Beautiful rainbow - original photograph by Herb Rosenfield
Hopefulness Evolves







There Is Hope! for Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse ©

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Introduction [Edited: 04/11/2020]

“Nonetheless, we are missing the boat!”

At this point in our history, as a society, we are finally addressing sexuality and sexual abuse issues more openly.  This is, indeed, important progress.  In our homes, we undoubtedly are doing a better job of teaching our children about sexuality than past generations did.  In our pre-schools and kindergartens, our educators have been teaching our children about “Good Touch, Bad Touch”.  And societally, we more frequently have utilized kids’ television show characters to encourage our children to maintain personal safety from “them”, avoiding those ‘bad strangers’ who may be out there.

“Even so, we are still missing the boat!”   In 2021, we should know and do better!

Surely, there have been victims whose sexual assault was perpetrated by a primarily unknown or a completely unknown stranger.  A little boy who was pulled into a stranger’s car.  A teenager who is raped by someone who was breaking-and-entering into her home.  A college woman assaulted on campus by a stalker.  A young partier, slipped a date-rape drug at a party or in a bar, is rendered confused, vulnerable, and is sexually assaulted.  Certainly, there are some dangerous strangers out there.  As a result, we all do have to be aware of our surroundings and be sensibly vigilant in unfamiliar settings.  And we do need to teach our kids about maintaining their personal safety from strangers.

In 2021, we do know better!  The #MeToo movement has highlighted the manipulative and immoral behaviors of far too many men in positions of power, some of whom have been knocked from their lofty roles and credibility.  However, since much of the news has focused on the immorality and manipulative behaviors, confrontation, and the fall of a number of rich and famous men – gymnastics’ MD Larry Nassar, UPenn’s Jerry Sandusky, and rapper R. Kelly  — we are still not adequately accepting the well-documented reality that, in our own communities, it is not primarily ‘stranger-danger’ that places our children at risk.  We must provide parents, educators, and kids with adequate information about the dangers from the molestation, rape, and incest by the ‘non-stranger’.  The website of RAINN – Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network – indicates that an estimated 93% of perpetrators of sexual abuse are known to the child.  About 34% of perpetrators are family members, ~59% are acquaintances and only about 7% of perpetrators of child sexual abuse are strangers to the child. [1]  Whether you are reading There Is Hope! as a survivor yourself … or out of your concern for someone about whom you care … sadly, you probably will agree.

These have been the titles of some of these non-strangers, in “trusted roles” …

“Father”          “Mother”        “Brother”        “Sister”               “Grandfather”       “Step-Father”     “Uncle”            “Cousin”        “Mom’s Live-in Boy Friend”   “Foster brother”     “Babysitter”          “Neighbor”      “Family Friend”   “Doctor”    “Teacher”           “Clergyman”         “Coach”                      “Scout Leader”    “Counselor”  “Policeman”    “Fireman”        “Bus Driver”          …

… the titles of the “trusted roles” of the vast majority of perpetrators whose innocent victims we therapists have assisted in their healing in our counseling practices, agencies, and institutions.

From my over fifty years of work in social services — working for the New Bedford YMCA, the Waltham Boys’ Club, and the Jewish Community Centers in Massachusetts and Connecticut, in the Meriden Public Schools as a Certified School Social Worker, and in our private practice as the Director and a Connecticut Licensed Clinical Social Worker — I can regretfully attest to the fact that it is not ‘the strangers’ who pose the greatest danger to our children.  In the Adolescent & Family Counseling Center, our forty-year-old multi-disciplinary outpatient mental health private practice in Central Connecticut, many dozens of our therapy cases have involved our treating adult clients who have reported to their clinicians that they had been sexually molested, abused, or raped as children.  Rather than being molested by ‘a stranger’, over 95% of the female clients who reported having been sexually victimized were sexually abused by “a known and supposedly trustworthy” male.  Of our male clients who shared with us having been sexually victimized, with only one exception, each man has revealed that his sexual abuse victimization was by “a known and supposedly trustworthy” male or female perpetrator.  Our skilled professional staff members — with extensive and diverse experience working in public and parochial schools, hospitals and residential treatment centers, child guidance clinics, child protection agencies, colleges and universities, the court system and in prisons, and at community recreational and social services agencies — concur that this has been an accurate representation of what clients have reported to them, in every setting in which they have served clients.

