Healing From Sexual Abuse

The following is an excerpt from an L.D.S. talk given by Chieko N. Okazaki entitled, “Healing From Sexual Abuse.” To read the complete talk, go to http://www.byub.org/talks/Talk.aspx?id=1136.

“Sexual abuse is a problem for all of us, both men and women, whether we have experienced it personally or not. The most conservative statistic I have heard is that one woman in ten is sexually abused before she is eighteen. The worst I have heard is that the figure is closer to one in three. One in three. A comparable statistic for the sexual abuse of boys is one in ten, and researchers feel that the sexual abuse of boys is even more severely underreported than the sexual abuse of girls.”
“Now think about the worst statistics: one in three. If you are a woman, it means that you have a 33 percent chance of being that woman. If you are a man, it means that your wife, your mother, or your daughter, may be that woman. If you have three daughters, if you have three sisters, if you have three daughters-in-law, if you have three granddaughters, this terrible evil could have entered your family’s life with or without your knowledge. Consider the men in your life. Think about your sons and grandsons, your missionary companions. Did one of them struggle silently with this spiritual burden? . . . the statistical odds are that one of them bore this grievous, invisible wound. . . . Sexual abuse is a problem for all . . . women and all . . . men everywhere.”

A Poor Marriage Risk

Author Unknown

Picture, if you will, a lovely couple as they kneel at the altar in the temple, their hearts pounding with excitement as they hold each other by the right hand and listen as the officiator marries them for time and all eternity. Thereafter, they softly tell each other of their enduring love in words they’ve written themselves. Who could know that in just two short years they would be thousands of miles apart, separated by bitterness, hatred and divorce? As an attorney, I see this happening all too often. Divorces are surging all over the United States. Including those in the LDS culture.

Young ladies, how can you avoid what I have just described to you? The fact is that most of you enter into marriage with less thought given to the building materials of a good marriage than you put into the building materials of a fence around your house. Building a solid marriage is a tough task, but you can test the strength and durability of the materials before your marriage construction begins. But, you say, that will take the romance out of the courtship and marriage! No, but what it will do is make sure the love, warmth and understanding are kept alive and that your marriage has the best possible chance of enduring the strains and stresses of living in a time when so many other marriages are tragically cracking apart. What I’d like to do here today is help you know where to look and how to interpret what you see. The plain fact of the matter is–certain types of young men are very poor marriage risks. Please, don’t slide into matrimony along a path of moonbeams and stardust alone. If you do, you’ll be in for a painful awakening.

May I show you what attorneys, marriage counselors, bishops and other church leaders have found to be the characteristics in a young man, which constitute a poor marriage risk and almost always dooms a relationship to failure?

1. The boy who has continuing conflict with his own family. If he is surly and disrespectful to his parents, his brothers and sisters and others in his family, you can bet that when the romantic glow wears off, he will act the same way toward you. How do you spot this type of person? Does he treat his family with consideration and respect or does he show little affection to them? Does he share the home tasks with the realization that he must pull his own weight? If he doesn’t, he is a terrible marriage risk!

2. The Jealous Type. Does the boy always demand to know where you’ve been and whom you’ve seen when you weren’t with him? Does he ever make up stories to trap you into “confessing?” And, do you rationalize this away by saying, “Well, it really proves he loves me?” You are on dangerous ground. The girl who marries a boy afflicted with an abnormal jealousy is buying herself a lot of grief. She’ll find herself involved in bad emotional scenes; she’ll find she’s forced to defend herself constantly against unwarranted accusations and it will make it difficult for her to maintain her identity as a person. Excessive, unjust jealousy is a persecuting emotion that can torture a woman.

3. The boy who can’t handle money. Is he always broke? Does he have to borrow money from friends? Does he have a savings account? If he’s unable to budget or live within his means as a youth, the chances are high that he won’t do any better as an adult, in fact, he could become worse.

4. The boy with the “I” complex. Does he constantly steer the conversation to himself and his plans and problems? When you go out, do you always end up going where he wants to go? If you talk to him about an incident that involves you and your feelings, does he respond with empathy or does he just appear to listen with one ear without showing you that he really knows how you feel or that he really wants to know how you feel? That kind of man will make a lousy husband. A wife to such a man will merely be an appendage to him. He will be involved in is own aims and personal needs and rarely hers.

5. The “super rebel.” While a little bit of youthful rebellion is common, the super rebel goes off the deep end. People like him want the world to change instead of changing himself. These individuals are unable to tolerate any restriction on their behavior and actions. They resist any sort of authority or control; they are constantly battling the system. the super rebel will be job-hopping from one job to another as he quarrels with bosses and co-workers. He may also get into trouble with the law as he violates traffic rules or worse.

