Content note: This article contains an extensive discussion of child abuse and other potentially sensitive topics. If you or someone you know needs help, please contact one of the following hotlines.
Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline: Call 1-800-422-4453
National Domestic Violence Hotline: Call 1-800-799-7233 or text "START" to 88788.
National Sexual Assault Hotline: Call 1-800-656-4673 or use the webchat option.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Since 1983, this recurring event has sought to raise awareness for and prevent childhood abuse. Child abuse can come in different forms, and the impacts of this abuse can be long-lasting for survivors. So, what can you learn about child abuse and its prevention? Furthermore, what can one do to support themselves heal as an adult survivor? Although these topics can be challenging to discuss, it's crucial to know that there is hope and that healing is possible. As we collectively observe National Child Abuse Prevention Month, it's time to open up the conversation.
About Child Abuse
Let's go over some of the facts about child abuse in the United States. According to the National Center for PTSD, child protective services (CPS) receives around three million reports per year. Of those reports, 65% indicate neglect, 18% indicate physical abuse, 10% indicate sexual abuse, and 7% indicate psychological abuse. Child abuse can have serious lasting impacts on adult survivors. This is not only possible but common. Research indicates that one-third of adult-onset psychiatric disorders are related to trauma that occurred in childhood.
Long-Term Effects Of Child Abuse On Adult Survivors
What are the exact ways child abuse might affect someone later in life? All areas of health are connected, including mental and physical health, and of course, your mental and physical health can affect other parts of life. With that in mind, some of the possible impacts of child abuse on adult survivors include but aren't limited to:
*Please contact the National Suicide Prevention Helpline, available 24/7 in both English and Spanish, at 1-800-273-8255 if you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or ideation.
**Please contact the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) at 1-800-931-2237 if you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of an eating disorder.
It's also not uncommon for those who have survived child abuse to experience other impacts, such as difficulty with self-esteem, trouble in interpersonal relationships, an increased risk of intimate partner violence, concerns related to intimacy, emotional repression or trouble expressing emotion, and more. With that being said, it is possible to heal, and if you have experienced childhood abuse in any form, you aren't alone. Preventing future occurrences of child abuse when possible is vital, and intervention can even save lives.
Preventing Child Abuse
Although it may not be possible to prevent every occurrence of child abuse, there are several things we can do, both as individuals and in our communities, to help prevent child abuse. Like those who work with kids and family members, some individuals may play an imperative role. Here are some possible steps to take:
The unfortunate truth is that a percentage of child abuse cases go unreported or unidentified. Survivors have a wide range of experiences regarding whether or not this was the case for them. It's important for kids who have experienced abuse to have support, safety, and stability after the fact, and adult survivors often strive for the same.
How To Heal As An Adult Survivor Of Child Abuse
Since everyone who experiences child abuse is different, the healing trajectory varies from person to person. Often, working on self-esteem, finding healthy coping skills, engaging in inner child work, and improving symptom management are goals for survivors. Someone may want to work to reduce depression symptoms, reduce PTSD symptoms like hypervigilance, or something else. Here are some things that may be advantageous for those seeking help:
It is also crucial to remember that it's never too late for healing. No matter how long ago your abuse took place, whether you did or did not get justice, and whether your abuse was or was not reported in the past, it's possible to reach out for support, and you deserve to get the help that you need. Stories from other survivors show that getting to a better place is possible, and there are resources and professionals out there who can help you get to where you want to be.
Online therapy is a convenient option that can help individuals with a wide range of concerns. It's backed by research, and it allows you to connect with a professional from the comfort of your own home or anywhere else with a stable internet connection. When you use a platform like BetterHelp, services are often more affordable when compared to traditional in-person therapy. All that you have to do to get started with BetterHelp is sign up and fill out a quick questionnaire. Then, we will match you with a professional based on your answers. You can switch therapists at any point in time if you need to, and there are over 20,000 licensed, independent providers on the platform.
If you think that online therapy might be a good fit, sign up for BetterHelp or read our FAQs and therapist reviews to learn more.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How Do You Overcome An Abusive Childhood?
Overcoming child abuse is a process that can be complex and potentially long. It's important to extend compassion to yourself throughout the process. Healing takes time, and it doesn't have to be linear, but it's most certainly worth it. It's highly recommended that those who have encountered abuse seek therapy to have a professional on their side while they work through their traumatic experiences. Therapy is backed by research to help people who have survived a wide range of different trauma sources. It can also help with many of the effects that can go alongside the trauma of childhood abuse, such as difficulty with intimacy, self-esteem, and mental health conditions.
How Can Abuse Be Prevented?
Talking about abuse and learning about potential warning signs of abuse are significant for prevention. The warning signs of abuse can vary, and some may overlap with other concerns that children may face at times. Another crucial aspect of prevention is to talk with kids and teens about abuse, letting them know what is and is not okay and giving them a safe space to speak up.
How Can We Prevent Child Neglect?
Preventing child neglect is often largely about noticing the warning signs and intervening. There are different forms of neglect, including both physical and emotional neglect. Some signs of neglect can include but aren't limited to matted or unwashed hair, poor hygiene, delayed development, and missing school.