had to break some physical bands before I could feel the message of the gospel and accept God’s confidence in me.
      We are given weakness that we may become strong. I have learned for myself that this is true and I have been living in joy for the last 6 years. I know that God loves me and love is now a positive emotion for me. They way we act and what we do does matter and so do you. Find Christ and use the atonement, you are not alone.

  7. LW says:

    I was sexually abused starting around 5 or a little before. The last incident of being sexually abused was rape in a public rest room at the beach in San Diego when I was 16. I went to therapy several times and delt with dissociation and PTSD. But it never seems to go away, does it? I mean, I think it’s gone and then it comes back in strange ways blindsiding me. It affects my marriage and my two wonderful boys. I just can’t get close sometimes, but I force myself to for their sake. My relatives will not speak to me and I am an outcast because of the allegations I made regarding certain family member’s conduct towards me when I was younger. I grew up believing in ghosts only to understand later that the ghosts that visited me where in reality just monsters living near me. When I was at the preschool when I was young, two men took me into a room and abused me several times. Through my life I feel like such as loser and a failure not worthy of God’s kingdom. I have thought many times of ending my life and told God that I would just prefer a small insignificant rock to hide under for eternity than live like this on earth. I should be able to will it away forever, but I think it will always be there, never letting go. I have addictions I struggle with and even if I do end up under a rock in heaven, at least I want to do it without addictions.

    • roger says:

      I appreciate you sharing a little of your story. I know you are not alone in your suffering. Many have come forward and said, “Me too.” I am sorry for the burden that this has brought into your life, for the pain and dark dark feelings you have described.

      I know you are not a loser and I am pretty sure god is not looking for your rock. Even tho these things happened to you, they do not define who you are nor do they need to control or decimate your life. The answer sounds pretty simplistic and the doing of it is pretty complicated (if that makes andy sense) but healing is available to us. The Savior has made some things available that will help all of us heal. I know you can find them. When he gave us all agency, he created a world where people could make bad choices and hurt others. Sometimes in a very terrible way. We are only wounded, we are not destroyed. We are only hurt, not worthless. Damaged not unworthy.

      We can heal wounds. I encourage you to begin a quest to find healing. do everything in your power to change anything you can change that might be part of the problem. then find the Savior and invite Him into your life. follow the example of the Women with Issue in the New Testament and do everything she did. (I will leave it to you to figure out what that means…but the spirit will guide you if you seek it)

      I wish good things for you. I am saddened by what happened to you. You did not deserve to suffer as you have. I am sorry there are such evil people in the world.

  8. S says:

    Wow….I can’t believe that I am going to type this…..I was abused by my father….for years….I was blackmailed into continuing or else he would leave my mother (no education and no way of supporting 3 children on her own) and we would all be pennyless. He had a lot of issues….depression……3 much older sisters that may have abused him. I have depression as well…..I left the LDS Church after 17 years of membership….now I am working hard to get back. I just purchased The Waterfall Concept and the workbook…..my addictions are…..smoking….food. I can’t seem to be consistant in anything. I don’t know what all is caused by the child abuse. I am 49 years old. Mother of 3 Boys. Wife of second husband. First husband….sealed in the Temple….took a walk and left me and the boys…….Funny…….that’s what i fought to keep from happening to my family when I was a child. Thank You for giving me a place to talk.

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