Click here to learn more and to hear my 1-4-19 interview with NAASCA
It was very edifying to talk with NAASCA's Bill, Mary, Carol, and Bobby on Friday night. Thank you for this opportunity.
Below please find a few points culled from the interview and in reflection to help adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse integrate and transcend their significant childhood traumas.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Here is a link to the "Stop Child Abuse Now" talk radio show where Matt appeard in early January: Stop Child Abuse Now (SCAN) - 2045 -- Special guest Matt Paknis
Early intervention with a great counselor, deep love from my ailing mother and her friends, stopping the abuse, healthy involvement in sports, and in particular with football, great coaches, role models, teammates, and my striving for mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health helped me transcend long term exposure to four major childhood traumas; experiencing and witnessing domestic violence, sexual abuse, and the terminal illness and death of my young mom.
Early counseling helped me return to basic functioning, but it took twenty years, and my inability to sleep or be attentive to my toddler daughters, for me to return to counseling to address and to integrate these traumas. It's taken another twenty years to process and to return to normal sleep sans assistance.
Here are some healing truths I believe helped me integrate my early abuse to reach relevant recovery. It is my hope they comfort and empower the reader.
1. Most pedophiles were abused, but only a very small portion of sexual abuse survivors choose to repeat the cycle. The behavior is deviant and not natural. Thus, it must be learned. However, as with psychopaths, some folks may be born with this deviance.
2. Once a person chooses to repeat or to perpetuate the cycle of sexual abuse, the behavior appears to become a compulsion, like alcoholism and drug addiction, or physical abuse, and very difficult to stop.
3. The key to stopping the cycle is to identify victims early and to intervene with constructive counseling and positive role models before their trauma plays out destructively against themselves or others. When it's too late for early intervention, the below steps following number nine can help.
4. Pedophilia is not sex. Sex is a consensual act between adults from comparable peer groups. Pedophilia, like all abuse and bullying, is derived from a need for power and control, perpetrated by a person with more physical, financial, emotional, psychological, or status power, who controls and dominates a victim with sexual acts.
5. A target or victim is a person in a subservient role or place in his or her life. The acts may offer some confusing comfort to the victim, but there is no love, concern, or compassion involved. The acts are perpetrated to fulfill the perpetrator's deviant needs.
6. All guilt / shame / dishonor / disgust / fault belongs with the perpetrator, and with complicit individuals who condoned or colluded to perpetuate these acts of molestation by keeping them in the dark.
7. Childhood sexual abuse survivors may become frozen, or compartmentalized, by the horrific, traumatic, assaults they experienced as children. If a childhood victim does not receive treatment within thirty days of the initial assault, the trauma can change brain chemistry leading the victim to experience post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.
8. Some of the PTSD symptoms victims may experience include intrusive thoughts, difficulty in distinguishing truth from fiction, hyper vigilance, increased levels of anxiety, fear, and panic, short- and long-term memory deficits, sleep disruption, and dissociative symptoms. These symptoms keep victims from moving on and living fulfilling lives. Tragically, without constructive intervention, many victims end their lives early, or attempt to self-medicate with alcohol and illicit drugs. This can lead to destructive addictions, further distancing a victim's capacity to address and to integrate the initial traumas.
9. The general steps survivors use to integrate past traumas, to shift from victims to survivors to thrivers, include:
A. Revealing secrets and fragments of one's person with licensed, trained and highly regarded / trusted trauma experts / professionals. Trust is a huge, if not the biggest, issue with survivors. Trust happens when one person knows he or she is safe with, and will be protected by, someone, or a group. They won't hurt the person when he or she is vulnerable. Predators exploit this trust and use feigned interest and phony gestures to confuse their victims. The goal in recovery is to combine all of one's parts to live as one whole, functional, person with the process to this outcome being assisted by trustworthy and competent counseling professionals.
B. Identify cognitive distortions - fears and criticisms cultivated by the perpetrator and the experience can undermine one's ability to live an autonomous and empowered life. Victims often inaccurately believe they are subservient and dependent on someone more powerful. Healthy survivors separate facts from opinions and live in the current moment, feeling empowered and in control of their destinies.
C. Identify deleterious behavior patterns (submissive or aggressive) fostered by these distortions by checking assumptions, perceptions, and mental models with reality and facts, by asking, “is this real or is this based on my fears, anxieties, confusion, frustration, or on my distorted need to control,” and then
D. Choose mindful, healthier, behaviors in the current moment, and more positive actions and outcomes with better plans in the present moment. It is important for survivors to recognize the source of their actions, so they can consciously choose better actions. The better outcomes foster better actions and the constructive and positive behavior cycle grows stronger.
E. Integrate one's healthy sense of self with other healthier people to maintain an integrated, whole, functional, mature perspective surround oneself with positive, honest, selfless, self-critical and truth seeking people who prioritize focusing on what's right, and not what's wrong, with others and who attack problems and not people.
When needed, a combination of talk therapy and prescription medicines can return survivors to stabilized brain chemical levels, rational thoughts, and a sense of wellbeing.
The reactions to childhood sexual abuse are learned as coping tools when the victim is a child. They are often ineffective and may seem hard to break. These traumas may also alter normal brain chemistry and distort the capacity for rational thought. These coping reactions can be relearned and corrected, leading survivors to happy and fulfilling lives. Childhood sexual assault wasn't your fault, you're not alone, healing is possible, and it's never too late to heal. May peace and goodness and love be with you on your journey to joy and peace.