|| Special to NAASCA
Thanksgiving: Survivors of child sexual abuse of yesterday, today and tomorrow
by Vicki Polin, MA, LPCC
-- NAASCA family member
PLEASE NOTE: Vicki Polin was the featured special guest on NAASCA's "Stop Child Abuse Now" talk radio show in Nov. 2014.
For many families in the United States who celebrate Thanksgiving, it is time of year filled with wonderful memories of families getting together.
Thanksgiving (like any other holiday) often mean that families get together, routines are changed, and there is also the added stress of cleaning and preparing meals.
These issues alone can be extremely stress-producing. Unfortunately the reality is that there are parents who are already inclined to use their children as an outlet for emotions and urges, and they are more likely to do so when under the pressure of increased anxiety. Needless to say, many adult survivors of childhood abuse report that their abuse became more intense around and during holidays. For that reason we are asking everyone to say a prayer for the children and their family members, so they get the help they need.
I'm personally asking that each person who reads this article promise to make a phone call, if you suspect a child is either being abused and or neglected, please give that child the gift of a lifetime by calling your local child abuse hot-line regarding your suspicions. Doing so may help prevent any further harm, and it can often lead to a whole family receiving the help and healing that are needed to end the cycle of abuse.
Thanksgiving is a time of year when adult survivors of childhood abuse (emotional, physical and sexual abuse) may be faced with the challenge of deciding if they should go home for the holidays, spend it with friends, or be alone. It is also a time of year for many to have a flood of painful memories reemerge. Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may increase. It is not uncommon for survivors to find it safer to retreat than to participate in holiday functions.
Each individual survivor needs to figure out what works best for them to stay emotionally healthy. It is critical for survivors to be kind to themselves with whatever decisions they make regarding where they choose to spend Thanksgiving: be it with family, friends, or alone. We all need to respect their decisions, especially if a survivors decide not to celebrate.
To reiterate, it is important to be aware that it is not uncommon for symptoms of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) to emerge even after times of relative remission and/or intensify in those already struggling. Survivors may experience an increase in disturbing thoughts, nightmares and flashbacks. Thoughts of self-harm, even suicide may be an issue. The important thing to remember is these feelings are about the past, that the abuse is over, and that it is of utmost importance for you to be kind to and gentle with yourself.
This is written as a reminder to all survivors: YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
If you know someone who is a survivor of childhood abuse (emotional, physical and sexual abuse), it might be a good idea to check up on them a few times over the holidays. Make sure survivors have invitation to thanksgiving dinner, and that if they say no, let them know they can always change their mind and come at the last minute.
Over the years we've spoken to many adult survivors who find it very painful to even consider going to anyone's home for the holiday. Maybe this is true for you, too. It is OK. Someday you may feel different, but if the pain is too intense, it is important that you do things that feel healing to you, it is important that you set boundaries to do what feels safe for you.
Remember that whatever works for you is OK: you are not alone in this struggle, not wrong, not bad for having second and third and forth thoughts about how to celebrate and even whether to celebrate the holiday. Look into yourself and see what you need, than do what you can to do it and be kind to yourself for needing to make these adjustments.
To those of you who are survivors . . . thank you so much for Surviving!