Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


Getting Through Sexual Abuse Scandals and Depression

I limit how much I watch and hear about these scandals.

The child sexual abuse scandals at Penn State and Syracuse University can be hard to hear for anyone. For those, like me, who have been sexually abused by people we trusted it can have a profound impact. It may remind us of our own abuse, bring up flashbacks, nightmares, grief and mourning. Depression is usually where I end up. When depression strikes I gradually feel worse and worse about myself. My thoughts turn to all the things I don't like about myself: everything that I cannot do.

When our resilience is lowered in these ways, some of the easiest things can become very difficult to accomplish. Depression can build on itself, making it hard even to make it through normal daily routines.

I try a number of strategies to get through these times.

1. I limit how much I watch and hear about these scandals. I stop watching news stories about the sex abuse and avoid reading

articles about them as well.

2. I try to anticipate the hard times so that they don’t catch me off guard. For some reason, if I anticipate that I may have depression, I experience it more gracefully and with less disappointment.

3. I remind myself that I survived the abuse and that although it may feel like its happening today, it’s not.

4. My thinking changes when I am triggered and depressed, and I become negative and critical of myself. In these times I try to remember that these are just thoughts, they may not be the truth.

5. I try to reach out to friends and let them know that I’m depressed, why, and what it feels like to me. They often want to help in some way. Mostly I ask for their patience and ask that they try not to take my emotional and physical absence personally.

6. I try to remember the good things in my life. My partner, the people who helped me survive as a child, my home, my favorite dog.

7. I try to set small goals for myself each day. Each accomplishment helps me feel a little better.

8. Similarly, when the day feels too hard to face, I try to break it down into manageable increments—sometimes as short as 5-minute increments on especially difficult days. Instead of contemplating the overwhelming amount of worries and tasks that one day can contain, I’ll focus instead on one time-limited thing: taking a shower, returning an email, making dinner. When I’ve accomplished that one thing, I’ll let myself think about the next.

9. I try to remember that depression is an illness. Thinking this way helps to minimize the guilt and self-blame that always come hand-in-hand with the despair. Sometimes I tell myself that I just have the flu. I try to manage depression like I would any other illness: eat well, sleep lots, and listen to my body.

10. I try to do things that I really enjoy—things that I can do even while depressed, like walking our dogs. Although sometimes it’s hard, I try to walk them each day. We live on a farm with lots of space to race around and wrestle each other. They so clearly love the walks, and watching them enjoy themselves so much makes me feel good.

11. Hopelessness, like self-criticism, is another uninvited friend of depression. It’s the aspect of depression that leaves me feeling like the despair will never end. I’m afraid that I’ll always feel this awful. I try to approach it objectively. I hold the fear with the reminder to myself that I have been through this before and the depression has always ended. It will pass. It always does.

To learn more about Olga's memoir The Sum of My Parts visit New Harbinger Publications

To learn more about Olga and her work see

More from Olga Trujillo J.D.
More from Psychology Today