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Question
Posted by: anon | 2010/06/13

past

I was raped repetitively by an older man when I was 11 years old. I was too ashamed to speak out. I can''t remember how long it went on for (about a year) and it is not something that consumes or bothers me now. I am married with 2 children. I have never been comfortable with my own body and I am not confident sexually but I think this has more to do with my upbringing than the past trauma. Would a past like that almost certainly leave behavioural scars/pathology or could I be quite correct in maintaining that it is something that no longer has much hold on me? Seems a silly thing to ask but believe me I have good reason for asking it.

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberShrink

So sorry to hear about this, a. Such an experience is overwhelming for any child, and abusers often seem skillful at making their victim feel guilty and thus to keep the secret.
Working with people who have a range of complaints, including some who were abused as children, we find that some seem to grow up remarkably unscathed by the experience, while others are plagued by memories of it.
Lack of confidence sexually, and discomfort with your own body is reported by some people who were previously abused, but of course, as you say, also it is experienced by many people who had a more secually constricted family upbringing.
Probably a more common mode of reaction tto such earlier abuse is the opposite, someone who may be rather sexually promiscuous, as though they had been lead to believe that only by being sexually active could they deserve the attention of others.
What you ask is by no means even remotely silly, but actually perceptive and important.
When something as substantial and wrong as this occurs to someone, it is easy to think of blaming it for any later issues or symptoms, but the range in both the number of symptoms and their various types, in people who have been abused earlier in life, is far larger than most folks assume, and some who have definitely documented earlier abuse grow to be healthy and happy people. Pathology is possible, not required or compulsory.
If one is unhappy in any way, of course, a good assessment and advice from a broad-minded shrink can be really useful.

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Our users say:
Posted by: cybershrink | 2010/06/14

So sorry to hear about this, a. Such an experience is overwhelming for any child, and abusers often seem skillful at making their victim feel guilty and thus to keep the secret.
Working with people who have a range of complaints, including some who were abused as children, we find that some seem to grow up remarkably unscathed by the experience, while others are plagued by memories of it.
Lack of confidence sexually, and discomfort with your own body is reported by some people who were previously abused, but of course, as you say, also it is experienced by many people who had a more secually constricted family upbringing.
Probably a more common mode of reaction tto such earlier abuse is the opposite, someone who may be rather sexually promiscuous, as though they had been lead to believe that only by being sexually active could they deserve the attention of others.
What you ask is by no means even remotely silly, but actually perceptive and important.
When something as substantial and wrong as this occurs to someone, it is easy to think of blaming it for any later issues or symptoms, but the range in both the number of symptoms and their various types, in people who have been abused earlier in life, is far larger than most folks assume, and some who have definitely documented earlier abuse grow to be healthy and happy people. Pathology is possible, not required or compulsory.
If one is unhappy in any way, of course, a good assessment and advice from a broad-minded shrink can be really useful.

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