by Comprehensive Staff
Here at Comprehensive, we provide four different forms of therapy that help a person deal with the negative thoughts and feelings associated with sexual abuse. These therapies actually work well with any form of abuse. I refer you to our Evidenced Bases Practices page for more information on PCIT, CPT, EMDR and TFCBT (http://www.comphc.org/yakima-valley-mental-health-practices.php).
What I want to talk about today is how secrecy is maintained by the offender of abuse. Most people who sexually abuse another person usually start with subtle behaviors to gain the trust of the person and their support system. The level of trust may differ and is a topic for another time. We have learned that the offenders then start pushing the boundaries by engaging in behaviors that might be questionable, but easily dismissed as a mistake if confronted. If the boundary-pushing does not raise any outright objections, then the offender pushes farther. From the moment they start pushing the boundaries, every single behavior the abuser engages in is an attempt to find out if they will be able to keep the sexual abuse a secret.
Some folks challenge this thought. I just cannot accept that there are any innocent behaviors by offenders of sexual abuse. So for the sake of argument, the moment the sexual abuse begins, all of the offenders behaviors are designed to be able to continue the abuse by keeping the victim from disclosing. Some of the more common tricks are engaging in a playful way with their victim, trying to isolate them from the support of their family and friends, trying to discredit the victim’s support system, trying to engage in abuse that makes the victim think they are participating, and outright threats made by the offender. I can go on and on with tricks—gifts, special attention, using the family’s values and rules deceptively, and on and on. Each case of sexual abuse has its own unique tricks.
I want those that are now survivors of abuse to know that sometimes the hardest thoughts to re-process are the ones related to the tricks used to keep you from telling someone. For those who are family and friends of survivors of abuse, the tricks worked on you as well. Let’s all be more compassionate and understanding as a survivor of abuse begins to deal with all that goes on with sexual abuse. Just remember: the first time anyone discloses abuse is the first time they felt safe to do so.
Not all abuse starts subtly, as is described above. The survivors of this type of sexual abuse still need and deserve our support and compassion. All survivors of abuse need us to “Start by Believing” that they are telling us something very scary and/or confusing to talk about.
Have the conversation about safety, teach kids about the correct name of their private parts, make sure friends and family members know you have and continue to have conversations about safety with your kids. There really are no good secrets, and tricks should be left to the skateboarder or magician.