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The traumas of childhood abuse in adult life: is it possible to overcome?

Ana Helena*, 10 years old, will hardly forget the moments she spent returning home in a school van after leaving school. Because she lived far away, her mother hired a driver to take her daughter to safety, but the girl ended up, on the contrary, reporting successive sexual abuse on the trips back home.

The child was interviewed by a child psychologist and investigator from the Civil Police of the Federal District. The story, in a playful room, with colorful walls, dolls and stuffed bears to make the victim more comfortable, was filled with moments of terror.

“Uncle always looked back [motorista no banco da frente] and asked if I had a boyfriend, if I had ever kissed him. Then there was a moment when he stopped the van on a street and sat down next to me, he started hugging me…. He said he was cold and started running his hand down there…”, was what the child described to the police.

The mother, in conversation with the CNN , said that she noticed something wrong with her daughter when she started complaining about going to school and not wanting to ride in the school van anymore. And, according to her, she shows irritability easily.

The man was arrested after an investigation by the police who, in addition to the victim's report, heard other statements. But the trauma to the child, even three years after the case, is difficult to forget. And for the family too. But are they capable of being mitigated?

According to Carlos Guilherme Figueiredo, vice-president of the Brasília Psychiatric Association (APBr), younger children may not fully understand what is happening and only realize that something was wrong in the future, in adulthood.

“Older children may have a greater awareness that they are being abused, but may not fully understand the implications. It depends on the age and type of abuse,” she explains.

The professional highlights the main types of child abuse: physical, sexual, emotional and neglect. “Each type of abuse can have different impacts on the child’s life and, later, on adult life”, says the expert.

Traumas in adult life

And the doubt that many people have is about the trauma that remains in adults who were victims of abuse as children.

Experts note that people who have been abused can develop several limitations in adulthood, including emotional difficulties. “Self-esteem problems, relationship difficulties, as well as different psychiatric disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression,” said Figueiredo.

The expert's reports also show that victims of sexual abuse in childhood, even after years, can face difficulties in the area of ​​sexuality and intimate interactions as adults, also causing a lack of sexual desire, aversion to sex, difficulties in establishing intimacy and problems related to self-confidence.

“Research indicates that childhood abuse can have lasting impacts on sexual life in adulthood. Individuals who were abused as children may experience reactions such as intense anxiety during sexual activity, a feeling of reliving the trauma, or emotional disconnection. Furthermore, it is common for these victims to experience aversion and avoidance of sexual relations, difficulties with arousal or orgasm, and even pain during intercourse. In some cases, they may develop a pattern of harmful sexual behaviors. It is important that these individuals seek specialized professional support to deal with the trauma of abuse and establish a healthy sex life”, advises the professional.

And after all, is it possible to overcome a trauma as abrupt as this? For the specialist, yes. It requires treatment.

“Fortunately, there are proven effective treatments to help victims deal with trauma and rebuild their sexuality in a healthy way. Techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) have emerged as one of the most effective approaches. This technique helps victims identify and modify harmful thoughts and behaviors related to the trauma, reducing symptoms such as anxiety and depression”, highlights the psychiatrist.

Figueiredo also explains that another intervention with positive results is trauma processing therapy, such as the Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) technique.

This type of treatment, says the psychiatrist, helps in the reprocessing of traumatic memories, reducing their emotional burden and allowing for a healthier integration. In some cases, drug treatments are also necessary and, according to studies, they demonstrate effectiveness, especially in the treatment of depressive and anxious conditions.

May Orange

Throughout the month of May, the “Orange May” campaign promotes awareness of the importance of preventing abuse and sexual exploitation of children and adolescents, aiming to alert society and guarantee the protection of the rights of these vulnerable groups.

To avoid trauma, the police work with prevention so that abusers do not commit crimes. But they also carry out arrests as more effective methods. In the first four months of this year, the Federal Police (PF) carried out 61 operations in all states of Brazil against sexual abuse of children and adolescents. The average is one operation every two days.

The arrests, including preventive, temporary and flagrant, totaled 99 people involved in cases of child sexual abuse, which gives an average of almost one person arrested per day by the PF alone.

At the state level, there is also a significant number of arrests. On the 17th of this month, the Ministry of Justice, in partnership with state civil police, carried out Operation Caminhos Seguros throughout Brazil, which resulted in the arrest of 314 adults and the rescue of 163 children and adolescents.

More than 12 thousand security agents carried out actions in more than 450 municipalities. They inspected 5,300 locations and approached around 53,000 suspects. The operation assisted 6,200 victims and also inspected approximately 16,000 vehicles. Furthermore, 103 firearms, 7.2 tons of drugs and 15,900 materials referring to child pornography were seized.

How to report

Federal government statistics show that sexual violence against children and adolescents remains high in Brazil. The Dial Human Rights service (Dial 100) registered 7,887 reports of rape of a vulnerable person between January 1st and May 13th of this year. The average number of reports in 134 days is around 60 cases per day or two reports per hour.

The reporting service operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week and registers reports of violations, disseminates information and provides guidance to society on human rights policy. The channel can be accessed via a free call – dialing 100 on any telephone device.

Online, complaints can be made on the Ombudsman's website, via WhatsApp (61) 99611-0100 or Telegram. The service also offers support in Brazilian Sign Language (Libras).

*The victim's name was changed and a fictitious one was created to protect his privacy

Source: CNN Brasil

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