When the trauma of sexual abuse occurs in the family

Trauma Expert Peter Levine, PhD, shares advice on how to help a child overcome trauma after being abused by a member of his or her family
Helping A Child When The Trauma of Abuse Occurred In The Family
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When the trauma of sexual abuse occurs in the family

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Peter Levine: When abuse occurs within the family, and it could be emotional, physical or sexual abuse, the first thing, absolutely the first thing is the child must be protected. And the abusing parent or relative must be excluded from the family. The child absolutely has to know that their safety is the very premier thing. The other thing is that the parent, for example, the mother needs to get her own therapy, because she is probably filled with guilt. She may have had in some way a complicity by not seeing it, for example, if it was a boyfriend, and not wanting to lose the boyfriend. So she kind of, make a sort of ignore some of the signals. But everybody really needs therapy and the child does too with a really competent therapist. Because there’s a lot of confusion, a lot of guilt, a lot of shame. And it’s really important that the child get the full support, but the main thing again, is that the parent, that’s not the abusing parent make it absolutely clear to the child that they would be protected. And even that can be a little bit tricky because sometimes they don’t want the relative to feel bad by being excluded. But again, that’s something that a good therapist can help the child deal with. So the main point here is that when it occurs within the family, which a lot of abuse does, the fact that is the child’s protectors, the person that’s supposed to love and care and hold the child in an appropriate way, is transgressing the child’s boundaries. That’s tremendously confusing to the child. And needs help to sort those things out.

Trauma Expert Peter Levine, PhD, shares advice on how to help a child overcome trauma after being abused by a member of his or her family

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Peter A. Levine, PhD

Author of Trauma Proofing Your Kids & Developer of Somatic Experiencing

Peter A. Levine, PhD, holds doctorates in both medical biophysics and psychology. He is the developer of Somatic Experiencing, a body-awareness approach to healing trauma, and founder of the Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute, which conducts trainings in this work throughout the world. Dr. Levine was a stress consultant for NASA on the development of the space shuttle project. Levine’s international best-seller, Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma, has been translated into 24 languages. Levine’s contribution was honored in 2010 when he received the Lifetime Achievement award  Recognizing Outstanding Professionals in the Field of Child/Adolescent Mental Health from the Reiss-Davis Child Study Center.

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