Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Assault

Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Assault

CAVEAT: The following descriptions are meant to serve as a general guideline for how a victim of sexual assault might react in a time of pain or crisis. It is important to recognize, however, that each victim of sexual assault will have his or her own life experiences and personality that will influence how he or she react to the assault.

Reactions

There are many reactions that survivors of rape and sexual assault can have. But for adult survivors of childhood abuse there are reactions that may either be different or stronger than for other survivors. These include:

Setting Limits/Boundaries
  • Because your personal boundaries were invaded when you were young by someone you trusted and depended on, you may have trouble understanding that you have the right to control what happens to you.
Memories/Flashbacks
  • Like many survivors, you may experience flashbacks.
Anger
  • This is often the most difficult emotion for an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse to get in touch with.
  • As a child your anger was powerless and had little to no effect on the actions of your abuser. For this reason you may not feel confident that you anger will be useful or helpful.
Grieving/Mourning
  • Being abused as a child means the loss of many things- childhood experiences, trust, innocence, normal relationship with family members (especially if the abuser was a family member).
    • You must be allowed to name those losses, grieve them, and then bury them.
Guilt, Shame, and Blame
  • You may carry a lot of guilt because you may have experienced pleasure or because you did not try to stop the abuse.
  • There may have been silence surrounding the abuse that led to feelings of shame.
  • It is important for you to understand that it was the adult who abused his/her position of authority and should be held accountable, not you.
Trust
  • Learning to trust again may be very difficult for you.
  • You may find that you go from one extreme to the other, not trusting at all to trusting too much.
Coping Skills
  • You have undoubtedly developed skills in order to cope with the trauma.
    • Some of these are healthy (possibly separating yourself from family members, seeking out counseling, etc.)
    • Some are not (drinking or drug abuse, promiscuous sexual activity, etc.)
Self-esteem/Isolation
  • Low self-esteem is a result of all of the negative messages you received and internalized from your abusers.
  • Because entering into an intimate relationship involves trust, respect, love, and the ability to share, you may flee from intimacy or hold on too tightly for fear of losing the relationship.
Sexuality
  • You likely have to deal with the fact that your first initiation into sex came as a result of sexual abuse.
  • You may experience the return of body memories while engaging in a sexual activity with another person. Such memories may interfere in your ability to engage in sexual relationships which may leave you feeling frightened, frustrated, or ashamed.

Reference
This section was adapted from materials provided by the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault.

Domestic Violence Intervention Program (powerpoint slides)

