Heyward Ewart Ph.D., our guest speaker, devoted much of his 20-year career treating victims of child abuse. In his new book, "The Lies That Bind: The Permanence of Child Abuse," Dr. Ewart maintains that sexual abuse mangles the personality and introduces a "false self" that literally attracts predators throughout life.
The people in blue are audience members.
Beginning of Chat Transcript
David: Good Evening. I'm David Roberts. I'm the moderator for tonight's conference. I want to welcome everyone to HealthyPlace.com. Our topic tonight is "The Damage Caused By Sexual Abuse". Our guest is psychologist and author, Heyward Ewart, Ph.D.
Dr. Ewart retired from a 20-year practice to devote himself to public education in the realms of domestic and child abuse and, more recently, the identification of dangerous students. He is a Diplomate of the American College of Forensic Examiners, and an adjunct professor of psychology at University of South Carolina. His new book, "The Lies That Bind: The Permanence of Child Abuse," is based on treating sexual abuse victims for his entire career. It contains graphic case histories demonstrating that abuse mangles the personality and introduces a "false self" that literally attracts predators throughout life.
Good evening Dr. Ewart, and welcome to HealthyPlace.com. Thank you for being our guest tonight. Are you saying that once a person has been sexually abused, the damage that has been caused leaves them open to further episodes of abuse?
Dr. Ewart: Absolutely. Such an event begins to mangle the personality so that the victim believes that it is his or her fault. The "my fault" thinking, is the biggest factor in people developing an attitude that it is their fault, and they deserve no better than being treated in an abusive way.
David: From what I've read, it is not unusual for the sexual abuse victim to reach a conclusion that the sexual abuse was her/his fault. In other types of crimes, that kind of thinking usually doesn't come about. How does that occur in the person who has been sexually abused?
Dr. Ewart: Usually, the sexual abuse is at the hands of a much older person. Children are taught that older people are good and correct, and that children must learn from them. Therefore, if an adult does something that the child thinks is wrong, then the only conclusion is that it's "my fault". The trauma is directly related to the age difference.
David: You also used the term "false self". Can you explain in plain terms what that means?
Dr. Ewart: Yes. The original abuse will lead to further abuse, because of the attraction of predators. Predators, by their nature, attack wounded individuals. They are thus able to recognize wounded children, and they attack again.
As these incidents are repeated, the abuse tends to get worse and worse, and a kind of brainwashing takes effect so that the sexual abuse victim begins to believe that they were born to be abused, and that they are equal to other people. It's the same type of brainwashing that happens in prisoners of war camps, where the captives identity is broken down to the very bottom, and then they take on the identity that the captive or tormentor says they are. The biggest thing to understand is, that abuse is the strongest form of communication about one's self.
David: Given that scenario, the person's self-esteem at that point is almost non-existent and they are really a "broken" individual. What can be done to recover from that point?
Dr. Ewart: It would be deprogramming, and there are two stages in treatment. One is for them to understand how brainwashing works and how it worked on them. And then, they need to be treated for trauma because child abuse causes emotional trauma. When the victim understands clearly how these ideas about self were formed, they have the freedom to reject the lies.
David: Dr. Ewart's new book, "The Lies That Bind: The Permanence of Child Abuse," is based on treating sexual abuse victims for his entire career.
We have lot's of audience questions, Dr. Ewart, so let's get started:
smilewmn: How can I identify what is my "false self" and my "real self", so that I don't attract predators?
Dr. Ewart: The false self is intact and operating when predators are being attracted, and when you find that you can't break an abusive relationship. The true self is the one that expresses your individuality most completely, smilewmn.
lostgirl: How do we recognize predators?
Dr. Ewart: The very first indication is that a predator wants to own you, you become property, and you are treated as property. Possession is the opposite of love.
David: Here are a few audience comments on what's been said so far, then we'll continue with more questions:
helio: The worst part for me is when I confronted my family and they left me. Feeling "disposable" is the pain; being disposable to your own family of origin :( I know for sure that this was not my fault, but it took some time to realize this.
jellybean15644: I hear what you're saying Dr. When I was younger, I believed it was my fault and wondered what I did to provoke it.
Kassy: You should not have trusted someone so much.
sad_eyed_angel: I think that you are talking about children who are repeat victims of sexual abuse. I never, during my abuse, felt like I deserved the abuse that I was receiving.
LisaM: I have found myself attracted to men who are abusive, and though I have been in therapy for close to 5 years, I can't seem to break the pattern. Do you have any suggestions on how to stop this destructive behavior?
Dr. Ewart: Lisa: Number one, any therapy that goes beyond 6 months is useless because the prolonging of the therapy proves that the therapist does not understand the problem. Second, you must have a therapist that understands what abuse does and how it does it.