Child Abuse, Self-concept, and PTSD


“With childhood sexual abuse, victims are often too young to know how to express what is happening and seek out help. When not properly treated, this can result in a lifetime of PTSD, depression and anxiety” (Babbel). 

At the age of five, my mind dealt with the sexual abuse by shutting down my senses and cognition during the frequent rape by my birth father.  He even began to refer to himself as the midnight raider, since the abuse usually occurred at midnight.  I would lay in bed not fully asleep until I heard my bedroom door being open.  As my basic defensive mechanism for dealing with the trauma was to black out mentally, it became a routine. Kessler and Bieschke (1999),  discuss the that dissociative defenses interfere with cognitive capabilities, so that the sense of self and identity become fragmented.  This was my consistent coping mechanism as I endured eight more years of sexual abuse by my birth father.  Dissociation became my psychological life raft throughout my childhood and well into my adulthood. Even to this day, when life gets overwhelming or depression is thick, sleep or escape is my go to solution.

   My mental safe place or blackout would be disrupted after my birth father would finish his act, because he would get me out of bed to walk me to the bathroom every time.  In the bathroom he would douche out my vaginal area, clean me up and then would tell me to go back to bed.  I have many clear memories of the waking and cleaning, but I gratefully still have no recollection of the feelings, sounds, and smells from the actual sexual abuse. 

   My  shattered self-concept at the age of five set me up to have low-self-esteem and left me to view myself as an object instead of a living being.  My birth-parents divorced when I was six years old.  I was left to survive in my birth-father’s house where corporal, cruel and unusual punishments were a daily occurrence, unless he was out to sea on his Navy ship.  During my early childhood and into the beginning years of middle childhood, my birth father would use the sexual abuse as a means of punishment.  He would decide at any moment that my normal childhood behavior was bad behavior, and I would be given the choice to be beaten or molested.

   I can’t recall ever actually asking for the molestation, but I can remember the moment when I realized I would rather be beaten.  I began to ask for the beatings every time, until my birth father stopped giving me the choice.  At this point in my young life my sense of self was completely distorted, in that my self-concept was concentrated on my current survival instead of my true, inner self.  This type of self-concept is normal in sexually abused children, according to Chun and Hill (1993).

“Studies have shown that children who experience sexual abuse tend to recover quicker and with better results if they have a supportive, caring adult (ideally a parent) consistently in their life” (Babbel).

   During my middle childhood years, I was taken out of my birth father’s home by the state due to the abuse and imprisonment of one of my younger brother’s…….(That story will be told another day).  In my recollection, during the social worker interviews and the police interviews, the subject of molestation never came up.  At this point, at eight years old, I was not even aware that what my birth father was doing to me was not a normal thing happening in every little girls life in the world.

   At the age of nine, I found myself living with my birth mother, her new husband, and two of my younger brothers. I remember feeling so happy and excited to be living with my birth mother and my step-father. He seemed to be much kinder than my birth father had been. There wasn’t any violence, beatings or yelling in the home.

“By far the most common effect of sexual abuse is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Symptoms can extend far into adulthood and can include withdrawn behavior, reenactment of the traumatic event, avoidance of circumstances that remind one of the event, and physiological hyper-reactivity” (Babbel).

   By the age of ten my step-father validated my shattered self-concept the day he had me come into my parent’s bed to nap with him one Sunday afternoon, while my birth mother was shopping.  I recall laying there for the first few moments next to him feeling safe and secure, until I felt my underwear being taken off.  I froze with fear as I heard his voice telling me not tell anybody.  As my body began to be violated by my step-father, my young mind reverted back to the coping mechanism that had already worked for several years and I mentally blacked out.  I came out of my coping black out when my birth mother opened the bedroom door to find us both under the blankets in their bed. Unfortunately, I can recall the feeling of my step-father abruptly taking his body part out of my little body, as my birth mother yelled that I was to never take a nap with him again.  I said nothing as I was being scolded by her, as my self-concept of being just an object became more grounded in reality.  I immediately felt ashamed and was afraid it was my fault. 

   Retrospectively, I understand that my birth mother was acting in a typical manner, in that she was unintentionally repeating the cycle of abuse in her relationships. The repeated cycle is a residual effect according to Kessler and Bieschke (1999).

   During a family vacation to visit my step-father’s family at eleven years old, yet again, my shattered self-concept was validated.  This time though, it was not a father figure, instead the two young men that were about to deepen my low self-concept were two of my step-fathers younger brothers.  They were both college age,  while they were left home watching me and my brothers I was summoned into their bedroom where they both molested me.  As usual, my mind blacked out during the abuse and afterwards, I spent the rest of my time in that home trying to hide from everyone.  This was a major point in my life when I became extremely introverted and withdrawn from life.  My goal everyday was to not be seen and or heard by any adults.  I felt that I was only good for one thing,

“Another legacy of sexual abuse is that children abused at any early age often become hyper-sexualized or sexually reactive. Issues with promiscuity and poor self-esteem are unfortunately common reactions to early sexual abuse” (Babbel).

