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Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse and Trust


From birth through the first year is when an infant begins to learn to trust if when an infant cries the parent responds and is able to meet the child’s needs. The infant learns cry brings parent who takes care of me. However, if an infant cries and no one responds the child learns mistrust. The parent who is supposed to respond to the infant’s crying does not come and take care of the infant and the basic needs are not meet. The child learns mistrust.

The first psychological milestone of development that a child achieves is known as the first stage of Erikson's theory of psychosocial development. This stage occurs between birth and one year of age, and is the most fundamental stage in life, known as trust versus mistrust.

If a child experiences abuse during the initial developmental stage, than trust will be difficult for the child to learn throughout her life. Trust is extremely difficult for survivors of child abuse, especially sexual abuse. Children who experience abuse at an early age have the most difficulty-trusting people later in life.

When an adult family member abuses a child in the early years, the child becomes confused as to why mommy or daddy is hurting her. When the abuser tells the child, “this is our secret.” He makes veiled threats to prevent the child from talking. He impresses on the victim not to tell so no one has to get hurt. Do not tell anyone what we do or I will hurt you.

Sometimes, the threat of harm is for the mother, a sister, a brother, or a pet. Abusers will say almost anything to keep the victim from telling someone what is happening. It is their secret.

As a younger child grows older, other excuses keep the victim from telling anyone what is happening. Many times, there are threats of harm to someone or something the child loves dearly even a pet or stuffed animal.

Sadly, living day in and day out in fear, keeps trust from developing. Even if the child is removed from, an abusive environment trust is slow to return. It is unlikely she will learn to trust anyone for a long time, if ever. Once trust is destroyed, or lost, it is difficult to regain and even harder to keep.

Survivors of sexual abuse will always have issues trusting others that come into their life. This is likely to carry through to most relationships over the course of one’s life. The exception is if the child receives long-term counseling and the focus is on learning how to trust again. If you work with adult survivors of sexual abuse be gentle when discussing trust issues. In order to gain their trust one has to move slowly and show that he or she is reliable in all aspects of
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Content copyright © 2014 by Erika Lyn Smith. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Erika Lyn Smith. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Erika Lyn Smith for details.

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