6. The opposite one. The old saying that “opposites attract” overlooks the fact that the attraction between opposites is usually based on friction. Friction may lead to excitement during courtship, but in every day living it degenerates into two people rubbing each other the wrong way. Compatibility between extremely different personality types is very rare. Life with this type of person would be a constant friction and end in unhappiness.

7. The boy who has many acquaintances but no close friends. The inability to develop lasting relationships with friends should be a red flag to a girl. It tends to show, that despite achievement and even brilliance in other areas, a young man may not be able to develop a close relationship with a wife either.

8. The boy with a short fuse or bad temper. There is nothing masculine or manly about a bad temper. A bad temper is nothing more or less than a sign of emotional immaturity. This type of person demands instant gratification. When he doesn’t get it his own way, look out! Watch for the young a man who flies frequently into rages and gets into fights with his friends and others. The chances are very good he will treat you the same way. In fact, if you are having frequent fights with him during the courtship, that will not improve after marriage–it will only get worse!

I’ve said a great deal about the characteristics you should watch out for, now let’s talk a little bit about the characteristics you should expect in a lifelong companion.

1. He should not have any of the eight characteristics that I’ve already described to any significant degree.
2. He should be as much like you as possible. You should have similar backgrounds, a common religion and life goals that are the same. In other words, marry someone with as few differences as possible.
3. He should be able to communicate. Many experts consider the ability to talk about feelings and problems as the prime factor in developing a healthy marriage. Be very cautious about a young man, who early in any conversation, gets angry and refuses to talk as soon as he sees it is not going his way.
4. He should stimulate you intellectually and spiritually, helping you to think, analyze and discover.
5. He should be tolerant, willing to listen to logical arguments and change an opinion or attitude if shown to be wrong.
6. He should be considerate of your feelings.
7. He should be able to provide adequate financial security.
8. He should attract you physically.
9. He should understand that the fact that he is called to “preside” over the family, does not make hm the “boss.” His calling to be a husband and father is a priesthood calling and the Doctrine & Covenants makes it clear in Section 121: 39-45 that he is not authorized to preside in any way except through persuasion, long suffering, gentleness, meekness, love unfeigned, kindness, pure knowledge, without hypocrisy, without guile, and with charity.

The last thing in the world I want to do is try to dictate what you should do and whom you should marry. If I did, you would not listen anyway. I do hope, however, that you will realize that there are those with experience and wisdom superior to yours and that with a little attention and consideration of them, they can help you avoid a lifetime of unhappiness. There is nothing on this earth that can fill you with the unspeakable joy, happiness, love and fulfillment, of a good marriage. On the other hand, there is nothing in this life that can make you more miserable, and fill you with more despair and frustration, than an unhappy marriage.

Why Some Women Stay

This is a powerful perspective on why some women stay, at least for a while, with a verbal abuser. Of course, there are other reasons; most commonly, it is to protect the children from being alone with a rager. The story that follows adds so much to understanding the fear people feel in the presence of irrational behavior, i.e., verbal abuse.

A beautiful young woman, not yet 30 called me crying from fear. “Does being so afraid to leave prove that I am really, really abused,” she asked.

She was braving the freezing winter winds and eminent snow to get away while her abusive husband was not around. This was her window of opportunity. After talking with her a few minutes, I realized the verbal abuseshe endured was truly horrific. To just call it extreme would be downplaying her experience. In those few minutes, I also realized how very smart, articulate and amazing she was. I asked her, “Would you some day, send me a note about what you just told me? I know it will help others to understand the fear the craziness generates.

In the middle of the night, safely ensconced in a cozy and secret place, she sent me the following email, to help others.

“For those who compare living with a verbal abuser to being a Prisoner of War, I can tell you that it’s not even close. Being a Prisoner of War is actually easier. At least, when you are a Prisoner of War, you are taken against your will. You KNOW that you are living with the enemy. You KNOW that they are lying to you. You KNOW that they are feeding you propaganda, and you can mentally fight it. Verbal abusers are far more sinister because they befriend you, win your heart, and gain your trust. I have never been a P.O.W., but I have been to war. I have fallen asleep to the sound of machine gun fire each night. I have worked in buildings peppered with holes from mortar rounds. I have walked through mine fields. I have been trained to keep my wits during terrorist attacks. But, leaving the man, that I believed was my soul-mate, is BY FAR the scariest thing that I have ever done! –Veteran, US Air Force

Yes, she had been in the Air Force, had slept under fire, and she is quite brave. I’ll always remember that everyone has his or her own time to stay or go. Sharing this message is one way to promote understanding throughout the world.

