A Christian Perspective of the Systemic Outcomes of Childhood Sexual Abuse As Related to Addictions Part 7
In a consequential environment where every action draws a reaction of similar or greater proportion, childhood sexual abuse affects our own behaviors, which can interfere with our closest relationships, which in turn impacts society with high divorce rates, crime, suicide, drug abuse, alcohol misuse, eating disorders, etc. Most victims attempt to counter a sense of helplessness, or loss of control in their historical life by attempting to control other relationships, events, and things. Taking responsibility for choices can help a victim to understand that just as the history of abuse may have led to behavior patterns that have become out of control, one can choose other behaviors that will bring a sense of freedom from the emotional and psychological destruction of the abuse, as well as a sense of fulfillment in life. Victims need to develop new coping skills, be flexible in thinking, and adaptable in behavior. We cannot be healed from childhood sexual abuse and its consequences until we perceive a connection from the behavior of the abuser to its negative effects on our own behaviors and addictions. Addictions are the compulsive choices we make that drive us to repeat behaviors in spite of the personal and societal consequences of the action. When we note the cause and understand the resulting effect, we can then begin a healing process.
Behaviors are primarily learned from the psychosocial atmosphere of the preceding generations. We have certain natural characteristics that are imprinted on us either positively or negatively by parental nurturing patterns. One of the most important facts often overlooked in today’s society is that you reap what you sow. Another overlooked fact is that personal actions not only affect you and your immediate family, but future generations as well. The Bible tells us that the sins of the parents will be visited on the children up to the fourth generation. Our behaviors now write the future for our descendants. We must carefully choose what we sow now, or we will reap the consequences with a future society that can no longer cope with the devastation that we see but a glimpse of today. God’s word gives us clear limits on our behavior and sets forth the consequences when we ignore those limits. God has always given mankind a choice in whether or not to obey, and yet the consequences of disobedience are clearly laid out for us as well. God’s word clearly says that if we seek God’s ways, we will have life, and if we do not follow Gods ways, we will have suffering and death, rather than life. If we overindulge in food, drink, sex, etc. we will suffer the consequences of those addictions. Much of the pain that we suffer, we bring on ourselves, though we may have been predisposed by the sins of our ancestors to certain behaviors. But we do have choices in whether or not we will continue down the path they chose or choose a better way for ourselves as well as our children.
There are also privileges and responsibilities related to living in a society. Along with the privileges of living in a society we also have responsibilities to that societal system. We must make good judgments concerning how our own behaviors affect those around us. We are responsible for our judgments as well as our behaviors and we have a responsibility to those around us in how those judgments affect them. We can make a positive impact on our world or we can make a negative impact on our world. What we choose to do today, whether that is to go eat in a casino and thereby influence others to go into these establishments and gamble their life savings away, or to go eat at McDonald’s instead and not be a negative influence, will have an impact for good or for evil. Every system has an organization and we as individuals have to find our place within that organization, whether it is the family system or a societal system. We need to find where we fit in and use our talents and even our challenges to bring about good rather than evil. We can overcome any tragedy we may face in life if we believe there is One greater than us who will help us overcome it. Paul, the apostle who wrote a large portion of our Scripture, cited many tragedies in his own life, which he overcame through his trust in Jesus Christ. The good he brought about in writing letters of edification to the newly formed Christian churches far outweighed the tribulations he suffered as a result of his acceptance of Christ.
Many behaviors that seem normal and harmless may actually be "soft" addictions that have gained a stronghold in our lives, because of the predisposition to behavior patterns of the previous generation. When we look at addictions whether it is physical or psychological, we must look at how it affects our relationship with God, our self, and others. When we put a behavior, or an object, or a person in a position in our lives where it interferes with any of these relationships, then we might see a need for change. Where addiction is concerned, we might also look at how we spend our time and money, and how our health and well-being is affected. Are we spending an excessive amount of time in certain activities to the detriment of others? When we sacrifice time with our relationships to continue in things of lower priority, then we might need to rethink our priorities to rebuild those relationships. We should also keep in mind how an addiction affects our health and well-being. If we neglect our health due to addictive behaviors, whether it brings stress, disease, exhaustion or otherwise, we will eventually be faced with the consequences of our choices. Another one of the most important things I have learned in life is that how I spend my money is a good indication of where my loyalties lie. We are called of God to be stewards of God’s assets, so if we are spending too much money on houses, cars, food, drink, drugs, or behaviors, then maybe we’re not being as faithful to God as we could be. We are called to love God and we learn to love God by loving our fellow human beings. Our bank accounts should reflect that love, with a portion of our money being set aside for unselfish purposes, like our tithes and charitable gifts.