  • Duluth Model
    • The Duluth Model engages legal systems and human service agencies to create a distinctive form of organized public responses to domestic violence. It is characterized by:
      • Clearly identifyable and largely shared assumptions and theories about the source of battering and the effective means to deter it
      • Empirically tested intervention strategies that build saftey and accountability  into all elements of the infrastructure of processing cases of violence
      • Well-defined methods of inter-agency cooperation guided by advocacy programs.
  • The Power and Control Wheel is a visual tool used to recognize and identify abusive behavior
  • The Power and Control WheelPower and Control
    • Abusers believe they have a right to control their partners by:
      • Telling them what to do and expecting obedience
      • Using force to maintain power and control over partners
      • Feeling their partners have no right to challenge their desire for power and control
      • Feeling justified in making the victim comply
      • Blaming the abuse on the partner and not accepting responsibility for wrongful acts.
      • The characteristics shown in the wheel are examples of how the this power and control are demonstrated and enacted against the victim.
  • Men Batter
    • Because they can and we let them!
    • Because they believe they can
    • Because they want what they what when they want it
    • To stop her from doing something or to get her to do something
    • Simply to Revel in Dominance over her!
  • Battering is a CHOICE
    • Battering is NOT caused by mental illness, genetics, or substance abuse, stress, or problems within the relationship
  • The Equality Wheel
    • The Equality WheelEquality is at the center, the axle of the wheel. Non-violence is the rim of the wheel, holding it all together. The spokes are:
      • NEGOTIATION AND FAIRNESS: Seeking mutually satisfying resolutions to conflict. Accepting
        changes. Being willing to compromise.
      • NON-THREATENING BEHAVIOR: Talking and acting so that she feels safe and comfortable expressing herself and doing things.
      • RESPECT: Listening to her non-judgmentally. Being emotionally affirming and understanding. Valuing her opinions.
      • TRUST AND SUPPORT: Supporting her goals in life. Respecting her right to her own feelings,
        friends, activities, and opinions.
      • HONESTY AND ACCOUNTABILITY: Accepting responsibility for self. Acknowledging past use
        of violence. Admitting being wrong. Communicating openly and truthfully.
      • RESPONSIBLE PARENTING: Sharing parental responsibilities. Being a positive, nonviolent role
        model for the children.
      • SHARED RESPONSIBILITY: Mutually agreeing on a fair distribution of work. Making family decisions together.
      • ECONOMIC PARTNERSHIP: Making money decisions together. Making sure both partners benefit
        from financial arrangements.
  • Nonviolence
    • Conflict Resolution
    • Learning to be accountable
    • Learning to take ownership
    • Eliminating male privilege
  • The goal of DVIP is for the Batterer to:
    • Acknowledge that they have assaulted, abused, and controlled their partner.
    • Acknowledge they battered by committing specific acts of violence and used patterns of coercive control.
    • Understand that their battering is build on a foundation of male privilege which they took advantage of their communities pervasive oppression of women.
    • They were NOT provoked.
    • Their behavior was NOT caused by stress, childhood trauma, jealousy, intoxication, drug or alcohol problems or addiction, bad relationships, loss of control, bad temper, family history of violence, ANYTHING SHE DID or any other myth, justification, or excuse.
    • Their battering is inexcusable.
    • They made a CHOICE to batter their partner and they alone are responsible for their actions.
    • They can choose to be non-abusive.

 

Domestic Violence Power and Control Wheel

The Power and Control Wheel was developed from the experience of battered women in Duluth who had been abused by their male partners. It has been translated into over 40 languages and has resonated with the experience of battered women world-wide. (http://www.theduluthmodel.org/wheelgallery.php)

The Power and Control Wheel

Using intimidation: making her afraid by using looks, actions, gestures, smashing things, destroying her property, abusing pets, displaying weapons.

Using emotional abuse: putting her down, making her feel bad about herself, calling her names, making her think she’s crazy, playing mind games, humiliating her, making her feel guilty.

Using isolation: controlling what she does, who she sees and talks to, what she reads, where she goes, limiting her outside involvement, using jealousy to justify actions.

Minimizing, denying, and blaming: making light of the abuse and not taking her concerns about it seriously, saying the abuse didn’t happen, shifting responsibility for abusive behavior, saying she caused it.

Using children: making her feel guilty about the children, using the children to relay messages, using visitation to harass her, threatening to take children away.

Using male privilege: treating her like a servant, making all the big decisions, acting like the “master of the castle”, being the one to define men’s and women’s roles.

Using economic abuse: preventing her from getting or keeping a job, making her ask for money, giving her an allowance, taking her money, not letting her know about or have access to family income.

Using coercion and threats: making and/or carrying out threats to hurt her, threatening to leave her, to commit suicide, to report her to welfare, making her drop charges, making her do illegal things.

FAQs about the Wheels (from http://www.theduluthmodel.org/wheelgallery.php)
Why was the Power and Control Wheel created?
In 1984, staff at the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project (DAIP) began developing curricula for groups for men who batter and victims of domestic violence. We wanted a way to describe battering for victims, offenders, practitioners in the criminal justice system and the general public. Over several months, we convened focus groups of women who had been battered. We listened to heart-wrenching stories of violence, terror and survival. After listening to these stories and asking questions, we documented the most common abusive behaviors or tactics that were used against these women. The tactics chosen for the wheel were those that were most universally experienced by battered women.

Why did you call it the Power and Control Wheel?
Battering is one form of domestic or intimate partner violence. It is characterized by the pattern of actions that an individual uses to intentionally control or dominate his intimate partner. That is why the words “power and control” are in the center of the wheel. A batterer systematically uses threats, intimidation, and coercion to instill fear in his partner. These behaviors are the spokes of the wheel. Physical and sexual violence holds it all together—this violence is the rim of the wheel.

