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How Do You Know If You Have Been Sexually Abused As A Child

Discussion in 'Discussion' started by Nicolette, Jun 10, 2009.

  1. Nicolette

    Nicolette ♡ Princess ♡ Staff Member Premium Member

    My sister contacted me last night telling me she has PTS/PTSD (they are not definite about which one at this stage and I'm not sure why not)...something I suggested to her awhile ago. She has said that psychologists have suggested she has been sexually abused as a child but she can't remember anything. She has asked me if I was too and if I can remember. We have both been told we are blocking something out and I have had PTS before.

    How do you know? I have some thoughts but I don't know what to tell my sister. I have told her she should come to the forum and at least read to learn what she can. She sounds very much out of control at the moment and living in a small country town there is not much help. All familiar is her tellling me about the medication and the doctors keep on changing it.

    I think it was a big step for her to contact me and tell me I was right with what I thought as normally if you put her and I in a room we would be at each other in 5 minutes flat. Don't know why that is but once I decided I thought she was sick with PTSD the things which were previously hurtful didn't bother me as much anymore.

    While I want to help her and I know she must do it herself I am still curious how to "work out" if you were sexually abused or not. I know I saw things which creeped me out and a counsellor said it was sexual abuse but then while it wasn't in my face I still struggle with that conclusion. Yes it grossed me out but I saw it from my bedroom and could never close the door properly to avoid it. I can't remember if I wasn't allowed to close the door or it wouldn't close.

    Any thoughts?

    BTW...my sister is younger than me.
    Abstract likes this.
  2. She Cat

    She Cat VIP Member

    Nicolette,

    You should know that the mind protects us from the things that we can't handle. We also block what we don't want to remember. You also know that some people can see the same thing, and only one MAY have PTSD and the other not..... It's a tough call with you and your sister.

    If she is out of control right now, I would probably guess that she is leaning more towards the diagnosis of PTSD. Being out of control is usually a dead give away if there has been some kind of trauma that wasn't processed properly at the time...

    Like we tell each other here all the time....You can't force yourself to remember, and you deal with what you know, and deal with the rest later when you do remember.

    I hope that yu can help her through this, without having to put added stress on yourself. You also have Anthony, a wedding, and your own life. You have to walk a fine line here.
    p-no and Nicolette like this.
  3. kers

    kers VIP Member

    It depends. It may be she has memories of events that need to be worked through with a counselor in order to understand the effects of those events. Often people who have been abused remember what happened, but don't identify it as abuse until they connect the memory with their feelings about it.

    On the other hand, if she doesn't remember anything inappropriate happening, I encourage her not to try to force it or pry too much, but instead to explore her childhood generally and see what comes up. Pushing is what leads to unclear or false memories. Our brains reveal distressing memories as we are ready to handle them.

    It sounds like you have memories of things that you can identify as inappropriate, but which you didn't or don't find terribly distressing. She could have seen the same things and been affected very differently.
    sterre and Nicolette like this.
  4. 2quilt

    2quilt New Member

    How was her first willful sexual experience? If she froze, it's a clue that she was assaulted when she was young.
    Can she have the ability to enjoy self pleasure or does she have fetishes? That's a clue.
    Has she been promiscuos (risky behaviors) or done drugs or alcohol abuse? (for example)
    That's a clue that we are trying to keep pain under the surface and ignore it.
    Does she cut herslef or pull out her hair or is she destructive in other ways? That's a tip off.
    Anger destructive or constructive? Assertive or Aggressive?
    Did she have a time as a child when she refused to go inside to the bathroom and wet her pants or wet the bed?
    Low self esteem?
    lonely childhood with few friends?
    Really interested in urine, doodoo or breasts? Plays doctor or plays with dolls in way inappropriate ways? Role plays with the dolls as sexual expression?
    Puts objects in private orafices?
    Has bruises on private body parts?


    Her memories may not be distressing now as an adult, but see it with a child's eyes and inability to see the world with as much experience, and there's a big difference. Children have no sovereign rights, they feel that they must obey adults, and children are very vulnerable. They don't have the skills to tell an adult that question or statement was inappropriate, unwanted, or sexually shaded. They feel like that have little control over their lives. Adults routinely touch childrens' heads and backs or shoulders. An adult would never pat the head of another adult, but they can get away with doing that to a child, who probably won't tell the adult to stop.

