Coping with Sexual Abuse

You Can Be Whole Again

I've decided to tackle one of the most difficult kinds of abuse there is: sexual. While any kind of abuse is damaging and wicked, sexual abuse is exceptionally destructive because of the twisted mixture of its physical, emotional, and spiritual elements. Most people refuse to talk about it, but all that does is leave millions of people stuck in their pain, shame, and despair. I don't want you there. I want you to be a whole person, healed and recovered from whatever negative things have happened in your life. So, let's tackle this issue together.

What is Sexual Abuse?

Sexual abuse is any inappropriate and forceful physical, visual or verbal interaction for sexual stimulation or satisfaction. A key characteristic of any abuse is the dominant person forcing someone into sexual activity. This abuse is intentional, not accidental, and is often committed by someone the victim knows or has regular contact with, such as a family member, friend, teacher, or even a spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend.

I did not know sexual abuse includes being shown porn. When I was really young my mom and dad used to show me porn. I didn't want to watch it, but they told me to. -Katie 

Sexual abuse (whether a single incident or many acts over a long period of time) can include any of these activities done with, or in front of someone, against their will. A key characteristic of any abuse is the dominant position of a person that allows them to force or coerce a victim into sexual activity, even if no bodily contact is ever made.

  • Rape - sexual assault perpetrated against a person without that person's consent
  • Molestation - the crime of sexual acts with children up to the age of 18
  • Incest - sexual relations between people closely related to each other
  • Exhibitionism or exposing private parts to someone against their will
  • Masturbation - being forced to watch or participate
  • Being forced into prostitution
  • Pornography - being forced to see it or forced into creating pornography
  • Obscene phone calls
  • Any sexual conduct harmful to mental, emotional, or physical welfare
  • Unwanted kissing or touching
  • Threats of unwanted sexual activity
  • Repeated sexual insults

Abuse Can Happen Anywhere to Anyone

Statistically, it's not just girls who are being sexually also happens to guys. Some experts say one out of every three girls and one of out every six guys will in one way or another be sexually abused by the time they are 18. In fact, child sexual abuse is reported approximately 80,000 times a year, but the number of unreported instances is far greater because the victims are usually afraid to tell anyone what has happened to them.

Jenna told us: My sister and me were both abused when we were young -- by a family friend's son. It is very hard to trust anyone again after you are abused.

And sexual abuse isn't just committed by men. Women can also be the abuser. And it's not typically a stranger or an enemy. Most times, the person who abuses is someone who is very close to the victim, a close family member or relative, or some trusted authority figure. It is also normal for the victim to feel loved by, and even love for, their perpetrator. The victim often has a strong desire to protect their abuser from being found out. Still, regardless of who the abuser is, the effects of sexual abuse can be life-long. And sadly, either you have been, or you know someone who has been violated in this horrific way.

Sexual Abuse Is Not Your Fault!

Just about every sexually abused victim blames themselves for what happened, but they are NOT to blame. There is absolutely no one who deserves to be sexually abused. When you were abused, the person abusing you had the power, physically and emotionally. You were up against a violator and could not defend yourself or stop the madness. So, remember this simple truth: Sexual abuse is not your fault!

Sarah summed it up well: I just don't understand why so many people get abused. I don't get why people are so mean to other people. I guess you can say I live in an abusive house, and yeah it is really hard -- you just think everything is your fault, you're the reason everything is bad, and even after that you still think like that, even when you know it's not true.

You need to know sexual abuse is never your fault and is never okay. You should never be made to keep secrets that make you uncomfortable. Please find someone who you trust to talk to about what's going on in your life. It may be a pastor, school counselor, therapist or doctor. But you must find someplace to get help as soon as you possibly can.

Emily says she lived in a sexually abusive family: My dad started sexually abusing me at six years old, and it went on until I was 11. I used to pretend that it didn't happen, but it did, and there isn't anything I can do about it. My only advice is to try to get out. My life got so much easier when I moved to college. It's a safe haven you need. You need safety, and friends you can trust. And you have to rely on God, all the time, or you'll NEVER make it through.