Why isn’t the Power and Control Wheel gender neutral?
The Power and Control Wheel represents the lived experience of women who live with a man who beats them. It does not attempt to give a broad understanding of all violence in the home or community but instead offers a more precise explanation of the tactics men use to batter women. We keep our focus on women’s experience because the battering of women by men continues to be a significant social problem–men commit 86 to 97 percent of all criminal assaults and women are killed 3.5 times more often than men in domestic homicides1.

When women use violence in an intimate relationship, the context of that violence tends to differ from men. First, men’s use of violence against women is learned and reinforced through many social, cultural and institutional avenues, while women’s use of violence does not have the same kind of societal support. Secondly, many women who do use violence against their male partners are being battered. Their violence is primarily used to respond to and resist the controlling violence being used against them. On the societal level, women’s violence against men has a trivial effect on men compared to the devastating effect of men’s violence against women.

Battering in same-sex intimate relationships has many of the same characteristics of battering in heterosexual relationships, but happens within the context of the larger societal oppression of same-sex couples. Resources that describe same-sex domestic violence have been developed by specialists in that field such as The Northwest Network of Bi, Trans, Lesbian and Gay Survivors of Abuse, www.nwnetwork.org

Making the Power and Control Wheel gender neutral would hide the power imbalances in relationships between men and women that reflect power imbalances in society. By naming the power differences, we can more clearly provide advocacy and support for victims, accountability and opportunities for change for offenders, and system and societal changes that end violence against women.

The wheel makes the pattern, intent and impact of violence visible.

Introduction to Domestic Violence (PowerPoint Notes)

  • Introduction to Domestic Violence
  • Domestic Violence: Domestic violence is a pattern of controlling behaviors carried out by one person in an intimate relationship to maintain power and control over their partner.
    Partners may be married or not married; heterosexual, gay or lesbian; living together, separated or dating.  Violence takes many forms and can happen all the time or once in a while.  Abuse is not an accident.  It does not happen because someone was stressed out, drinking, or using drugs.  Abusers have learned to abuse, using their power to get what they want.  The abuse may be physical, sexual, emotional, economic and psychological.
  • “Domestic violence is a pattern of controlling behaviors, some of which are criminal, that includes but is not limited to physical assaults, sexual assaults, emotional abuse, isolation, economic coercion, threats, stalking and intimidation.  These behaviors are used by the batterer in an effort to control the intimate partner.  The behavior may be directed at others with the effect of controlling the intimate partner.”  Batterer Intervention Standards for the State of Michigan, 4.1 (January 20, 1999).*

    Battering is a choice, it is used by one person in an intimate partner relationship to maintain power and control over their partner.
  • Domestic violence crosses all ethnic, racial, age, national origin, sexual orientation, religious, and socioeconomic lines. Domestic violence can happen to anybody.  In fact, studies suggest that one-fifth to one-third of all women will be physically assaulted by a partner or ex-partner during their lifetime.  In heterosexual relationships, 95 percent of all victims are female; and 95 percent of all perpetrators are male.  In same-sex relationships, domestic violence happens with the same statistical frequency as in heterosexual relationships.