    If you lived together as children, maybe you noticed a time when she was withdrawn, frozen, self-destructive, etc.
    Nicolette likes this.
  5. becvan

    becvan Queen of the Blunt!

    I actually had this very discussion with my therapist just a little bit ago. I'm in a similar situation myself. Through a third party, I have been told I was SA at a very young age.(and I'm not referring to anything that I have spoken of in my diaries on here for clarification.) I have no memory of this. However, I have no memory of almost anything. LOL It's possible but who knows?

    Disturbed by this, I had a frank discussion. The basics of that two hour conversation is that if I don't remember, have no proof (medical records, witnesses.. something) and no family of which to verify this with, then it is best if I left it alone. Trying to force memories or the issue can cause extreme amounts of damage if I did experience this and if I didn't it could create false memories which creates a huge mess. Neither is pretty.

    Without either the memories or some sort of evidence, there really isn't anyway to work out of this happened or not. (check lists of symptoms are fine, but by no means conclusive of being SA as a child. Many types of abuse have the same symptom clusters, so please use caution when trying to use them as proof as what may or may not have happened.) What is important is dealing with what we know now, what we experience now and how to cope. That is where the focus needs to go.

    Best of luck Nicolette, to you and your sister. It's not easy just not knowing and learning to accept that.

    bec


    This might help some too: http://www.ptsdforum.org/thread1523.html
    Zef and Nicolette like this.
  6. Nicolette

    Nicolette ♡ Princess ♡ Staff Member Premium Member

    Thanks for your input Wendy, Kers, 2quilt and Bec.

    2quilt what did immediately come to mind when I read your post was the bed wetting. The problem with that is it lead to what I consider more abuse as if she wet the bed my step mother would then lock my sister in the chook shed.

    You have all given me something to think about and probably the scariest thing is that if I help my sister I will be having to deal with my issues from that time and I don't know how I feel about that. I have spent many years trying to process it and cried a river of tears and I am not ready to deal with any more right now. Like Wendy said, I have a wedding which is only weeks away so until I have got through that I think all I can offer is support.

    Clarification...my sister is not asking me to help her but I wanted to...until I really started thinking about what it could do to me. Repressed memories is hitting the nail on the head Bec. :rolleyes:
    Abstract likes this.
  7. SunnyBrookFarm

    SunnyBrookFarm New Member

    I've always "known" - but I definately still have repressed memories - (apparently there is even more than what I remember - shudder). But some people truly do block completely - our brains are so young that we just can't handle it all. But yes there are alot of "clues" - After your wedding - you might want to pick up a copy of "Secret Survivors by E. Blume" (you should be able to find it a library)- in it there is a huge checklist - that shocked me how many categories I fell into - things that I would have never even thought were related to my abuse.

    Regardless of what type of abuse your sister has experienced - it is so wonderful that she has reached out to you. It shows how much she truly trusts you.
  8. becvan

    becvan Queen of the Blunt!

    Remember to take care of yourself too, Nicolette. I'm sure this is rather stressful for you and probably brought up memories you haven't even realized you had. Don't stuff it if it does come up. Talk about it. :Hug_emoticon:

    bec
  9. Seeking_Nirvana

    Seeking_Nirvana New Member

    Hi Nicolette,
    I had a therapist tell me the same thing when I was about 24 years old. I asked my older sister if she knew anything and she thought for a second and then said, "No, you were safe". In hindsight, when she paused to think about it. She was thinking whether she wanted to tell me or not. I think she remembered and didn't want to tell me.

    It wasn't until I was 33 when I had my first body memory that freaked me out so bad I had to jump up out of bed like I was being attacked. Any sexual aversion I had, I blamed on being raped when I was 15. But that didn't explain the bed wetting, the inability to sleep at night without paranoia, constant nightmares and night terrors all before I was raped at age 15.

    I just blocked it out until I had my first body experience and then just let it linger until I noticed more body memories surfacing and dreams of children being abused.

