Child Abuse or Normal Behavior?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

When i was about five i started masturbating in private and also in inappropriate places.This became a daily habit.In elementary school i became violent towards other kids.I also began passing out frequently and was told it was a psychological reaction to anger or anxiety.I’m twenty now and have gotten over this psychological reaction and child violent behavior but i’m worried i may have been sexually abused in my early childhood.How can i find out whether i have been sexually abused or not and is there another explanation to this?

A. I have worked with clients with a similar set of circumstances. Some of them had been sexually abused and some of them had not been sexually abused. One child in particular was diagnosed with a stereotypic movement disorder, sometimes referred to as a habit disorder. Stereotypies are repetitive, purposeless movements. Masturbation, in that case, was ultimately determined to be a repetitive habit or a compulsion, and not the result of sexual abuse.

Sexual abuse is a possibility but it isn’t the only possibility. Your anxiety, anger and violent behavior may have been a reaction to a chaotic home environment or the result of other childhood traumas. Masturbation may have been a self-soothing mechanism, your way of dealing with stress.

Some people undergo hypnosis to uncover past memories but there is no guarantee that it will work. You may also want to consider researching memory exercises which could help you to uncover new information.

Sometimes, people remember childhood abuse through their dreams but this is not something you can force. We can’t control our dreams. Even if you were sexually abused, you may never dream about it.

The reality is that you may never know if you were sexually abused. While scientific research has helped us to better understand memory, there is still a great deal that we don’t know. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle
Mental Health & Criminal Justice Blog

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 13 Aug 2013

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2013). Child Abuse or Normal Behavior?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2013/08/13/child-abuse-or-normal-behavior/