Victims of childhood sexual abuse need to acknowledge the abuse and any related addictions we may have. Most addictions are attempts to counter a sense of helplessness, or loss of control in our historical lives as victims, stemming from our previous abuses. Often we find ourselves living for the abuse. Our addictions are influenced by our historical past relationships. When we feel a sense of helplessness toward past abusive relationships, then we tend to try to control our present with an addiction related to those past abuses. If we were sexually abused as a child, then we may become an abuser, or we may turn to opposite behavior, avoiding sexual relations in an attempt to control the present. When we feel that we are letting our abusive past take control of our present life, then we need to acknowledge that yoke and take responsibility for our choices. We must make a conscious decision to let go of that servility to the past before freedom can come to us. We need to learn new coping and relationship skills and learn to accept ourselves and others as we are. Many times it is our failed expectations and inflexibility that drive us to seek fulfillment in our own addictive and abusive behavior patterns. We need flexible thinking and adaptable behaviors in order to cope with the unfulfilled expectations of life. An abused person has to make a choice to recover from the abuse or continue in the destruction of the past abuse by remaining in their own addictive relationships and behaviors. Historical Abuse often affects our judgment on what is and is not safe and healthy behavior. Victims often participate in self-destructive behaviors due to a low self worth. Victims of abuse need to consciously choose recovery as a way of life. It is not an immediate restoration, but a continuing day to day effort to recover from the abuse. Prayer and Scriptural Study are good means to the daily renewal of your mind and continuing Spiritual growth.
Co-dependency is frequently found in families with a history of abuse. All those associated with an abusive person are under the tremendous stress and influence of the abusive behavior. Millions of families are dominated by the abusive behavior of a close relative. When we allow abusive behaviors to continue at the detriment of our self and our loved ones, then we are co-dependent. We must be strong enough to let the abusive person suffer the consequences of his or her behavior in order for them to understand the destructiveness of that behavior. Co-dependents often rescue abusive persons from personal responsibility and societal consequences, by hiding or minimizing their behavior, and reacting to the behavior in inappropriate ways. When victims make excuses and take the responsibility and consequences from the abusive person and place blame on themselves, they enable the abuser to continue in inappropriate behaviors. But eventually perpetrators of childhood sexual abuse will face some of the societal consequences of their behaviors. When the abusive person is removed from the protection of the existing support system and is forced to face societal consequences such as jail time, and embarrassment for their behavior when the abuse is brought to light and is treated in a consequential manner, sometimes this can be a catalyst for healing both the abusive person and the abused person. Other times the abusive person continues to blame his inappropriate behaviors on others.
One of the most important things we can do today is to recognize how common childhood sexual abuse really is and how it affects a victim’s personal behavior. While childhood sexual abuse has been reported up to 80,000 times a year, the number of unreported instances is far greater, because most children are afraid or embarrassed to tell anyone. The long-term emotional and psychological damage of sexual abuse can be devastating to a child even to their adulthood. About a third of sexually abused children become child abusers themselves. Some common reactions to childhood sexual abuse are promiscuity, interest in or avoidance of sexual things, sleep problems or nightmares, secretiveness, withdrawal from friends or family, problems or fear of problems in the genital area, failure in school, refusal to go to school, delinquency/conduct problems, abuse of drugs or alcohol, aspects of molestation in drawings and games, frequent physical complaints such as headaches or stomachaches, unusual aggression towards other children, risk taking behaviors, depression or suicidal thoughts or behavior. Many of children placed on child protection registers have been abused as a result of their parents’ addictions. Both childhood sexual abuse and other crimes of sexual assault are often committed by persons using alcohol or drugs. Many sexual assaults occur near places of public entertainment serving alcoholic beverages, with under-age drinkers being widely involved in violent sexual assaults, including date rape. Teenagers at risk for developing serious alcohol and drug problems include those with a family history of childhood sexual abuse.