    I would tell her to let the memories come on their own and forget the psychologist even said anything. If I would have investigated that issue back then I think things would have gotten worse instead of better because I was drinking every night back then. However, on the flip side if she was abused maybe it's best to start working with it now?

    It's so hard to know what to tell people when these issues come up. I remember when I asked about that same issue here on the forum about a year ago. It appears 1 out of every 4 girls/woman have experienced some type of sexual misconduct.

    I think it's a case by case basis on how to handle this type of issue.

    Good luck with helping her.
    Tammy

    BTW Congratulations on your wedding
  10. Nicolette

    Nicolette ♡ Princess ♡ Staff Member Premium Member

    Thanks for sharing SunnyBrookFarm and Tammy.

    Ahhhh....you are correct Bec. Thanks for your support. :Hug_emoticon:
  11. strugglingdad

    strugglingdad New Member

    Not sure which bothers me more, the abuse I remember or the abuse I know is on the edge of memory, slowly coming up lately. Seems since I quit drinking more and more surfaces. Scared of what else might be buried in there, as I am missing whole years. But at least once it comes maybe I can deal with it..
  12. midi

    midi New Member

    The positive side to a can of worms, while they dig holes in our constructed truths, is that they leave the soul more fertile and healthy than it was before. I don't know what this trip will bring you, Nicolette, but you are fortunate in that you have supportive people to be with you while you take it.

    I have clear memories of being sexually abused as a child, along with vaginal scarring that proves it. There was also doctor confirmation (although I was much older by then, about 13 or 14).
    Nicolette likes this.
  13. Marlene

    Marlene VIP Member Premium Member

    Nicolette,

    I agree with the others that say don't push it or try to force yourself to remember. All that does is frustrate you and make you feel like you're failing to remember what you 'should'. If you do remember any sexual abuse, it will come to you in pieces at a time. It's almost like your brain gives you puzzle pieces and you have to put the puzzle together for yourself.

    If it does come to you that you were sexually abused as a child, it might answer a lot of lingering questions that you have. At least that's been my experience. Suddenly things you do, say and think make so much more sense when viewed through a different set of circumstances.

    Reading the title of your post was like a kick in the chest. I'm so sorry that this has intruded into your life. Especially at such a love-filled, happy time like this. I think the advice to not deal with this until after your wedding in a great one.

    Hang tough, hon.

    Lisa
    Abstract and Nicolette like this.
  14. dust

    dust New Member

    Nicolette,

    look after yourself with the wedding on the way and all that. I have repressed memories and am often triggered without any conscious memory of what it is that is triggering me.

    My therapist has said that my goal should not be about forcing memory. I feel that if it comes it comes, if it doesn't - so what (in fact part of me doesn't want to know the details). Important thing is to deal with it therapeutically and get on with life and relationships, do no harm to others and live a fulfilling life.

    Hey, that sounds good to me. Bring it on.

    Best wishes,

    dust
  15. TLight

    TLight VIP Member

    I don't have the 'pictures' yet....perhaps I never will.

    All I know is that he was a woman hater ex-policeman who was angry at life and hated his prodigy with a passion and didn't pass up a chance to let us know. I do remember several violent beatings, beating my dog to death........evil in his vicious eyes.

    Then, on his death bed he told me I alway was a good cock sucker.

    When I was 27, my hips dropped. I had always looked like a boy.......I was devastated and it was the beginning of a downward spiral to a complete breakdown at 28........absolutely devastating. Then the constant bladder infections, anorexia, bulimia.....hating myself. Hating and fearing all men and then the hallucinations, insomnia, nightmares of claws on my hips..........

    Obviously something happened and I COMPLETELY dissociated. I might never have the 'pictures'......but the aftermath is proof enough for me.

    I could never have gone that crazy for so long, so frightenly unstable and angry if Daddy hadn't done something more to me than a few vicious beatings that I remember.