    Women living in poverty experience violence by their partners at higher rates partially because they have fewer options.  (Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence).
  • Domestic Violence Victims (Survivors)
    Anyone can be a victim!  Victims can be any age, sex, race, culture, religion, education, employment or marital status.  Although both men and women can be abused, most victims are women.  Children in homes where there is domestic violence are more likely to be abused and/or neglected.  Most children in these homes know about violence.  Even if a child is not physically harmed, they may have emotional and behavioral problems.  NO ONE DESERVES TO BE ABUSED.  THE ONLY PERSON RESPONSIBLE FOR ABUSE IS THE ABUSER.
  • Domestic Abusers
    There is no “typical” abuser.  In public, they may appear friendly and loving to their partner and family.  They often only abuse behind closed doors.  They also try to hide the abuse by causing injuries that can be hidden and do not need medical attention.  Abusers often have low self-esteem.  They do not take responsibility for their actions.  They often blame the victim for causing the violence.  In most cases, men abuse female victims.
  • Survivor vs. Victim
    We use the term “survivor” due to our emphasis on empowerment advocacy.  This happens when the advocate offers support, resources, advocacy, information and education.
    This is a way of recognizing strength, courage and survival strategies of domestic violence and sexual assault survivors.
    Not all women who have experienced domestic or sexual violence see themselves as “survivors.”  Remember: Domestic violence and sexual assault is something that happens to individuals, it does not define who they are.
    MCADSV New Service Provider Training Manual and Resource Guide (May 2006).
  • We are a ‘movement’ and our work is different than that of traditional social services in that
    we:
    –Focus on survivors’ strengths
    –Do not believe we are the “experts”
    –Are survivor-driven not service-driven
    –Understand that violence could happen to any of us
    –Are non-directive in our approach to working with survivors
    Instead of viewing victims/survivors as “sick” or pathological, we believe that survivors are simply reacting in adaptive ways to oppressive societal conditions, restrictive sex roles, and the abusive
    intimate partners in their lives.
  • Power and Control Violence can be both Physical & Sexual
    •Intimidation
    •Emotional abuse
    •Isolation
    •Minimizing, Denying, and Blaming
    •Using Children
    •Economic Abuse
    •Male Privilege
    •Coercion & Threats
  • Using intimidation: making her afraid by using looks, actions, gestures, smashing things, destroying her property, abusing pets, displaying weapons.Using emotional abuse: putting her down, making her feel bad about herself, calling her names, making her think she’s crazy, playing mind games, humiliating her, making her feel guilty.Using isolation: controlling what she does, who she sees and talks to, what she reads, where she goes, limiting her outside involvement, using jealousy to justify actions.

    Minimizing, denying, and blaming: making light of the abuse and not taking her concerns about it seriously, saying the abuse didn’t happen, shifting responsibility for abusive behavior, saying she caused it.

    Using children: making her feel guilty about the children, using the children to relay messages, using visitation to harass her, threatening to take children away.

    Using male privilege: treating her like a servant, making all the big decisions, acting like the “master of the castle”, being the one to define men’s and women’s roles.

    Using economic abuse: preventing her from getting or keeping a job, making her ask for money, giving her an allowance, taking her money, not letting her know about or have access to family income.

    Using coercion and threats: making and/or carrying out threats to hurt her, threatening to leave her, to commit suicide, to report her to welfare, making her drop charges, making her do illegal things.

  • Why Women Stay
    The Barriers to Leaving
    One of the most frustrating things for people outside a battering relationship is trying to understand why a woman doesn’t just leave.  The most important thing to keep in mind is that extreme emotional abuse is always present in domestic violence situations.  On average, an abused woman will leave her partner 6-8 times.  The reasons they return or stay in the relationship vary from case to case.  Some of these include:
  • Situational Factors
    Economic dependence.  How can she support herself and the children?
    Fear of greater physical danger to herself and her children if they try to leave.
    Fear of being hunted down and suffering a worse beating than before.
    Survival.  Fear that her partner will follow her and kill her if she leaves, often based on real threats by her partner.
    Fear of emotional damage to the children.
    Fear of losing custody of the children, often based on her partner’s remarks.
    Lack of alternative housing; she has nowhere else to go.
    Lack of job skills; she might not be able to get a job.
    Social Isolation resulting in lack of support from family and friends.
    Social Isolation resulting in lack of information about her alternatives.
    Lack of Understanding from family, friends, police, ministers, etc.

    Negative Responses from community, police, courts, social workers, etc.

