Hi! I believe I can be of help with this issue.
I can imagine how distressing this situation must be for you. You are clearly a very sensitive woman and the molestation has shaped your life and your sense of who you are.
Acting out sexually with other children is one of the classic symptoms in childhood molestation. When we as psychologists see a child who is acting out sexually, the first thing we look for is to assess if there is sexual abuse occurring in his/her life.
If you think about it, it makes sense:
A child does not know how to separate the healthy parts of adults' power and authority from the unhealthy parts. Children are not built to make those distinctions. Children are built for safe environments. So when a child is forced into unhealthy relationships with adults because of their abuse of their power and authority as adults, children have to normalize their experience in SOME way. Acting out sexually with other children is one of the few ways children have of mimicking the experience the adults have forced on them in some way where they the children have some power and authority. It makes what's happening to them a part of the natural world, so to speak.
Are they then the guilty parties when the other children continue this chain of improper sexuality?
Of course they are not. They are all struggling to make sense out of a world that has been made unsafe and chaotic by adults who are disordered. Are we clear about this? Because this is so important. Let me just repeat it:
Of course these children are not guilty of making the other children act out in whatever way they act out. They are all struggling to make sense out of a world that has been made unsafe and chaotic by adults who are disordered.
I want to bring up a simple word, but that one word has, in psychological terms, can come to dominate your sense of self and your behavior in relationships. That word is shame. I don't know if you are suffering from this in a clinically significant enough way to require professional help with it. But I want to point out to you that the pathology of guilt really is shame.
I want to share with you some characteristics of shame-based behavior in relationships from a book I am recommending to you. See how much of yourself and your behavior you will recognize in these characteristics. The book is Shame and Guilt: Masters of Disguise by Jane Middleton-Moz. There are other books on shame you might look up and decide if they are helpful for you. Here's the Amazon page for it:
And here are the characteristics:
Characteristics Of Shame-Based Adults In Relationships:
- We lose ourselves in love.
- When we argue, we fight for our lives.
- We expend a great deal of energy in mind-reading. We frequently talk to ourselves about what our partners are feeling and needing more than to our partners.
- We pay a high price for those few good times.
- We often sign two contracts upon commitment, one conscious and another which is unconscious.
- We blame and are blamed.
- We want them gone, then fight to get them back.
- We know it will be different but expect it to be the same.
- We often feel that our partners are controlling our behavior.
- We are frequently attracted to the emotional qualities in another that we have disowned in ourselves.
- We often create triangles in relationships.
- We seek the unconditional love from our partners that we didn't receive adequately in a shaming childhood.
I mean this sincerely: you seem like a fine young person who has done a good job of trying to put the abuse you suffered in your past. But there is no added shame in getting help.
Here is the web address for Psychology Today's therapist directory. You can sort by zip codes and when you see someone who seems like they might be helpful (because they seem smart and not so easily manipulatable!) look at the listing and see if they list psychodynamic therapy in their orientations. If they also work with CBT therapy, which is more action oriented, that would be a good mix for you. You want to interview the therapist or psychologist and make sure he/she is someone who you feel confident in and comfortable with. You might also want to take your question and my answer in with you and use it as a platform for a first session to see how the two of you might work together.
Good Therapy is a non profit directory. Same idea as the one above:
Okay, I wish you the very best!
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