Taken from a newsletter done by Patricia Evans, www.verbalabuse.com.

Child's Safety Plan

(Taken from UDVC Live Basic DV Training, Family Dynamics)

When people are fighting remember to be SAFE:

  1. Stay out of the fight
  2. Ask for help
  3. Find an adult who will help you
  4. Everyone knows it is not your fault

What can I do to be safe?

Where can I go to be safe?

These are the safe exits from my house:

Who are my safe people I can talk to about my problem?

Practice calling 911 . . .

My name is ________________.

I am ____ years old.

I need help. Someone is hurting my mom.

I live at __________________________.

The phone number here is __________________.

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Physical Child Abuse:

Bite marks, cuts, bruises, welts in the shape of an object, resistance to going home, fear of adults, defense wounds, apathy, depression, difficulty concentrating.

Some Signs of Neglect:

Wearing clothing unsuited to weather, being dirty or unbathed, extreme hunger, apparent lack of supervision.

Signs and Symptoms of Child Sexual Abuse:

· Adults who spend unusual amounts of time with your child. Eighty percent of all suspects are known to the victim (i.e. family member, neighbor, friend)
· Withdrawal
· Rashes or itching in genital areas
· Acting out, runaway, aggressive behavior
· Fearful of certain places, things, or people
· Sudden acquisition of money, new clothes, or gifts with no reasonable explanation
· Interest and/or knowledge of sexual acts and language inappropriate to the child’s age
· Clinical depression, apathy
· Frequent urinary infections
· Wetting or soiling pants or bed
· Sleeping problems such as nightmares
· Unexplained stomach aches, headaches
· School problems, frequent absences, sudden drop in school performance
· Diagnosis of genital warts
· Exceptional secrecy
· Shy or uneasy with opposite sex
· Fear of bathroom or shower
· Attempts at touching adults’, children’s, or animals’ genitals
· Reluctance to undress
· Avoidance of touch
· Violence or aggression against younger children
· Compulsive, indiscreet masturbation
· Suicide attempt or self-mutilation
· Dresses self with more layers of clothing than weather dictates
· Combination of violence and sexuality in art work, written work, language or play
· Crying without provocation
(Taken from the Utah County Crimes Task Force)

Some long-term symptoms and warning signs of possible sexual abuse:

· Feeling that you are in the way.
· A tendency to over apologize and be overly solicitous to the point of making others angry.
· Feeling that you are stupid, a failure, a loser.
· Guilt feelings and feelings of shame.
· Tendency to blame yourself for whatever goes wrong.
· Inability to complete tasks.
· A tendency to sabotage success. (Victims often do not believe they deserve good things.)
· Tendency to be victimized by others.
· Feelings of helplessness.
· Difficulty trusting others.
· Being distant, aloof.
· Tendency to be involved with destructive people who abuse you physically, verbally, emotionally, or sexually.
· Lack of empathy or concern for others.
· A deep sense of isolation.
· Difficulty with physical affection.
· Secrecy, evasiveness, and tendency to withhold information from others.
· A tendency to “give yourself away,” including helping others so much that you become exhausted.
· Difficulties with authority figures.
· Difficulty communicating desires, thoughts, and feelings to others.
· Difficulty receiving from others.
· Intense anger and rage that sometimes burst our unexpectedly.
· Mood swings, ranging from deep depression to an overactive, manic state.
· Chronic depression, resulting in sleeping too much and feeling apathetic, lethargic, hopeless, and even suicidal.
· Dissociation, “splitting off” from oneself that probably started as a protection from the pain and devastation of the sexual abuse.
· Extreme fears or phobias.
· Sleep disturbances.
· Addiction to food, alcohol, or drugs.
· Obsessive/compulsive behavior.
· Eating disorders.
· Flashbacks, hallucinations.
· Abusive behavior.
· Self-destructive behavior.
· Somatic symptoms.
· Tendency to be accident-prone.

(Taken from The Right to Innocence: Healing the Trauma of Childhood Sexual Abuse by Beverly Engel, M.F.C.C., pages 25-32.)

*Keep in mind that most victims do not suffer from all of these symptoms. Also, suffering from one or a few of these symptoms does not mean that you have been a victim of sexual abuse, but it may be something for you to consider.