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In the last track we discussed the three core defenses commonly used by survivors of childhood sexual abuse of memory repression, dissociation and denial; as well as the role Timeline Exercise plays in uncovering the secret of sexual abuse.
On this track, we are going to begin to look at what happens in the sexually abused child when the pressure to release his or her secret pain becomes stronger than the defenses being used to hide it. These efforts to hide the abuse result in Secondary Consequences such as narrow range of emotions, emotional flooding, emotional numbing, and shortened attention span. At the end of this track how I will discuss how a written dialoguing was beneficial with this client.
Wendy, age 17, experienced violent incest from her father between the ages of eight and twelve, when her parents divorced.
It might be noted at this time that 33% of girls are sexually abused before the age of 18 and 16% of boys are sexually abused before the age of 18.
Wendy's, emotional and physical reaction to
her abuse started to materialize in secondary consequences. It is these secondary
consequences that came to the attention of Wendy's teachers and the reason she
was referred to me. Wendy flew into a rage over minor issues with her classmates,
cried for no reason and was always requesting permission to go home to check on
something. She couldn't remember what books to take home for homework and her
grades are suffering. To help Wendy, of course, I needed to help her look beyond
the "symptoms" and realize these feelings and behaviors are most probably
the result of the sexual abuse she experienced between the ages of eight and twelve.
#1 - Narrow Range of Emotions
These narrow range of emotions are usually limited to painful or negative emotions.
#2 - Emotional Flooding
#3 - Emotional Numbing
#4 - Shortened Attention Span
Think about your Wendy, for a moment. Does she exhibit a narrow range of emotions, emotional flooding, emotional numbing, shortened attention span or confused thinking? If so, are you using written dialoguing?
With Wendy I found written dialoguing most beneficial. Wendy was able to write both sides of a conversation between her and her father. By doing so, Wendy dialoguing added the benefit of receiving feedback about her innermost thoughts. I feel spontaneously writing feedback caused Wendy to draw from her subconscious. As you will see, it provided her with an opportunity to express her anger and hurt and get a response.
The following is a dialogue Wendy wrote to her sexually abusive father, Joe:
Wendy: Tonight I screamed "I hate you." I really don't hate you, but I'm very
angry at you. When I was younger, I wanted you to hold me and take care of me,
but you violated that trust! You touched and used me as you wanted. I should have
been able to trust you! My life was so shitty because of you.
Wendy wrote this brief dialogue in a hurried fashion on a tablet in my office in 5 minutes, head bent, pen grasped tightly, and quickly sobbing. When she read it to me and ended, she had a calm affect. If you would like to try a written dialogue with your Wendy, consider replaying this track to review the idea just prior to your session.
Now that we have reviewed the secondary consequences of narrow range of emotions, emotional flooding, emotional numbing and shortened attention span, the next track will discuss additional secondary consequences created by hiding the secrets of sexual abuse. These secondary consequences are feeling hopeless and helpless, nightmares and flashbacks. You will receive the technique of self-discovery exercises.
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