Certainly, it is not my intent to paint all of us men with the same, dark brush!  Despite all the faults that we males may have, most of us men are appropriately honorable, trustworthy, and protective of children — our own kids and the children of others.  However, both as a man and as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified School Social Worker, I have been very embarrassed and extremely apologetic for what some men have done to children.  I am appalled that — due to a combination of genetics, hormones, testosterone, societal messages, their own victimization, mental illness, or significant family-of-origin dysfunction — some men have perpetrated great harm, trauma, and lifelong damage to the bodies, self-esteem, trust, and functioning of their victims.  Yes, there are female child sexual abuse perpetrators, too.  However, according to the University of New Hampshire’s Crimes Against Children Research Center, “studies using the law enforcement as well as victim self-report data found that more than 90% of the perpetrators of sexual offenses against minors were male”. [2]  Many of their victims have been their own daughters, sons, sisters, or brothers … and some of the initial sexual abuse had begun when these girls or boys were preschoolers, several as young as 3 years of age.

The International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation, of which I have become a member, announced the opening for the 2015 conference in Australia: “BROKEN STRUCTURES, BROKEN SELVES: COMPLEX TRAUMA IN THE 21stCENTURY: Addressing Complex Trauma in children, adolescents, adults, families & society.”  The ISSTD described it goals in the announcement:  “Increasing public awareness, empowering victims and sufferers, providing continuing education for clinicians who work in the field of relational trauma.” [3]  In this book, There Is Hope!, my goals are very similar:

  • To validate the dangers and overwhelming experiences which perpetrators — primarily non-strangers — have sexually foisted upon far too many children;
  • To share what we have learned from our clients whose trust we have earned and several disguised case studies of individual clients who have approved my sharing with you;
  • To describe some of the interventions – traditional approaches and innovations – we have found successful, and offering tools with which you and your therapist can be more effective in supporting each client’s unique healing process from the losses and damage done to you;
  • To offer real Hope! — by sharing strategies civilized societies can utilize and to mobilize our working together to implement them — to drastically reduce child sexual abuse in the future.

The current focus in the mental health field is ‘evidence-based treatment’.  There Is Hope! will provide you, your support system members, your clinician, and other therapists in the field with an orientation to this important area of treatment and introduce you to some demonstrably effective, successful non-traditional interventions into treatment of this target population.  Supported by the significant successes we have achieved for over 4 decades of our assisting adult child sexual abuse survivor clients to heal, you will become increasingly optimistic that there truly can be growth and healing.  Readers who are survivors, members of their support systems, experienced clinicians, and relatively new clinicians, will receive information, explore some altered perspectives, be afforded some new interventive tools, and perhaps to have the courage to make some ethical and effective modifications to some classic psychotherapy approaches.

In all our professional disciplines, we have been taught many valuable theories and tools in our formal programs and continuing education workshops.  Regrettably, rather than truly ‘starting where the client is’, too many of us have been ‘starting where the traditional coursework … the insurance company rules … the financial remunerations … and agency directives had focused our treatment’.  There Is Hope! will assist you to receive more innovative, ethical, and successful individualized interventions that you and every injured female and male client needs and deserve in order gain healthier control over your life’s ship and to heal from sexual abuse.

“Then it’s me and my machine, for the rest of the morning,                                       

             for the rest of the afternoon, and for rest of my life.”

 In his song, “Millworker”,[4] James Taylor wrote and sings about a female millworker who is unhappily trapped in the boring, meaninglessness, and repetitiveness of her life.  Trapped!  Stuck!  Depressed!  Feeling hopeless!  That is how most of our clients who have been sexually abused in their childhood or adolescence had felt about the burden and impact that they carried within themselves.  Feeling trapped and powerless, worthless, and hopeless … “for the rest of my life.”  I want to convey real reasons for optimism to survivors and their caring supporters that There Is Hope! we mental health professionals can effectively assist you …

  • to emotionally and intellectually better understand ‘what happened’,
  • to gain empowerment over your past,
  • to improve your body-image and self-esteem,
  • to achieve more normalized, more balanced lifestyles,
  • to participate in healthy intimate relationships,
  • to parent your children well, in safe, loving, nurturing households, and
  • to lead a healthier, happier, more successful life and future!

This authorship endeavor is motivated by the many women and men who have allowed us to earn their trust, who have taught us how to be of assistance, and who have been successful in their gaining greater control over their life’s ship!  I am very proud of them!  My clients have taught me There Is Hope! … to achieve significant healing from childhood sexual abuse victimization, to move ahead from having been a ‘victim’ … to having become a ‘survivor’ … to becoming a ‘thrive-or’!  Their healing has been more than just ‘Hope!’  It has been a new reality!

Consistent with your priorities, let’s all promptly get onboard the ship of effective healing for those of us who have been abused … and toward significantly reducing future child sexual abuse in our local, regional, and international societies!

Let’s not miss the boat anymore!

[1]   Drawn 01/08/2020.

[2]  Drawn from website 01/08/2020.

[3]  Drawn from website 08/22/2015.

[4] Taylor, James. “Millworker”. Country Road Music, Inc. (1979). Permission/licensed from Alfred Music 10/18/17.

 © Herb Rosenfield,  [Edited: 04/11/2020]