    Hope you can sort things out. In my case, the evidence is enough to point to the crime.
    Abstract likes this.
  16. dust

    dust New Member

    Yes, I totally agree! The intensity of the trigger makes it self-evident without the memory.

    dust
    p-no and Abstract like this.
  17. Mina

    Mina VIP Member Premium Member

    I'm glad you asked this question here, Nicolette. Thank you. My sister and I have been wondering, as both our T's (and others, especially my husband) have strong suspicions that we were sexually abused as children. I came to the conclusion that I will probably never know, and I'm okay with that. It is good to read from others that not delving into is perhaps an appropriate course of action...or rather, inaction.
    Nicolette likes this.
  18. heather q

    heather q New Member

    Mina,
    I'm glad you wrote that, I thought I had to know what the missing years were about, so now I can let it go and do something for myself 'in the now,' rather than being stuck searching in the past, I feel a weight is lifted off me.

    Thank you,
    Heather
  19. Nicolette

    Nicolette ♡ Princess ♡ Staff Member Premium Member

    Thanks to everyone who contributed. I am very pleased to know that my sister has joined the forum. :thumbs-up
    Abstract likes this.
  20. Lionheart777

    Lionheart777 Lion-hearted Survivor Premium Member

    When I first began therapy, I held the memory of one abuse event of brutal sexual molestation. However, as the years in therapy went on, I discovered SA since the age of about 4, Abuse that went on for well over a decade, 16 different abuse perpetrators and almost every type of abuse. I remembered these things only after I had the safety and coping tools to deal with them. Until then, they remained buried in my mind and were simply blank spots in my memory. There are things I wish never had to be revealed to me, but what I don't remember, I don't have to deal with. I know enough about what happened, the damage, and how to move from being a victim to being a survivor to having a descent life and just being the best me I can be. Knowledge of the problem is definitely half the battle.
    Abstract likes this.
  21. CBX9

    CBX9 Member

    I'm starting to have doubts about certain things just from hearing this. Could it be that everyone here was sexually abused? ...I need to find an answer-what really happened back in the past...
    Abstract likes this.
  22. Abstract

    Abstract VIP Member Premium Member

    Hi CBX :)

    If you mean on the forum then the answer is no. There are many people on the forum who have combat PTSD, PTSD from car accidents or medical trauma, lots from physical abuse or domestic violence, emotional abuse and more. And there are a lot with sexual abuse or assault too.

    I hope you find what happened for you. I too have memory gaps and it is hard.
    p-no, Chincho and Hashi like this.
  23. Abstract

    Abstract VIP Member Premium Member

    Nicolette, I know this is an old thread but just wanted to say that sexual abuse is not always just physical too. You know that of course but I just wanted to validate that.

    It seems you were exposed to things children should not be exposed to. Even without anything more physical that is sexual abuse.

    I hope you and your sister are doing better with this. It's very hard to not know.
    p-no, Hashi and Nicolette like this.
  24. Hashi

    Hashi VIP Member

    As Abstract says, no. Loss of memories can occur with any kind of trauma. Unless you have particular reasons to think you might have been sexually abused then I wouldn't automatically suspect that's what happened.

    Are you seeing a therapist? If you have memory gaps and doubts about the past, whatever might be the reason I think it might be a good idea to talk to a professional about it.
    Abstract likes this.
  25. Orglethorp

    Orglethorp The Fearless Groundhog Premium Member

    Just popping in to say that my younger sister and I were both sexually abused as children, and I've spent many years wondering about how to help her with this as well.

    On one hand, while I have always known what happened, I did not have any memories until a boyfriend temporarily forgot what no means, shall we say, in my first year of university. (The relationship didn't last long after that.) In the 6 months or so following that incident, I got back one complete incident memory in horrifyingly vivid detail, split-second snapshots of two others, and the unshakable conviction that those memories were just the tip of the iceberg. That was 2006, and I still haven't recovered any more memories. I just know they're there.

    My sister, on the other hand, rarely admits to recalling anything at all. The only reason she even admits these days that we were sexually abused is because she's accepted that I'm telling the truth. What really sends a chill down my spine, though, is that despite her seemingly complete block on these memories, she'll say things out of the blue once or twice every few years that's just so completely not in line with what she claims to have no memory of. Back when I was first diagnosed with PTSD and not doing well at all, the two of us were sitting on a staircase somewhere around town, just talking, and she just stated so calmly "Dad raped us." She said it quietly, but she had confidence in the statement. She's never said that since, and doesn't even remember saying it.
    Hashi, Chincho and Abstract like this.

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