With sexual trauma from childhood and adolescents, dysfunction is not only physical; it is mental, emotional, spiritual, AND sexual. But the thing with chronic childhood trauma is that it is also developmental; this means that through each developmental stage, the child is affected in a different way. Working with trauma survivors during one particular developmental age, the attention can be focused but with chronic trauma that occurs over one's developmental childhood and adolescent lifespan, healing from the trauma will be long and arduous, as you can only imagine.
There is a huge gap in the health care system for trauma survivors of sexual abuse and violence and survivors of chronic or cumulative childhood violence. Physical wounds heal. Mental, emotional, sexual, and spiritual wounds are not the same. The abuse in embodied in their spirit, their muscles, and and their living cells.
During my masters studies, I recognized that when a woman enters the emergency department (or first point of contact in the health care system) for help, it is usually the physical needs that are noted by the provider and nurses, and so they help mend what they visually see. But many stop there. They don't take the time to understand what may be lying deeper under those wounds. Health care providers (HCP) must look at individuals "holistically" not simply physically. If they did this simple act, they could provide much needed resources to the women that enter the system. Sure, it is difficult to ask. You may be thinking that you (as a HCP) are placing these women at risk if you ask how they got the injuries. However, the majority of the studies show that directly asking these women benefits more than not asking. It shows that you care and are concerned for them and many women who've expedience violence respect that.
At the same time, HCP's tend to fear asking women about why they have the physical injuries and if they need support because they do not know how to respond. And yet many HCP's don't ask because they discriminate women who've been violated.
A Lot of Work to Do
There is still a lot of work to do. Women who have experience violence (e.g., domestic violence/intimate partner violence, family violence, sexual violence, and childhood sexual abuse) are continually being victimized and re-abused by the public. This has to STOP! The consequences linger for a lifetime because the layers are so deep, especially when it comes to chronic and cumulative traumas. Sexual trauma and all trauma requires "holistic healing." Until this occurs, only pieces of the individual will be healed. The individual will continue to remain fragmented and lack wholeness.
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