EMDR — Transforming Stress and Trauma
• Enhancing Performance
Child Abuse Therapy and Treatment
Child abuse affects all races and ethnicities, all socioeconomic levels, all religions, and all ages. The wounds are deep, affecting body, mind, heart and soul, whether it happened yesterday, or decades ago. The most common types of abuse are:
- Neglect – The deprivation of adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care, nurturing attention, and watchfulness.
- Physical Abuse – Any non-accidental physical injury to a child, which can include striking, kicking, burning, biting, or any action that results in a physical impairment. Witnessing abuse of others is also traumatic.
- Sexual Abuse – Incest, rape, statutory rape, molestation, prostitution, and other forms of sexual exploitation of children.
- Emotional/Psychological Abuse – Injury to the psychological capacity or emotional stability of a child as evidenced by an observable change in behavior, emotional response, or cognition, such as anxiety, depression, withdrawal, or aggression. This always harms the trust in the relationship and, without treatment, makes trust difficult in the future.
According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway over 700,000 children were determined to be victims of abuse or neglect with well over a thousand deaths in 2007. It is alarming to know that children in their first year of life had the highest incidence of victimization. Though children are often taught to watch out for strangers, abuse is more commonly perpetrated by someone the child knows such as a family member, a family friend, or an older child or teenager. Neglect is indicated when a child wears unwashed, torn, or ill-fitting clothes; begs for food, steals food, or money; has health care withheld; and does not appear to have anyone at home to provide care.
Some symptoms common with sexual abuse include inappropriate, premature knowledge of sexual behaviors, nightmares, urinary or vaginal or anal injuries or infections, and bed-wetting or other incontinence problems. Other abuse-related symptoms include sudden changes in behavior, changes in sleeping or eating (a marked increase or decrease), appearing always watchful as if waiting for something bad to happen, over-compliance, passivity, or withdrawal, unexplained injuries (bruises, burns, bite marks, etc), unexplained or unusual pain, suicidal thoughts or gestures, self-harm, and drug or alcohol abuse. If a child reports abuse or it is observed, a call to your local Child Protective Service office (or Child Service Bureau) can initiate the path to safety and healing. It is essential to trust what a child says, as the trauma worsens when a child reaches out for help and is ignored or disbelieved. For some children, the pain of not being believed by a trusted person is worse than the pain of the abuse.
If you were abused as a child, and never got the safety you needed, you have our deepest sympathy and concern. We also want to give you hope. It is never to late to move toward healing and to get your needs better met in the present.
When you consult a therapist, keep in mind that all therapists are mandated reporters, which means that if the we know the identity of the child victim, potential victims or the perpetrator, we are required by law to report the incident to the Child Service Bureau or the Police.
When a child is abused, it is life-altering and sometimes fatal. For those who survive and are left untreated, child abuse can lead to problems with future relationships, anger, depression, PTSD, eating disorders, self-harming behaviors, addictions, delinquency, and abuse toward others.
There are many suggested therapies for treating child abuse, such as trauma therapy, play therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy. EMDR is also highly recommended. Nothing can erase the memories of the abuse, but EMDR can help your child make sense of the experience. It can release your child from feeling stuck or acting stuck in the trauma. Trauma therapies can assist your child to process the memories, learn coping skills, and increase confidence and self-esteem. And, they can learn that abuse is never the fault of a child. Though the mere telling of this truth will often have no effect, through trauma processing, children often come to this conclusion for themselves with profound positive effects.
Many victims of child abuse do not access therapy until adulthood. Perhaps their abuse was not discovered by a responsible adult. Perhaps the adult or the society did not know what to do about the abuse, which left the child feeling worse. Child abuse is an unfortunate and harmful experience that does happen in our society to at least 25% of our population.
With support and guidance, children, adult victims of abuse, and their families can heal and move forward to live healthy and fruitful lives. The good news is that it is never too late to have a happy childhood. How can that be? EMDR therapists have lovely ways of integrating visualization techniques into EMDR processing that can profoundly meet the unmet needs of childhood. We understand this is hard to believe until you experience it. So, please, do call one of our specialists and experience it soon!