    Fear of involvement in the court process; she may have had bad experiences before
    Fear of the unknown.  “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.”
    Fear of ambivalence over making formidable life changes.
    •“Acceptable Violence.”  The violence escalates slowly over time.  Living with constant abuse numbs the victim so that she is unable to recognize that she is involved in a set pattern of abuse.
    Ties to the Community.  The children would have to leave their school; she would have to leave all her friends and neighbors behind, etc.  For some women it would be like being in the Witness Protection program-she could never have any contact with her old life.
    Ties to her home and belongings.
    Family Pressure; because Mom always said, “I told you it wouldn’t work out” or “You made your bed, now sleep in it.”
    Fear of her abuser doing something to get her (report her to welfare, call her workplace, etc.).
    Time needed to plan and prepare to leave.
  • Emotional Factors
    Insecurity about being alone, on her own; she’s afraid she can’t cope with home and children by herself.
    Loyalty. “He’s sick; if he had a broken leg or cancer-I would stay.  This is no different.”
    Pity. He’s worse off than she is; she feels sorry for him.
    Wanting to help. “If I stay I can help him get better.”
    Fear that he will commit suicide if she leaves (often he’s told her this).
    Denial.  “It’s really not that bad.  Other people have it worse.”
    Love. Often, the abuser is quite loving and lovable when he is not being abusive.
    Love, especially during the “honeymoon” stage; she remembers what he used to be like.
    Guilt. She believes-and her partner and the other significant others are quick to agree-that their problems are her fault.
    Shame and Humiliation in front of the community.  “I don’t want anyone else to know.”
    Unfounded Optimism that things will get better, despite all evidence to the contrary
    •Learned Helplessness. Trying every possible method to change something in our environment, but with no success, so that we eventually expect to fail. Feeling helpless is a war, people taken hostage, people living in poverty who cannot get work, etc.
    •False Hope. “He’s starting to do things I’ve been asking for.” (counseling, anger management, things she sees as a chance of improvement).
    •Guilt. She believes that the violence is caused through some inadequacy of her own (she is often told this); feels as though she deserves it for failing.
    •Responsibility. She feels as though she only needs to meet some set of vague expectations in order to earn the abuser’s approval.
    •Insecurity over her potential independence and lack of emotional support.
    •Guilt about the failure of the marriage/relationship.
    •Demolished Self-Esteem. “I thought I was too (fat, stupid, ugly, whatever he’s been calling her) to leave.
    •Lack of emotional support-she feels like she’s doing this on her own and it’s just too much.
    •Simple Exhaustion. She’s just too tired and worn out from the abuse to leave.
  • Personal Beliefs
    Parenting, needing a partner for the kids.  “A crazy father is better than none at all.”
    Religious and Extended Family Pressure to keep the family together no matter what.
    Duty. “I swore to stay married till death do us part.”
    Responsibility. It is up to her to work things out and save the relationship.
    Belief in the American dream of growing up and living happily ever after.
    Identity. Women are raised to feel they need a partner-even an abusive one-in order to be complete or accepted by society.
    Belief that marriage if forever.
    Belief that violence is the way all partners relate (often this woman has come from a violent childhood).
    Religious and Cultural Beliefs.
  • Myths and Facts
    Why do domestic violence perpetrators do what they do?
    Commonly held misconceptions about why batterers batter
    –Alcohol and/or drugs cause the violence
    –Stress causes the violence
    –Uncontrollable anger
    –The batterer witnessed his father abusing his mother
  • Factors that increase the likelihood of male violence against women
    •Ideology of familial patriarchy
    •Male peer support
    •Alcohol consumption/use
    •Exposure to pornographic media
    •Hold rigid sex role stereotypes
  • Why do batterers batter?
    –Because they can
    –Because it gets them what they want (power & control)
    –Opportunity and self-interest
  • We live in a society where:
    –Around the world, at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime. (Population Reports, Series L, No. 11, December 1999).
    –Seventy-eight percent of stalking victims are women.  Women are significantly more likely than men (60% and 30%, respectively) to be stalked by intimate partners.  (Center for Policy Research, Stalking in America, July 1997).
    –Intimate partner violence is primarily a crime against women.  In 1999, women accounted for 85 percent of the victims. (Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, Intimate Partner Violence and Age of Victim, 1993-99, October 2001).
    –On average, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends in this country every day.  In 1999, 1,642 murders were attributed to intimates; 74 percent of the murder victims were women. (Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, Intimate Partner Violence and Age of Victim, 1993-99, October 2001).
  • Common characteristics of batterers:

