Possible childhood sexual abuse

Dear Alice,

This may seem like a stupid question, but I'm eighteen years old, and I recently read a book in which there was a girl who had been molested by her father. One of the things that she did was poke holes in the female genitals of her dolls. Now I distinctly remember doing that with my dolls when I was a lot younger. Is this normal, or could there be "something" in my past? I don't remember anything, and don't want to try and make up something that was never there, but how can I be sure?

Dear Reader,

This is not a stupid question. Truthfully, there is no way of knowing for sure. The fact that you had the same doll play as a woman in a story who was molested by her father may be coincidence, or it may have meaning. There are questions that you can ask yourself to help you see if this situation, or a related one, may have occurred and had some impact. For example, if you had an unwanted childhood sexual experience, what might it mean to you? How is your current level of functioning? How is your life unfolding? For example, are you in school? Do you have a job? Do you have friends? How is your relationship with your mother? Father? Family? Have you had meaningful relationships or friendships with both girls and boys (when you were younger), or men and women (currently)? How happy are you in life? Do you have goals for yourself? Self worth? A sense of humor?

Positive answers to these questions are some indicators of a well-balanced and productive life. If you have these, or elements of these, then delving into an intensely emotional and difficult issue such as this may not be beneficial to you. Try to think about how important it is to you to sort through your feelings on this topic and how/if this process would help you lead a more fulfilling life. This is not to minimize the important issue of molestation; however, sexual molestation is often an issue for an individual when the psychological or physical effects interfere with the quality of his or her life.

To learn more about childhood molestation and its impact, you can look at many books on the subject. A good one to read is Ellen Bass and Laura Davis's book, The Courage to Heal: A Guide to Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse. As you read them, see if anything seems somehow familiar. If it does, or if your quality of life is somehow compromised, then it would be an investment in yourself to get help.

If your school offers counseling services, you may reach out to make an appointment. If not, consider contacting your health care provider and ask for a referral to a therapist. You can also contact the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT) for the name of a therapist who works with these issues near you.

Last updated May 11, 2007
Originally published Apr 26, 1996

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