Many survivors of sexual abuse first realize the true nature of their abuse as result of flashbacks. Traumatized individuals can protect themselves from the emotional and physical pain by burying such painful experiences. It may not be until years later that they become fully conscious of the abuse they endured as children. For many survivors, the memories of the trauma they experienced can be devastating.
Not every flashback is a visual memory. Flashbacks can take many forms, including memories of sounds, smells, body sensations including numbness, feelings of panic or being trapped, and nightmares. Flashbacks to trauma are often accompanied by sweating, dizziness, chest tightness, headache, shakiness, or even fainting.
Many different types of “triggers” can lead to a flashback. Revisiting the place where the abuse occurred, seeing a person who physically resembles the abuser, being in an uncomfortable situation in which the survivor feels unable to escape, or sexual intimacy can all trigger painful flashbacks. Individuals experiencing flashbacks can become re-traumatized as their fear and pain resurfaces.
Throughout the country, advocates for sexual abuse victims are raising awareness of the mental health resources available to individuals living with flashbacks of abuse.
Seeking the support of family, trusted friends, a clergy abuse survivor group, or mental health therapist can be helpful in coping with ongoing flashbacks.
Rehearsed self-talk is another method of coping used by many survivors. By acknowledging the flashback is occurring and practicing reassuring statements confirming to one’s self that the abuse is over, individuals can reduce the panic produced by the flashback. Some survivors work on breathing, reorientation, or “grounding” techniques, which can provide assurance the abuse is not in the present.
It may take many years for flashbacks to subside. Survivors should above all be patient with themselves as they work through the healing process.
Survivors can suffer lifelong effects of clergy abuse. To deal with the physical and emotional injuries, many survivors receive medical and psychiatric treatment, individual and family counseling, and ongoing medication. Other survivors experience lost wages due to an inability to return to work. In the appropriate situation, civil lawsuits against those responsible, including diocesan officials who covered up any sexual misconduct, survivors can obtain compensation for these damages.
Many survivors experiencing flashbacks are reluctant to seek help due to a fear of not being believed. The dedicated New Jersey clergy abuse lawyers at Williams Cedar understand the courage it takes to pursue legal action against an abuser. Our experienced clergy abuse team helps survivors obtain the compensation they deserve.
With offices conveniently located in Philadelphia and Haddonfield, New Jersey, we proudly represent clients throughout New Jersey, including the areas of Trenton, Camden, and Metuchen, as well as across Pennsylvania, including those in Allentown, Scranton, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Greensburg, Johnstown, Erie, and Wilkes-Barre. To schedule a free confidential consultation with an experienced Camden clergy abuse lawyer today, call us at 215-557-0099 or 856-470-9777 or contact us online.