|Hidden Sexual Abuse Trauma In Iran (part 1)|
Growing up in a society and culture where the discussion of sex taboo is extremely difficult. The Iranian culture ignores proper sex education for children and in most cases the children are kept in the dark until they become sexually active themselves.
The lack of formal sexual education is not made up for by a conversation with parents, as it often is the western world. This lack of openness, and discomfort makes sexual abuse a taboo subject as well. Children who have been abused often find that they do not know where to turn or who to talk to.
The hidden trauma stays hidden until the abused gets a chance to abuse another or when their sexual abuse as a child is manifested into psychological problems in their adulthood. Furthermore, the sexual abuse in children has lifelong physical, emotional, and developmental effects on the abused children in a culture where children’s rights are neglected and marginalized.
There are no laws to protect children from predators and abusers in Iran. So, the abusers walk away, the abuse goes on and the abused have to swallow their pride and go on with their lives as though nothing has happened or until the opportunity avails itself to the abused to seek help for a life-time package of guilt, shame, pain and misery. In a way, the abuse of young girls is legally sanctioned in the marriage of very young girls to men that are twice or three times their age.
It was not until I began my private practice that I found how prevalent and deep rooted this problem was among Iranians. More than 50% of my clientele was made up of Iranians that came to seek help with dealing with their relationship problems, self-esteem, feelings, intimacy and sexuality problems as well as their horrific nightmares. After working with these patients, their real problems began to surface and I began to find out that many of their problems stemmed from the fact that they were survivors of sexual abuse by close family members, causing them to carry this shame throughout their lives even after being married for some time. These people could not share their stories with family and authority, because it often fell on deaf ears.
Prior to starting my private business, I worked for the Riverside County Mental Health and became well aware of the prevalence and nature of child abuse in western society and was able to start a program to fight against child abuse and provide protective programs for children. I was well aware that this problem affects every community around the world. However, I was not aware of the magnitude of the problem in my own culture. Our attitude toward the children is not certainly the healthiest one. A lack of psychological information and awareness causes many Iranians to believe that children do not understand much and that they eventually forget much of what happens to them during childhood.
After starting my private practice in Orange County approximately 8 years ago, I began to work with Iranian clients and became aware of the magnitude of the problem in our culture and the devastating effects it has on the individual and the family. I would like to extend my thanks to the Iranian clients who were survivors of sexual abuse and had the courage to put their trust in me and to open their hearts and minds and share their devastating sexual abuse experience with me, with the hope that with my help they would be able to deal with their horrible experiences and start their life free of painful memories of the past.
The long-term effects of child sexual abuse can be so overwhelming that is sometimes hard to pinpoint how the abuse affects the person in adulthood. It permeates everything including, the sense of self, intimate relationships, sexuality, parenting, work life, and the person’s overall stability. Everywhere you look, you see its effects. Many survivors ignore the issue by occupying their minds with their busy lives. But, the healing does not start until the person acknowledges that they need healing.
Many clients ask me why I am dragging this problem along. I explain that it is because it has permeated into almost every facet of their life. It effects the victims emotional security and personal and sexual relationships.
Sexual abuse is just one of many factors that influence the person’s development and it is not always possible to isolate its effects from the other influences on the life. For instance, is your self-esteem low because you have been raised in a racist society? Is it because the person grew in a culture that devalues women? Is it because the person’s parents were alcoholic? Or, is it because the person was molested when they were a child? It is the interplay of hundreds of factors that make you who you are today.
“I am 33 years old and I have had depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder for most of my life. I was also sexually and emotionally abused when I was a teenager. The outcome of all these mental disorders and what had happened to me in the past was for me to have a life full of guilt, shame, sadness and loneliness.”
“Two years ago after many years of suffering from these mental disorders I finally had it. I realized that no matter how much I try I can never forget about my past and get rid of my mental disorders by myself. So I decided to get help and find a good therapist. The few American and Iranian therapists I went to were no help. The main problem I had with these therapists was that since they could not get to the roots of my problems and I didn’t feel comfortable enough to open up to them and tell them about my past. I was spending most of my time telling them what the Iranian culture is all about and that just weren’t helping me. Also, they were not able to help me to open up to my deep-rooted problems. So I decided to search for another therapist.”
“My next therapist was Dr. Teimoori who I was referred to by someone. As soon as I walked in I felt very comfortable and impressed with her knowledge about my issues. She was Iranian and she understood the Iranian culture and she was very familiar with the sexual abuse in children. She helped me to open up to her and tell her everything about my past and tell her all my dark secrets that had been hurting me all my life. For the next year and half we worked together to reshape my personality. Finally I was able to forget and forgive. I was able to say goodbye to my past and start living in the present and plan for my future. I started looking at myself and realizing that I am OK and it’s OK to love myself for who I am.”
“After a while my self-esteem was improved and I realized that I deserve to have someone special in my life. Dr. Teimoori and I worked together to find out what kind of a person I am really looking for as a wife. I opened my eyes and started searching for that special someone. Next thing I know I find a kind and loving and beautiful Persian girl and we are now happily married. All I can say at this point is thank you Dr. Teimoori for helping me find happiness in my life. I couldn’t do it without you.”
(To be continued in the next issue)