Brandi was being abused by her grandfather. She contacted TheHopeLine and chatting with a HopeCoach helped her a lot. Listen to her tell her story in this video.

I know you hear me say this a lot, but it's true: Nothing stomps out the effects of sexual abuse more than openly talking about it. In talking about it you bring the hurt and confusion into the light where the pain can be washed away. If you have been, or are being abused, and never told anyone, the first, most important thing you can do is tell someone else. The more you tell your story the better. Please contact TheHopeLine. All chats are free, safe, and private. If you are in immediate danger, contact the police (911) as soon as possible. You can also call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453).

I would not bring up this subject if I did not believe there is tremendous hope for you. But you must take the lead and speak up, ask for help. You may have heard me say, many times before, it is not your fault you were violated. Take that step and tell someone you trust all about it. By doing this you have made your first step on a journey to healing. I am so proud of you.

You are not alone. Others have shared their stories of abuse to help you and others that have been abused find hope. Remember...You matter!

Dawson McAllister
Dawson McAllister, also known as America's youth pastor, was an author, radio host, speaker, and founder of TheHopeLine. McAllister attended Bethel College in Minnesota for undergraduate work where he graduated in 1968, began graduate studies at Talbot School of Theology in California, and received an honorary doctorate from Biola University.
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5 comments on “Coping with Sexual Abuse”

  1. I wasabused and raped by my ex bf for 2years i should have gotten out sooner but stupid me stayed bc i though i loved him. Its hard to deal with and i was glad i got out of it if i didnt i probably would have shot myself in the head. My friends know bout the abuse n rape. My mom only knows bout the abuse but not bout the rape and the rest of my family dont know bout any of it. I still have nightmares bout and it still haunts me every now and then but its hard to talk bout it. Just like that commercial i see on tv i feel sry for those women.

  2. Around 2 years ago I was in a relationship with someone I truly believed I would spend the rest of my life with. Things were great in the beginning and he was someone I trusted completely. It was my first serious relationship and when things gradually began to change I told myself I had to adapt accordingly. It started out with small things here and there that eventually escalated. He sexual assaulted me after finding a text on my phone to someone else that said "I love you". I still feel guilty at times that I may have caused the assault by being unfaithful, even when the unfaithfulness wasn't physical but emotional. Telling others what happened seemed easier initially after I was away from him because I had a good support system that made me feel safe. But as I was healing and trying to wrap my head around what really happened I found myself assuming those closest to me would eventually manipulate me as he did. I couldn't understand why I didn't see the signs and began wondering what else I wasn't seeing. As of right now my only support is my family because I've pushed all of my friends away in an attempt to protect myself. Not everyone is willing to understand and sometimes those that you assume will, won't fully. I know it doesn't sound like it but I'm at least in a much better place (mentally) than I was 2 years ago. I had to promise myself that I could get through the fear at the beginning and that if I did everything possible and then some to become healthy (worked on myself daily, pushed myself when I didn't want to do something, trusted God, and continued to learn every possible way to heal) that I would be OK. Even if I have to live with the effects of this abuse for the rest of my life, I will not let myself give up.

    1. No matter what you may have wrong you do not deserve what he did to you and you are not to blame. Knowing that is an important part of healing, moving on, and feeling whole again!

  3. I grew up in a home where I was sexually abused by my father on a daily basis from the time I was until the age of 19. I was also abused by my step grandfather from the age of 6-17. I always blamed myself and would tell myself that I deserved this. I was always told that I was damaged goods now and that no man would ever want me. My father got me pregnant twice and I had one abortion and gave a child up for adoption. The pain, hurt, shame and guilt were to much to bear and I had several suicide attempts. I also resorted to cutting so that I could feel again as I was so numb and needed an escape. I reached out for help and spoke with someone at the hopeline and that has been a huge help.

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