   During my adolescence, after moving through several foster homes and caregivers I found myself in a safe place.  I was attending a public school, had begun to have friends or at least hang around other teens, and I had begun to feel that I was a living being.  At the age of sixteen, I had a steady boyfriend, and had been having a sexual relationship with him for almost a year.  This was not a negative relationship, we were the same age, and I felt safe whenever I was around him.  During a sleepover party at another teen’s home, my terrible self-concept was again validated, but this time it was at the hand of another adolescent.

   At the end of the party, several teens found a place to sleep in the basement room of the house.  The house belonged to the parent’s of a senior at the high school I attended.  He had also been a longtime friend of my boyfriend.  Several single beds had been placed in the basement for the purpose of housing many of the party goers.  As I slept on a single bed across the room from my boyfriend’s bed, a hand grabbed me, from what seemed like under my bed, abruptly bringing me to the floor next to my bed.  As my eyes opened to focus on who had pulled me off the bed a hand covered my mouth. The teen held his hand over my mouth as he pulled my underwear off and forced himself into my body.  I froze and went to my mental safe place.

  Re-victimization is a common occurrence in sexual abuse victims according to Kessler and Bieschke (1999).

  Reverting back to my well used coping mechanism, I blacked out until the act was done, and then I crawled back into my bed and never said a word.  These events left me to continue surviving through life as an object instead of a person.  I also developed a physical manifestation, due to the overflow of mental stress in my life.  Rocking back and forth became a daily ritual for me for several years.  I would seek out rocking chairs to sit in to hide the uncontrollable urge to self pacify when possible. During this developmental stage in my life I also had begun to have a great deal of stomach problems, these somatic symptoms are part of  stress management after exposure to trauma according to  Kugler (2012).  All of the previous events, of course also set me up to find a future partner that would also abuse me and validate my self-concept.

   At age eighteen I married my first husband, who turned out to be a drug addict and an abuser.  The same re-victimization pattern that subjected me to abuse when I was in my middle and teen childhood phases, was now occurring in my young adult life, just as Kessler and Bieschke (1999) describe.  After six months of marriage we were separated for three weeks before I found out that I was pregnant with my first child. Terrified, does not describe the emotion I felt when I heard the words that I was going to have a child.  I had such low self-esteem at this point in my life, I did not feel like I was good for anything except being pretty to look at and have sex with.  I had a temper that would be triggered with little provocation.  I had never wanted to have children, because I did not want to bring a person into the horrible world that I had known.  At age eighteen I did not realize that I had the choice and the power to not be like my birth parents.  I had never had counseling or guidance through foster care and the transition to adulthood. One thing I did have was a sense of kindness and I realized that children were innocent.

   I began to walk to the local public library to check out child development and child rearing books, so that I could educate myself of the normal development and behaviors of infants and toddlers.  I also wanted to learn about alternate ways of teaching a child how to behave without hitting them, because I knew that I had a very hot temper. I understood that the pain and agony that I endured was not what a child should have to deal with, so I wanted to do what I could to give my baby a better life.  As my first born grew and developed inside of me and as I continued to educate myself, I also began to feel that I was more than an object to be used and abused.  I began to have a self-concept that included identifying models in my readings that I could follow.

   The rocky journey that built the foundation for the person that I am today would have been very different had I been born only ten years later.  I was born in 1966 and in my environment my lot in life was to begin learning how to cook, clean and care for others at the age of six, prepare for marriage in my early adulthood, then have children and care for my families needs.  There was no thought of education or rights of females in my home environment.  During my psychology education journey, I have wondered where the professionals were that had information and facts of my childhood.  How did the system let me fall through the cracks.  I understand that times were very different in the early eighties, and I hope that children are provided better care and counseling in today’s child welfare program’s.

    My journey to healing will go on and I aspire to use my pain and knowledge to assist others down their own paths to recovery. The pieces of my shattered self-esteem can never be reassembled to appear perfectly normal, but the mosaic that the broken pieces have become illuminate beautiful light on my future.

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog.


Until next time,

Peace, Love and Happiness



Babbel, S.,

Chung, M., & Hill, R. (1993). On describing the psychological struggle of child sexual abuse victims  through Kierkegaard’s concept of self. Child Psychiatry & Human Development, 24(2), 81-90.

