Barbara was six when her uncle sexually abused her. He was her favourite uncle and he treated her as his favourite niece. She loved to stay at his house, as she had fun with her cousins and her uncle spoilt her. She grew to love and trust him and used to pester her parents to go and stay with his family.
All of that changed one night when she was asleep and woken by her uncle. That was when the sexual abuse started. It lasted for four years. She was ten when she reported it to her mother.
How did this affect Barbara?
- She became shy and withdrawn at home and at school. She had been a lively child.
- She was bright but achieved below standards for almost all activities except sport.
- She had few friends.
- She was clingy towards her parents.
- She would have aggressive outbursts for what seemed like trivial reasons.
- She annoyed her siblings more than usual.
- She couldn’t sleep and experienced nightmares.
- She seemed anxious and on edge.
- She became scared of the dark.
- She repeatedly washed herself.
- She lost her appetite.
- She experienced panic attacks.
- She resisted sleepovers but particularly at her uncle’s place.
What happened when she disclosed?
- Her mother did all the right things.
- She believed Barbara.
- She reported it to Starship Child Protection Te Puaruruhau.
- They initially did all of the testing and protection procedures and advised Barbara’s mother.
- They counselled Barbara until she improved.
When Barbara was 16 years old
- Barbara was referred to me through her secondary school due to problems at school.
- The problems could be linked back to her earlier childhood abuse.
- She had a boyfriend and was worried about several things around that relationship.
- Counselling helped her to recognise past events and the effect they were having on her current thoughts feelings and behaviours.
- ACC funded her counselling
- Linking and understanding current responses to past sexual abuse.
- Learning strategies to manage triggers.
- Learning strategies to manage overwhelming emotions.
- Learning to trust new relationships.
- Learning to recognise unsafe situations.
- Understanding who was to blame for the abuse.
- Dealing with guilt and shame, placing it where it belonged – with her uncle.
It may be that strong feelings arise for Barbara in the future. ACC will continue to support her through their experienced network of counsellors, psychotherapists and psychologists.
If you have experienced something like Barbara, please contact me on 027 488 9236 or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org. I am an ACC registered counsellor with over 10 years’ experience working with sexual abuse. I am located in Birkenhead, North Shore, Auckland.