POLICE ASSOCIATION OF NOVA SCOTIA 99 have experienced or are presently experiencing problems associated with drugs, alcohol, food/eating, and/or self-injury. • Recent studies have shown a relationship between the frequency of drug use and a history of childhood sexual abuse. • A similar relationship has been noted with the development of alcoholism and the impact of childhood sexual abuse. • Eating difficulties are common to female survivors. They may develop anorexia nervosa or bulimia. For a survivor, compulsive control of food intake can be a way of exerting control over her body, control that was denied when she was being abused. • Some survivors injure themselves, hurting their bodies by burning, slashing or cutting. The reasons for this behaviour vary. It can be a way of relieving unbearable anxiety, triggered by memories of the abuse. It can also develop as a way of dealing with and confronting strong, painful emotions, “using new pain to hide old pain”. A WORD TO SURVIVORS If you find yourself using any of these strategies, it does not mean that you are `seriously ill’ or `beyond help’. You did (or are doing) whatever was necessary for you to do to survive. However, these strategies may be endangering your health. Now, as an adult, you can choose to change these behaviours. Coping with the above-mentioned experiences leads many survivors to feel overwhelmed, or that they are “going crazy”. These feelings are completely understandable. Think of these experiences and feelings as reactions to trauma that occurred when you were a child. This may be your way of dealing with that trauma. It is especially difficult if you have been living with these feelings locked up inside of you for a long time. Some of the survival strategies that children use to survive sexual abuse can also become strengths as they grow older. For example, being a hard worker, having a sense of humour, handling crisis situations well, are skills that many survivors develop. These skills help them move beyond surviving to thriving. IF YOU ARE A SURVIVOR, OR SUSPECT YOU MIGHT BE, TALK TO SOMEONE ABOUT IT. It is important that you find someone to talk to about your experiences and feelings, either someone you know and trust, or a counsellor. If this is not an option for you right now, reading or viewing some of the material suggested below may be helpful. WHERE TO GO FOR HELP • Your local/regional sexual assault or rape crisis centre. The phone number can usually be found on the second page of the telephone book with other emergency numbers. • If there is no sexual assault centre in your area, contact a local women’s shelter or transition house. • Community health centres, mental health clinics and family service centres may have counsellors who have worked with survivors before. They may also be able to refer you to a self-help group for survivors in your area. • The hospital in your area may offer counselling services for survivors. WHAT TO DO IF SOMEONE TELLS YOU HE/SHE WAS SEXUALLY ABUSED • Do not judge, condemn or criticize. • Believe the person. • Respond in a caring manner and ask them how you can help. • Encourage the survivor to get support. (...Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse continued) Source: National Clearinghouse on Family Violence, Family Violence Prevention Division, Health Canada Ottawa, Ontario K1A 1B5