Was I Sexually Abused?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

When I was 6 my brothers friend and i would build blanket tents and play under them. He started touching me and putting my hand on his penis, i didn’t want to do it. He was 13 and i was 6, this went on for 4 years. I don’t know if this was sexual abuse because we were both minors. It has affected my life, i have trust issues, social anxiety and have been diagnosed with depression. I also have bipolar disorder but am not on any medication. I’ve been to therapists before, but i haven’t been able to talk to them and i dont really think it would help. I want to know if this was sexual abuse and any possible ways to get over my problems.

A. An individual twice your age coaxed you into explicit sexual touching for four years. You performed these acts against your will and it’s negatively impacted your life. This qualifies as sexual abuse.

You also asked about how you could decrease or eradicate the mental health disorders you currently have. You said that you have trust issues, social anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder. Some of these disorders may be directly related to the sexual abuse you’ve experienced. You also wrote that you’ve gone to therapists in the past but did not disclose the sexual abuse. My suggestion is that you reconsider therapy.

You may believe that because you’ve gone to therapy and didn’t find it helpful, that there is no use in trying again. If you think this way please know that it takes time to find a good therapist and you should absolutely try again. Not all therapists are created equal. Give it another chance.

When and if you decide to try therapy again you do not necessarily have to immediately disclose the fact that you were sexually abused. It’s always helpful to inform the therapist about your history (the more information the easier it is to help you) but you could wait until you’re confident that you’ve found a therapist you like and trust before you revealed your sexual abuse history. Keep in mind, however, that you can’t work to correct the problems the sexual abuse may have caused if you do not disclose the fact that it happened.

You have four serious mental health issues that are currently not being treated. These disorders need to be treated as soon as possible. They are interrupting your life and are causing you distress. You have a sexual abuse history you have yet to deal with and you suspect that experience is directly related to your current symptoms. These are all issues that could effectively be addressed by a good therapist if you are willing to try therapy again. Why wait to seek help? Waiting only means that you continue to suffer. This should not be an acceptable outcome. Thanks for writing.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 9 Mar 2009

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2009). Was I Sexually Abused?. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 20, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/03/09/was-i-sexually-abused-3/