I thank blog reader, Monica, for providing me the link to this important article from MSNBC:
Study finds levels of so-called stress hormone are altered for years, sometimes causing physical and mental problems, researchers find — By Joan Raymond
The findings of this 23-year-long study following the lives of women who were sexually abused “by a male living in the home” parallels the important findings the Center for Disease Control (CDC) is documenting in their research on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) studies.
Many sexual abuse consequences are the same as ones suffered by child abuse that does not include sexual abuse. EXTREME STRESS DURING IMPORTANT EARLY GROWTH STAGES changes the direction physiological development takes.
Resiliency factors available to traumatized children need to be studied equally with the traumas that create such damaging stress. Without this information nothing useful can be said about what contributes to some people having much more ‘damage’ than others seem to.
Information in studies needs to also be gathered about the overall environment the abused child is living in. Most importantly, was the abused child’s mother abused herself as a child? What kinds of attachment patterns were present in the home? It is very hard for me to imagine sexual abuse happening in a home where safe and secure healthy parents are present. That means the child did not have safe and secure attachments in the first place.
All research on healing from any kind of trauma concludes that safe and secure attachments to other people who help the sufferer process the trauma – as well as STAY SAFE – make the biggest possible difference in the quality of long term recovery from trauma. This fact is a MILLION TIMES more important for young children!!!
Further information about the work of the authors of the sexual abuse research study, Dr. Penelope Trickett and Dr. Frank Putnam can be found by Google searching these terms: ‘trickett putman sexual abuse’
Another important article to take a look at:
By Dr. Dana M. Hagel
“Recent neuroimaging studies demonstrate that neuroanatomy is significantly altered among individuals who have experienced childhood maltreatment and abuse-related Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.”
“The psychological trauma of maltreatment triggers the complex neurochemical and hormonal systems involved in the stress response and in emotional regulation. When child experiences an abusive insult, in their glucocorticoid [our body's own steroid system], noradrenergic, and vasopressin-oxytocin systems are activated; this highly adaptive response allows for survival in a dangerous environment. Chronic activation, however, may result in permanent changes in brain chemistry, structure, and function. [I believe it is also vitally important that we realize these changes happen in our entire body, not just in our brain -- including our nervous system and our immune system!] Over time, maltreated children are at risk for the development of an exaggerated response to relatively minor stress. Compounding this insult, maltreated children are forced to respond to environmental threats (family violence), rather than engaging in activities necessary for the development of complex emotional, behavioral, and cognitive functioning.“ [bold type is mine]
This is exactly what I have been thinking about as I begin now to write my response to the 6th question my daughter has given me for our book. It wasn’t ONLY that my mother terrified and assaulted me for 18 years that hurt me. It wasn’t ONLY the additional isolating confinements of long duration she forced me to bear. All of these things were combined with the fact that I could not interact with the world in anything like a normal way – so that I was at the SAME TIME deprived of all the OTHER developmentally-necessary activities that SHOULD have been happening for me.
Abuse in dangerous early environments creates a DOUBLE WHAMMY this way!! I do not believe the harm to we early abuse survivors can ever be adequately measured! But these kinds of research efforts mentioned in this post HELP because they let survivors and ‘the public’ know that what early abuse is and what it does MATTERS!!! OH, do we survivors KNOW THIS!!!!!!