Kessler, B. L., & Bieschke, K. J. (1999). A retrospective analysis of shame, dissociation, and adult victimization in survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Journal Of Counseling Psychology, 46(3), 335-341. doi:10.1037/0022-0167.46.3.335

Kugler, B. (2012). Somatic Symptoms in Traumatized Children and Adolescents. Child psychiatry & Human Development, 43 (5), 661-673.




Finding Memories


Thinking about what to write in this blog; I kept coming ’round to the topic of adversity. Why do humans often have such a difficult time dealing with set backs in life? A common adversity that can throw us into a tailspin, is the state of mourning brought about by the sudden, unexpected death of a friend or family member. Obviously, adversity is not always associated with a sudden death.

Looking at this photo I think about the horrific abuse I was enduring, but did not even realize at the time. At the age of five the abuse began in my life and continued until I ran away at the age of thirteen. Adversity entered my life with a violation of my body’s innocence.

Memories have faded from the corners of my mind due to my psychological response to the trauma, yet the night my birth father woke me from my top bunk is crystal clear. “Come sleep in daddy’s and mommy’s bed, daddy is lonely with mommy gone”, he said. I loved my daddy at the age of five so why wouldn’t I go? Where was my birth mother? She was in the hospital recovering from delivering my 2nd brother, Robert. My 1st little brother, Edward, was asleep in the bottom bunk.

Before I knew it my body was in pain and as I cried out, Dick comforted me telling me it will not hurt long. How does a twenty-three year old man call his five year old daughter to come sleep with him and rape her? It is damn hard to comprehend, I have to confess. Nevertheless, that is my story.

Like most little girls I thought my birth father was superman, before that life changing event. I couldn’t wait for him to come home from work and did not like it when he was gone for extended periods of time. Let’s just refer to my birth father as Dick from here on out. Dick changed from a superhero to a villainess, predatory monster. I learned to pray for extended periods when Dick would be gone, even though life was still far from healthy with him away.

When Dick was away,  many times Edward and I would be locked in our bedroom overnight. Jean would go out and usually came home the next morning. There was an exception, of course. One morning she did not return and as the day continued Edward and I began to get hungry. Minutes turned into hours and she never unlocked the bedroom door to let us out. Climbing up onto the top bunk was the only way that I could see outside. The windows in our room were small and were very high up on the wall. Looking out the window, I could see our side yard and the neighbors garage but no people were around.

Day turned into to night without anyone coming to get us. Edward had begun to cry a great deal and nothing I tried would take his mind off of crying. Once the sun set for the night, sleep seemed to be the only way to deal with being scared and hungry. In the early moments the next morning, just before the sun began to illuminate, I woke up to Edward screaming. The large lamp at the end of our room had a glowing base. Wrapped around the base was a pair of pantyhose and my brother thought it was a snake.

His screams and crying were too much for me to take and I had to do something. Up on my bunk I starting yelling for help as he continued to cry. At six years old I was experiencing adversity that I would not wish on anyone. After hours of crying and yelling, there was knocking on our window. Looking out from the top bunk, I could see two adults, maybe the next door neighbors……don’t remember. They ended up taking us out of the room through our window and down the ladder. Keeping us for another day until she finally returned home………….

Weeks after my birth mother, Jean, came home with Robert I sat on a brown leather ottoman looking out of our living room bay window, as Jean pushed Robert’s crib up our street. Robert was with her, of course and after that day I did not see either of them again for almost two years. Edward and I were left to live with the monster Dick………..

Just these few events set me up for a life of trauma and dysfunctional relationships, it set me up to have little to no regard for my body. PTSD from childhood trauma is known now, but not when I was a child or young adult. During my college education, I was able to retrospectively evaluate behaviors throughout my life and identified PTSD symptoms. Although one traumatic event can cause PTSD, years and years of abuse changes the brain as well. Sexual abuse instills a sense of shame in the victim according to That is an understatement!

I will end for today. After my first posting yesterday my mind has been racing with thoughts and memories. I think that I have needed an outlet for way too long and I am glad to have a chance to tell me story. I hope that I will help or at least inform someone about the life long effects of child abuse , but more importantly I hope to continue growing as a human.

Until later, Peace, Love & Happiness


Mema’s First Chat

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This photo used to be hard for me to look at……..not just because of my hair! This was taken in the same year my birth father began molesting me. In my 50 years of life the damage created by the years of physical, mental, and sexual abuse I endured has had substantial effects in my life. Finding meaning in life when your brain has been rewired due to traumatic abuse, can be a daunting task.

I have decided to create this blog to openly discuss the negative and positive effects child abuse has caused in my own life, and to share my wisdom in healing. While gaining my degree in psychology, I went through some deep, dark months of depression. Having to look inside my own mind and cracked psyche was a frightening journey.

