I am 24 now and, all my life, I have been struggling with something that happened when I was young. When I was around 6 years old, my aunt carried out some sexual acts on me and this went on for some time. Since then, I have struggled with my sexuality and even got addicted to masturbation, which she introduced me to.
I tried raising the issue with her about six years ago but she reprimanded me harshly and now I can’t bring myself to talk to anyone about it. I don’t know what to do and I hope I can get some help. This has even affected the way I relate with girls and other people. Please advise me.
What the readers say:
The urge to masturbate is a natural one, especially in adolescence, as it signifies interest in sex before embarking on adult sexual relationships. Masturbation is a shortcut to get the natural gratification that comes with reproduction. But when it becomes an obsession or a reason for constant self-loathing, then perhaps it is time to cut down on this and try to get back on track with your natural sexuality.
At 24, you are still within the safe bracket for addictive sexual habits, masturbation being one of them. It may be necessary that you visit a counsellor but you can still wean yourself out of it. Try and get close to a female friend and tune your mind to resist masturbation. If you put your mind to it, it is possible.
Stop punishing yourself for what happened to you as a child. Remember that masturbation is actually a natural urge and as human beings, we are always having these sexual urges and neither of these things makes you less of a person or any less worthy compared to anyone. Don’t allow yourself to enter into dependence on masturbation as it could have various long term negative effects. So take it a step at a time and realise that there is actually help and you will get over it.
Generally, every survivor of sexual abuse blames themselves for what happened, but they are not to blame. Nobody deserves to be sexually abused. When you were abused, the person abusing you had the power -- physically and emotionally. You were up against a violator and could not defend yourself or stop anything. You are now 24, you have a life to live and you deserve to be happy and to forget about the past, no matter how painful it is. You should never be made to keep secrets that make you uncomfortable. Please find someone you trust and talk to him or her about what’s going on in your life. It may be a pastor, therapist or doctor. You need to do this as soon as possible so as to restructure your life. Lastly, stay away from that woman.
Nganga, I sympathise with you on this situation you are in. It cannot be easy for anyone to be harbouring such thoughts and to have kept them inside for all the years – must be a heavy burden to bear. Luckily, you are still here healthy and taking life one day at a time and we need to continue in that pace. This situation while heavy and painful to bear, can and will be sorted. Yes, some of the things you are experiencing in your life are as a result of what you went through but we are going to help you.
First, you cannot handle this situation and get it sorted if you are going to continue keeping this inside. This is a matter that you and your aunt ought to discuss as the first step towards bringing closure. This should be a candid talk in the presence of a true confidant. You will need to talk about it to get it off your chest and also get her reaction. At this stage, you may also choose the confidant to be a counsellor who can take charge of the meeting and help the two of you in dealing with this. Once this is done, you will need to try and get over the masturbation addition by yourself.
Generally, with some effort and commitment, I see many addicts of masturbation getting over it without much help from a third party. The more complex and intrusive sexual habits are the ones that take longer and require specialised assistance to overcome. Once this issue is off your chest, the burden will reduce significantly and you will have space and the right environment to deal with this. You may not be aware but your silence on this matter may be hat is fuelling these habits.
Lastly, if it proves difficult to solve by yourself, you may need to see a counsellor who can help you deal with the unusual addition and get over it. You may however want to try and deal with it by yourself. There is help available should you need it but it will have to start with you accepting and facing the situation and once closure is secured, you will have a good opportunity to deal with it.
Simon is a relationships counsellor
It is so unfortunate that an adult could take advantage of a child’s innocence. What you are going through is as a result of you getting sexual exposure way too early in life. What this does to a child is that it imbalances a child’s emotions and they relive this experience out of confusion, curiosity or fear. The mind at that age has not developed enough to manage the various emotions.
Eventually, the child ends up with the wrong perception of sex where they are either preoccupied with thoughts of sex as the only way to feel good or the opposite where sex becomes disgusting. The child becomes either obsessed by sex or avoids any of such thoughts altogether.
Confronting your aunt is likely not to help much, seeing that she is already acting hostile. On the other hand, this cannot remain a secret. Your family needs to know about it to protect your cousins and any other child around her because a paedophile does not change easily. You do not have to disclose this during a family get-together but you can confide in a trusted family member, preferably an older one who can handle the matter soberly.
Speaking it out will also help to bring closure for you. Go further and see a professional counsellor who will walk with you through the journey. As for masturbation, having an accountability partner will help you. This is someone you allow yourself to be open and accountable to so that they sort of ‘supervise’ and check on your progress in that area.
With determination, you will overcome this habit and you live with the right perspectives of intimacy and sexuality.
Hilda Boke Mahare has a background in Counselling PsychologyDoes age really matter in a relationship?