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The Taboo Trauma No One is Talking About

Don’t shy away. Be there. This is a difficult topic and it took me a long time to be able to openly talk about this even just as an abstract idea. I intern at The Center for Child Protection, a children’s advocacy center (not Child Protective Services, though we do work with them).

As the Center states on the website: “Through the Center for Child Protection’s comprehensive programming, children have a voice in the investigative process, caregivers are empowered to better protect and nurture their children, and community members are educated to identify and report suspected abuse.” Through my internship, I am able to interact with these kiddos every day. I think the most common misconception when I tell people that I play with these kids before and after they have their interviews is that they must be sad, scared, or even “broken”, but that’s just not the case. These kids are just like any other kid, they smile and laugh, they love to play Uno and make silly jokes, and they definitely don’t want to leave the playhouse to go back to school! The reason they are so “normal” is because first of all kids are stronger than we give them credit for, but also Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) is sadly a relatively common traumatic event in childhood.

The fact is you may have experienced it or someone close to you has. The CDC and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center assert that one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18. 12% of women were age 10 or younger at the time of their first sexual assault, and 28% of men were age 10 or younger at the time of their first sexual assault. And, it is estimated that only about half of all survivors report their assault to law enforcement. But thanks to children’s advocacy centers around the country there is help. Here at Austin’s children’s advocacy center, where I intern, there is free, unlimited, individualized therapy for these kids and their protective caregivers, last year alone 10,335 Austin kids received services from the Center. I love this work and I can’t wait to be a part of the healing process for the rest of my life.

Without therapy, CSA victims have highly variable reactions to their assaults. Many develop Psychiatric Disorders, including depression, anxiety, personality disorders, substance abuse, PTSD, eating disorders, and suicidal thoughts and actions. Some eventually become abusers themselves if they have unresolved feelings about their own abuse. Many even have physical, biological reactions including lower IQ, smaller total brain volume and smaller corpus collosum volume, chronic pelvic pain, inflammatory diseases, breast disease and complicated pregnancies.

But all of this can treated if there is awareness and less stigma. The cycle could be halted if treatment is affordable and widely available. This problem has a solution, it’s not one-size-fits-all but good solutions never are. So, why is it that when we talk about Childhood Sexual Abuse and Assault, we as adults, the protectors, shy away? If we can’t talk about it, we won’t know the signs and symptoms. Our kids won’t get treatment and the inner turmoil may alter every aspect of their lives. Be there for the kids in your life.


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Malia Bybee

St Edward's

Malia is a junior Behavioral Neuroscience Major with an Environmental Science and Policy Minor. She loves to travel and has done so as much as possible during her college career. She currently interns at The Center for Child Protection and is Vice President of the St. Edward's chapter of Her Campus. She enjoys binge watching Judge Judy, procrastinating and glitter. She is a social media social justice crusader and is talented in the art of type yelling. 
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