Over the last five years, the number of children in Colorado experiencing sexual abuse has steadily risen. Seven percent of the 286,534 allegations of child maltreatment in Colorado over the last five years involved concerns of sexual abuse; 28 percent of those concerns involved male children and 72 percent female children. However, it is also believed that child sexual abuse is significantly under-reported. National experts estimate that one in 10 children will be sexually abused before the age of 18, and 90 percent of children who experience sexual abuse know their abuser.
The long-term consequences of childhood sexual abuse are numerous, ranging from poor self-image to increased risk of mental health issues and suicide. Because sexual abuse is an extreme violation of an individual’s physical, emotional, cognitive, and familial integrity, it contributes to many conditions that confront adult survivors, including homelessness, addiction, obesity, chronic illness and depression.
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been reported to be five times more likely in survivors of childhood sexual abuse compared to the general population. Children who have been sexually abused exhibit more posttraumatic fear, anxiety, and concentration problems than do their non-abused peers.
Healing Through Yoga
Dr. John Hopper at Harvard Medical School reports that the key for promoting healing for childhood sexual abuse is:
- Establishing safety and stability in one’s body, one’s relationships, and the rest of one’s life.
- Tapping into and developing one’s own inner strengths, and any other potentially available resources for healing.
- Learning how to regulate one’s emotions and manage symptoms that cause suffering or make one feel unsafe.
- Developing and strengthening skills for managing painful and unwanted experiences, and minimizing unhelpful responses to them.
Those familiar with Yoga practices and philosophy will immediately recognize that Yoga is an ideal opportunity to initiate, build, and integrate mindfulness and body-focused practices to address symptoms of childhood sexual abuse.
Trauma-Informed Yoga is a natural environment to create a safe space for healing. Yoga promotes the learning of “interoceptive awareness,” a fancy way of saying awareness of feelings and sensations in the body. Often times, survivors have turned away from feelings and sensations as a way of survival. Yoga can teach survivors how to “befriend” the body and to get to know the associated sensations and feelings, which helps them to make conscious changes and have more choice and control over their own lives. Yoga also incorporates relaxation techniques, coping skills and empowering philosophy which can also aid in the development of post traumatic growth.
For more information on how yoga can be used to build brighter childhoods and the different ways that you can get involved, visit Bloom Yoga’s webpage.
Alongside Healing Comes Prevention
It’s not all just about healing. It’s important to also focus on the prevention of childhood sexual abuse. The Tipping Point Initiative encourages all Coloradans to take the Darkness to Light Stewards of Children® training, the only evidence-informed, adult-focused child sexual abuse prevention program in the United States proven to increase knowledge and change behavior. Adults learn how to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse and feel empowered to spread their knowledge within the community. Visit the website to learn more.