There are many other addictions related to a history of childhood sexual abuse. Food addictions, self-injurious behaviors, OCD’s, conduct disorders, etc. can all have their base in a history of childhood sexual abuse. Food addictions such as obesity, anorexia nervosa, and bulimia often result from a history of sexual abuse, which in turn cause family and peer problems, extremely low self-esteem, depression or other emotional problems, physical health problems associated with the resultant behavior. Self-injurious behaviors is another addiction related to childhood sexual abuse. Self-injury is the act of deliberately destroying body tissue, at times to change a way of feeling. This kind of behavior often is a result of childhood sexual abuse, with the victim turning to this behavior in an attempt to dull the emotional pain of the experience of abuse. Some common forms of self injury are scratching, cutting, picking and pulling at skin and hair, burning/abrasions, hitting, bruising, biting, head banging, excessive tattooing and body piercing. Often a history of childhood sexual abuse or other traumatic childhood events are at the heart of these and other types of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders or OCD’s. Some victims may frequently use lying to cover up their abuse. Someone who is being abused may lie repeatedly to hide the truth about where they have been, who they were with, and what they were doing, often feeling that lying is the easiest way to deal with the demands of others. Compulsive lying often prolongs the secrecy of sexual abuse in families and society. Some OCD children may force others into sexual activity or display other kinds of aggression toward people and animals.
Sexual and pornography addictions are also related to childhood sexual abuse. Usually prostitutes and exotic dancers have a history of childhood sexual abuse. Often there is a predisposition to addiction from a history of emotional pain, with childhood sexual abuse being a precursory factor. Sexual addiction destroys families and promotes STD’s through careless encounters. When the behavior is unwanted by one of the participants, it is a crime. Often the sexual addition is pedophilic in nature due to the confusion of adult sexual roles. Some males use pornography to undermine another’s resistance to deviancies. Pornography is used to persuade a woman or child to engage in certain acts, and to undermine their resistance, refusal, or disclosure of these acts, which end in the abuse of the woman or child. Pornography often sexualizes dominance and submission, eroticizing sexual abuse. The laws of social learning suggest that viewers of pornography can develop arousal responses to depictions of assaultive behavior by repeated association. Sexual experiences during or after the film reinforce the association. Pornography predisposes some males to rape, while undermining their social inhibitions against it. Behaviors modeled in pornography often subordinate and violate women and viewers will likely imitate the portrayed behaviors. Many women have been forced to participate in the use of pornography against their will, or are forced or coerced into sex they do not want by men using porn. Women are manipulated into so-called sex play, making them vulnerable to date rape.
These and many other addictions have a common thread of truth running through them, that is that childhood sexual abuse and other traumatic events of the like are often the precursory factor. Many of our own addictions, whether they are positively or negatively influenced, are directly related to people and events of the preceding generations. When we understand the principles of cause and effect, limits and consequences, and privileges and responsibilities, then we can move toward a psychologically healthier lifestyle, as well as a spiritually fulfilling inner-being. When we recognize that our behaviors sometimes stem from early abuses, but that we can choose to change our behavior to make our own and our children’s world a better place, then we have overcome our servility to that abuse. Dependence on God, rather than on our addictive and abusive behaviors is the key factor in spiritual growth. Jesus Christ stated that “The truth will set you free.” We need to truthfully discern which sins are those of our abusers, see how they affected our personal decisions, and then acknowledge our own sins as well. Scripture tells us to “confess our faults one to another and pray for one another that we may be healed.” If we expose the truth of our abuse to the light of Jesus Christ, and depend on God’s grace to show us our own sins, then we can move toward that abundant life we are promised in the Scriptures. Jesus came to give us life and give us life more abundantly. We need to move beyond blaming our personal sins and addictions on our abuser’s behavior, acknowledging them as our own responsibility, and seek God’s mercy, for God is just to forgive those who ask for it. Whenever we humbly expose ourselves to the light of truth, we will triumph in God’s grace and have eternal life in God’s glory, as well as abundant life here on earth. For we are overcomers by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of our testimony. It is our responsibility to give testimony to others to what Jesus has done in our hearts and lives, so that by that truth they may also be healed.
Reference: Addiction and Grace, Gerald G. May