Sexual abuse survivors are not emotionally doomed, per new research

A recently released study suggests that the majority of survivors of childhood sexual abuse are able to achieve what the study calls “complete mental health.” Complete mental Health (CMH) is defined, in the study, as, “the absence of mental illness in combination with almost daily happiness.” In the findings, 65% of childhood sexual abuse survivors who participated were reported to have CMH, compared to 77% of the general population.

What helped them heal and manage their emotions successfully? Support. Having a close confidant increased a survivor’s reported CMH sevenfold.
“Support is so crucial,” says Adam Brown, clinical assistant professor in NYU Langone’s department of child & adolescent psychiatry who specializes in childhood trauma and is unaffiliated with the study. “If you have the right environment, resilience can be developed,” he says.

The presence of a trusted person, presumably an adult, makes it more likely for a survivor to achieve CMH,” says Matthew Mutchler, psychotherapist and associate professor of counseling psychology at Delaware Valley University, who is also unaffiliated with the research. “We need to believe and support people when they tell us of their experiences.” In other words, in order for children who have experienced abuse to heal and go on to navigate social interactions functionally, they need an adult in their lives who will listen to them and believe them.

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