    •Exhibits discrepancy between public and private behavior

    •Uses puzzlement to minimize or confuse survivor about behavior
    •Externalizes by blaming others and using external factors to justify behavior
    •Uses controlling behaviors to get survivor to do, or stop doing, something
    •Feels a strong sense of ownership over the survivor
    •May use controlled substances
    •Is resistant to change
  • Warning Signs
    •History of Violence
    •Substance abuse
    •Breaks or strikes things in anger
    •Jealousy
    •Controlling Behavior
    •Quick Involvement
    •Unrealistic Expectations
    •Isolation
    •Use of Privilege
    •Cruelty to Animals or Children
    •Rape or use of force in sex
    •Blames others for Problems
    •Blames others for Feelings
  • If you have any questions, please contact
    • YWCA of Greater Flint
      310 E. Third St. Flint, Mi 48502
      Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services
    • 810-238-7621

Domestic Violence: An Introduction

Domestic violence and emotional abuse are behaviors used by one person in a relationship to control the other. Partners may be married or not married; heterosexual, gay, or lesbian; living together, separated or dating. Violence takes many forms and can happen all the time or once in a while. Abuse is not an accident. It does not happen because someone was stressed out, drinking, or using drugs. Abusers have learned to abuse, using their power to get what they want. The abuse may be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, and psychological.

Domestic violence crosses all ethnic, racial, age, national origin, sexual orientation, religious, and socioeconomic lines. Domestic violence can happen to anybody. In fact, studies suggest that one fifth to one third of all women will be physically assaulted by a partner or ex partner during their lifetime. In heterosexual relationships, 95% of all victims are female and 95% of all perpetrators are male. In same-sex relationships, domestic violence happens with the same statistical frequency as in heterosexual relationships.

“Domestic violence is a pattern of controlling behaviors, some of which are criminal, that includes but is not limited to physical assaults, sexual assaults, emotional abuse, isolation, economic coercion, threats, stalking, and intimidation. These behaviors are used by the batterer in an effort to control the intimate partner. The behavior may be directed at others with the effect of controlling the intimate partner.” Batter Intervention Standards for the State of Michigan, 4.1 (January 20, 1999).


Domestic Violence Victims

Anyone can be a victim! Victims can be any age, sex, race, culture, religion, sexual orientation, education, employment, or marital status. Although both men and women can be abused, most victims are women. Children in homes where there is domestic violence are more likely to be abused and/or neglected. Most children in these homes know about violence. Even if a child is not physically harmed, they may have emotional and behavior problems. NOBODY DESERVES TO BE ABUSED! THE ONLY PERSON RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ABUSE IS THE ABUSER!

Domestic Abusers

There is no “typical” abuser. In public, they may appear friendly and loving to their partner and family. They often only abuse behind closed doors. They also try to hide the abuse by causing injuries that can be hidden and do not need medical attention. Abusers often have low self-esteem. They do not take responsibility for their actions. They often blame the victim for causing the violence. In most cases, men abuse female victims.

Survivor vs. Victim

In most places, we use the term “survivor” due to our emphasis on empowerment advocacy. This happens when the advocate offers support, resources, advocacy, information, and education.

This is a way of recognizing strength, courage, and survival strategies of domestic violence and sexual assault survivors.

Not all women who have experienced domestic or sexual violence see themselves as “survivors.” Remember: Domestic violence and sexual assault is something that happens to individuals; it does not define who they are.

 

We are a MOVEMENT and our work is different than that of traditional social services in that we:

  • Focus on survivors’ strengths
  • Do not believe that we are the experts in their lives
  • Are survivor-driven, not service driven
  • Understand that violence can happen to any of us
  • Are non-directive in our approach to working with survivors

Instead of viewing survivors as sick or pathological, we believe that survivors are simply reacting in adaptive ways to oppressive societal conditions, restrictive sex roles, and the abusive intimate partners in their lives.

MCADSV New Service Provider training Manual and Resource Guide (May 2006).