In my blog I will be open to discussing any and all topics. In doing so, I realize that I will be extremely vulnerable to other people’s opinions and judgment, but in the hopes of helping other…bring it. Are there events and decisions in my life that I regret? Yes, tons! I realize that I can do nothing about the past, but what I can do is share my story.

So to start I want to talk about some personal values. When I was a child I did not understand the concept of personal values. All I understood was that children are the property of their parents and adults can do as they wish with them. Growing up in a southern baptist home I understood that the words of elders were to be obeyed. I knew the 10 commandments, but could not relate to the message. When you grow up being raped by your father regularly, watching siblings being beat and family pets killed at the hands of the “elder” the bible says to obey, how is it possible to develop personal values beyond survival? Well, what are some of my personal values today?

Personal values are a core part of who a person is and who a person wants to be. Becoming more aware of personal values is an important factor in developing a happy life. Personal core values used to guide decisions can leave a person feeling satisfied with the choices and direction of life. Every human can be said to have different personal values. What would every parent say would be the personal values most desired in the development of children? Three personal values discussed in this blog are self-control, honesty, and consideration of others.

Self-control separates human beings from the animal kingdom and from ancient humans due to the development of the large prefrontal cortex. The development of the prefrontal cortex begins around the age of seven and continues into the early twenties, and is the last area to mature and is vital in controlling impulses and in decision-making (Guberti, 2016). Civilization requires self-control from all citizens for the world to be a harmonious melting pot of humans. In this day and age of fast information and social media, self-control has taken a back seat it seems more often than not. Under Societal Concerns (main GSS survey heading); desirable qualities for children (sub-heading-1) self-control (sub-heading-2) percentages over ten years: In 1983 only 13.6% of parents value self-control versus 18.2% in 1973. There is an obvious downward trend found in the data in parents’ value of self-control in children. The data and measures in the percentages were generated more than thirty years ago, given more up-to-date data would be eye opening.

Consideration of others is another personal value that is important and vital in creating a peaceful world. Being kind and respectful to others no matter the race, religion or creed can build cohesion in all communities. Alena Hall writes in 7 Habits of Considerate People (2014) that people thought as considerate in nature are found to practice empathy, smile often, are intuitive, are polite, are selfless, are patient, and are found to apologize easily. Under Societal Concerns (main GSS survey heading); desirable qualities for children (sub-heading-1) consideration of others (sub-heading2) percentages over seven years: In 1986 36.4% value consideration of others versus 28.7% in 1980. These data sets, yet again are from thirty years ago. It should be noted that even back then there was an upward trend in parents valuing consideration in children.

Honesty and integrity produce peace of mind and promotes relationships of trust. The opposite of honesty creates anxiety, distrust, conflict and corruption. Jeff Durham (2016) discusses the importance of honesty in life and relationships as vital in producing trust and confidence. Honesty is an important value that leads to the building of trust, loyalty, and respect in many of the vital areas in life, whether it be work, school, or personal relationships. Honesty seems to be a value that has been lost not only in the news media, but also within the government secure of the United States. Under Societal Concerns (main GSS survey heading); desirable qualities for children (sub-heading-1) honesty (sub-heading-2) percentages over seven years: In 1986 51.6% value honesty as compared to 64.5% in 1980. Even thirty years ago there was a downward trend in parents valuing honesty in children. It could be assumed that the downward trend continued and the children then are the adults of today.

Self-control, consideration of others, and honesty seem to be no brainer values that should be foundations for life, business and government. I lived portions of my life having only the personal value of survival. During those years I made choices that would not coincide with my current values. I could have been looked at as a bad kid or young adult to everyone on the outside, but I was a damaged human trying to stay alive. Today I realize that the horrific abuse at such a young age rewired my brain to live in survival mode.


Berkeley University Survey Documentation and Analysis Data. (2014), Retrieved from sdaweb/analysis/?dataset=gss14

Durham, J. (2016) Integrity and honesty: Important attributes., Retrieved from integrityhonestyimportantattributes.html

Guberti, N. (2016) 5 Stages of human brain development., Retrieved from

Hall, A. (2014) 7 Habits of considerate people., Retrieved from habits-of-considerate-people_n_5710033.html

There it is, my first blog. As time goes on, I will dig into my past as a child and adult. I want to share my story to help others, including those in the field of helping abused children.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog.

Peace, Love and Happiness

First blog post

I have decided to create this blog to openly discuss the negative and positive effects child abuse has caused in my own life, and to share my wisdom in healing. While gaining my degree in psychology, I went through some deep, dark months of depression. Having to look inside my own mind and cracked psyche was a frightening journey.