By: An Anonymous Survivor, guest contributor
As we continue to face uncertain times during the coronavirus pandemic and fight for civil rights and safety of Black Americans across the United States, stress and anxiety feel at an all-time high. For child sexual abuse survivors, it’s important to understand how sexual abuse and subsequent trauma make coping with increased anxiety and stress difficult and understand how to manage mental health during these unprecedented times.
The trauma of child sexual abuse impacts survivors their entire lives. According to the Justice Department, 1 in 4 girls have been sexually abused before they turn 18 in this country. The data becomes even more alarming when you look specifically at Black girls in the US: 60% will experience sexual assault before they turn 18. Survivors of child sexual abuse suffer from complex trauma, the wide-ranging, long-term effects of exposure to multiple traumatic events, especially of an invasive, interpersonal nature.
In the United States, Black survivors of child sexual abuse also contend with trauma associated with systemic racism. Dr. Monnica Williams conducted a study that explored ongoing racial discrimination and traumain Black students. Of the 123 Black students who participated, those who reported high rates of perceived discrimination also had higher rates of uncontrollable hyperarousal, feelings of alienation, worries about future negative events, and perceiving others as dangerous.
The outbreak of coronavirus earlier this year magnified these anxieties and forced everyone — including sexual abuse survivors and the groups supporting them — to adapt. Non-profit organizations that traditionally offer safe houses and in-person support for survivors of sexual abuse had to shift to approved, socially-distant measures to ensure the safety of survivors and employees. Organizations that advocate for legal rights of sexual abuse survivors put cases on pause to fight for extended look-back windows, hoping adult survivors of child sexual abuse will have time to connect with resources and seek justice before these windows close.
Stay-at-home orders have forced child sexual abuse survivors to closely examine their ability to cope with the extreme conditions of long-term quarantine. Physical measures like getting enough sleep and exercising daily are helping millions under quarantine through strict social-distancing measures. For survivors especially, limiting news consumption, maintaining routines, and staying close with friends and family are other integral tools to maintain mental health, regardless of external stressors at work this year.
The trauma faced by child sexual abuse survivors often is too great for individual efforts alone. As public consciousness and conversation continue to surround the immense pressure systemic racism puts on Black people, resources are available that specialize in supporting and fostering Black American’s mental health. Childhelp also features extensive resources for all child abuse survivors and materials for friends and family.
With the uncertainty associated with the coronavirus and the continued fight for racial equality, it is especially important now for child sexual abuse survivors to recognize their traumas, utilize resources, and know they are not alone.
Editor’s note: Childhelp welcomes contributions to our blog that offer insight for parents, children and survivors who face issues related to child abuse. Entries may be published anonymously or under a pen name in the interest of protecting a survivor’s identity. While the views of such contributors may not reflect the views of Childhelp, we publish articles that reflect a shared concern for the well-being of children and adult survivors of child maltreatment.