Overcoming Child Abuse

Reflections on recovery.

A Tribute to Sex Addicts Who Were Abused as Children

Overcoming child abuse one day at a time.

I've recently returned to the active staff of Psychology Today bloggers. I've also recently returned home from attending the 2014 IITAP Symposium in Phoenix, Arizona. IITAP stands for the International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals (www.iitap.com). I became involved with IITAP in response to the growing societal problems of cybersex addiction and sexual compulsivity. As a marriage and family therapist my natural inclination is to perceive the dynamics of an individual, a couple or family, as being intimately influenced by systems embedded in the culture. When increasing numbers of couples came into my office with cybersex addiction or sexual compulsivity as the presenting problem, I began to feel that I needed more training in this area. This need became urgent as one couple after another recounted how one of their children  found a parent's sexual secrets on their cellphones or family computers. Children today are growing up in a hyper-sexualized culture, with little if any boundary between the culture and the family. Wendy Malz, internationally recognized author, speaker, and sex therapist (www.healthysex.com) describes our culture as pornified, and that description certainly fits with my own perceptions, so there may be times when I'll write about some of these things.

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My intention in these blogs is to raise awareness about issues relevant to overcoming child abuse.  Some will be directed toward the individual adult who is longing for, hoping for, working at recovering from childhood abuse, and some will be focused on changes that need to occur in the culture or in parentling practices, as we all work toward overcoming the societal tragedy of child abuse.

Ironically, there's a strong correlation between childhood trauma and addiction later in life, because the addiction becomes the solution to the anxiety and stress of the trauma. Patrick Carnes, Ph.D., founder of IITAP, internationally acclaimed speaker and authority on sex addiction treatment, has written extensively about these connections (www.iitap.com/about-us/dr-patrick-carnes ).Early in the Certified Sex Addiction Therapist (CSAT) training that I attended, in order to give us a sense for what goes into the making of a sex addict, he presented us with some important factors that his research findings revealed, including these: that 72% of sex addicts were physically abused as children; 81% were sexually abused as children; and 97%, emotionally abused as children. That's a tragic irony. If you've seen the movie Thanks for Sharing you've witnessed the danger, depth of pain, shame, and desperation a sex addict endures, along with some of what's required in the rigor if recovery from this addiction. Of course if you struggle with sexual compulsivity or love someone who does you know only too well what the words danger, pain, shame, desperation and rigor entail. 

I'd like to offer this, my first blog back on staff, as a tribute to those of you who are sex addicts and were abused as children. May you find physical and emotional safety, hope, and healing in your process of recovery, one moment at a time, one day at a time.

(for more information or to find a therapist log on to www.sexhelp.com)

Catherine McCall is a Clinical Fellow of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and the author of Never Tell: A True Story of Overcoming a Terrifying Childhood.

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