Ending the Legacy (Part 2)

Posted on October 19, 2013


The only statistics I could find that might give a view to the percentage of the adult population that has experienced childhood sexual abuse indicated that “one in three girls and one in six boys are sexually abused before the age of 18” (Voicing Abuse Project, 2013).  I am confident that these numbers are grossly understated.  Granted, I work in with sex addicts so mine may not be a representative sample.  Having said that, the percentage of adult clients who disclose in therapy that they were victims of sexual abuse during childhood is enormous.  Frequently, this disclosure is the first time they have spoken about the abuse to anyone.  Add on top of that those who suffered physical and emotional abuse and neglect, and the percentage of adults who suffered abuse during childhood must truly be staggering.  There will probably never be accurate statistics available because many victims will not disclose the abuse because of the shame and trauma associated with the abuse.

As I mentioned in the last post, one of the things I respect about so many of my clients is their commitment to protect their children from the childhood trauma that they themselves suffered.  While we can never protect our kids from every danger that will come their way, we have an obligation to do what we can to keep them safe.  What does this look like?  Some of this would seem obvious, but let’s talk about it anyway.  If you have some significant dysfunction in your family of origin, you need to have good boundaries with regard to your family of origin relative to the family you created.  Relationally, you can only be responsible for your end of the relationship.  You be as healthy as you can be in the relationship.  How other family members respond is outside of your control.  Don’t let it be your problem.  If Uncle Ernie or Cousin Kevin abused you, your kids are not going to be around Uncle Ernie and Cousin Kevin.  Protecting the children needs to take priority over avoiding drama and keeping the peace in the extended family.  If Grandma and Grandpa’s house is not a safe environment, your kids are not there without your direct supervision.  It is better to cope with the family upset than have another generation experience trauma.

If you have read my earlier posts on pornography (https://scottwoodtherapy.wordpress.com/2013/03/14/is-porn-use-always-unhealthy/ and https://scottwoodtherapy.wordpress.com/2013/03/07/porn-addiction-the-neuroscience-and-why-it-is-a-problem/), you have gathered that my opinion is that porn has adverse impact at every stage of one’s life.  The science bears that out.  This is particularly so when children have been exposed to porn at a young age.  If you have porn in your house and you won’t get rid of it for your own benefit, do it for your kids.  This includes what is accessed by computer in your home.  My colleagues, Cory Anderson and Treina Nash, have a presentation titled “The Online Sexual Minefield” that provides information for keeping children safe from pornography while online and also speaks to keeping good connection and discussing healthy sexuality with your kids.[1]  The risks are significant (not only from pornography but also from predators) and the results can be damaging and far reaching.  Parents should be involved in monitoring their children’s online activity.

Getting into the signs of abuse is beyond the scope of this post.  Information is available at http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/child-abuse/DS01099/DSECTION=symptoms.

This isn’t about being paranoid, but about being vigilant.  This also isn’t about avoiding the subject of sexuality, but about preventing abuse and helping to develop healthy attitudes about sexuality at age and developmentally appropriate times.[2]  The quality of your relationship with your children and your partner is a good place to start in protecting your children.  When your child feels valued, safe, and secure in their relationship with you, it puts you in a much better position to know what is going on and to end the legacy of abuse.


Mayo Clinic. (2012).  Child Abuse, Symptoms.  Retrieved 16 October 2013 at http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/child-abuse/DS01099/DSECTION=symptoms.

Voicing Abuse Project. (2013). Statistics of Sexual Abuse in the USA. Retrieved 16 October 2013 at http://voicingabuseproject.com/2013/04/10/statistics-of-us-sexual-abuse/.

[1] If you are in San Diego and get an opportunity to hear their talks, I would recommend it.

[2] That is another topic worthy of its own post.