Coping with a history of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) is a lifelong process, with many different highs and lows. No matter how long ago the abuse was, the characteristics of the abuse, or where you’re at in life now, there is always help available for those who need it. The most important thing is recognizing when you or a loved one may be in need of support, and accessing the appropriate resources designed to give you the help you need and deserve. Identifying when this assistance is needed may involve watching for dangerous or unhealthy behaviors in yourself or a loved one, including extreme stress, mood changes, or other destructive patterns. However, not everyone needs to be on the brink of a crisis to receive support. Even if an individual is coping healthily to the demands of life, it still may not be a bad idea to be a part of a regular support group or have a therapist in their life to help them continue to manage their needs in a healthy way.
Ways an individual dealing with CSA may need help include finding a therapist, reporting their own sexual abuse (or the abuse of someone they know) to the appropriate authorities, and receiving emergent crisis support. There are various outlets that can help an individual find therapists or healthcare providers trained in supporting CSA survivors, as well as organizations, like Child Protective Services, who can investigate reports of potential child sexual abuse.1,2 The most important steps are speaking up when you see or experience something that isn’t right, standing up for a potentially abused individual who comes to you for assistance, and recognizing when you need to seek additional help yourself. If you’re experiencing challenges finding a counselor, there are some organizations that can provide assistance: Speak your Silence strives to make in-person, one-on-one counseling accessible nationwide for individuals personally affected by sexual abuse and assault.
Getting help in a crisis
One important issue to be aware of is a crisis. You, or someone you love, may be in crisis if they are experiencing severe impacts to their mental health that may be life-altering or life-threatening. An individual is in an immediate crisis if they are experiencing suicidal thoughts or behaviors or are expressing suicidal ideations to others. If you, or someone you love, is experiencing this, it is important to seek assistance immediately. Other signs of mental health crisis include significant weight changes, changes in sleep patterns, changes in personal hygiene, performance difficulties at school or work, dramatic mood changes or disturbances, or an overall withdrawal from the world or things an individual once enjoyed.3 If you or someone you know is in crisis, please consider contacting the following organizations as soon as possible:
- National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline: 800-656-HOPE (800-656-4673)
- Darkness to Light Hotline for Child Sexual Abuse: 866-FOR-LIGHT or text LIGHT to 741741
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
All of these outlets have trained professionals standing by to help you or a loved one receive the help you deserve.
- About the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline. Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN). https://www.rainn.org/about-national-sexual-assault-telephone-hotline. Accessed January 10, 2018.
- Worried About An Adult’s Behavior. StopItNow! http://www.stopitnow.org/help-guidance/online-help-center/worried-about-an-adults-behavior. Accessed January 10, 2018.
- How to Help in an Emotional Crisis. American Psychological Association. http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/emotional-crisis.aspx. Accessed January 10, 2018.