The effects of childhood sexual abuse can be felt for a long time after childhood is over, even a lifetime, if left untreated. I have found that to be true for me, as well as many others I know who have posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) resulting from childhood sexual abuse. I recently read a book called, Hungry for Touch, A Journey from Fear to Desire, by Laureen Peltier that is an excellent example of how childhood trauma can cause PTSD symptoms much later in life. The book also shows how perseverance in treatment can bring healing from the long-term effects of childhood sexual abuse.
Childhood Sexual Abuse and Future Mental Health Issues
It’s estimated that one out of every four girls and one out of six boys are sexually abused before they reach the age of 18. Although it is hard to pin down accurate numbers because many instances of childhood sexual abuse are never reported. In fact, I never reported the abuse that I suffered, and neither did author, Laureen Peltier. We were both victims of sexual abuse and rape by a family member, which is far more common than sexual abuse by a stranger.
Many victims of childhood sexual abuse go on to have mental health issues in adulthood. Depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, sexual dysfunction, and, most commonly, PTSD, are just a few of the conditions that can occur as a result. These conditions can extend far into adulthood, cause symptoms that are disruptive to daily life, and require treatment to manage.
Learning About the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Sexual Abuse in Reading ‘Hungry for Touch’
In her book, Peltier describes how the trauma she suffered as a child affects her as an adult when she seeks treatment after having a breakdown in her late 30s. Despite being a successful, career-oriented woman who seemed to have it all together, when her PTSD was triggered, she realized that her symptoms were at a point where they could no longer be ignored and she had to deal with what happened to her in order to heal (Trauma Events and How to Cope).
Peltier’s treatment is chronicled in the book, with tales from her childhood and thoughts about her treatment at the beginning of each chapter. Her childhood trauma has caused her to not be able to stand being touched by men, and she longs for the physical intimacy that often accompanies relationships with the opposite sex. She finds a doctor who she trusts, and they begin on a journey of healing that uses both traditional and quite unconventional therapies.
Hungry for Touch is not an easy read; not due to the writing, which is excellent, but due to the content. I had to read it in small increments because I found it very emotional. I think that anyone who has been a victim of childhood sexual abuse themselves will find this to be the case. That said, I recommend this book because it gives an uncensored, first-hand account of what it is like to suffer sexual abuse–with all of the helplessness and horror–but also what it is like to heal, with the hope and inspiration that speaks to many of us.
I think it’s especially inspiring to those of us who have felt the long-term effects of childhood sexual abuse. I know that when I was diagnosed with PTSD in my late 30s, I didn’t think that something that happened so long ago could be causing my symptoms and issues. But it was, and I needed to deal with a 25-year-old trauma in order to find relief and healing.
One final thought about Hungry for Touch–when you read this book, keep in mind that it may trigger emotions or PTSD symptoms if you are a survivor of sexual abuse, so be sure to practice self-care, and only continue reading if you feel you can.