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People often believe that sexual assault is more obvious and easier to detect than covert sexual abuse. Covert abuse occurs just as frequently as covert sexual assault. It is also devastating. Victims of covert assault may feel unique and fortunate, but they may also be scared out by the attention they get.

What Is Covert Sexual Abuse?

Covert sexual abuse is trauma caused by covert means of attack and harassment rather than blatant sexual violence. Rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, incest, and other forms of overt sexual trauma are examples of overt sexual trauma, whereas covert sexual trauma is more subtle.

While not as well recognized as the more covert tactics, these traumas are nonetheless legitimate, distressing, and debilitating. Body shaming, slut shaming, early exposure to pornography or other types of sexually explicit information, unwanted nude imagery, and verbal sexual harassment are all symptoms of hidden sexual trauma. The objectification of children by their parents, as well as a lack of limits, constitutes covert abuse. In certain cases, children are used as a parent’s surrogate partner.

Adult relationships can be difficult for people who have endured hidden abuse. They may find it difficult to connect with other individuals. Fears of connection and vulnerability are also widespread. This is because that individual has previously been exploited.

The childhood bond between a parent and a child causes covert maltreatment. A parent may regard his or her child as an adult buddy or confidant. Parents that do this frequently objectify their children and may even project their codependent relationship dynamics onto them.

How To Identify Covert Assault?

Covert sexual assault is not always visible. It might be one of the following:

  • Spousification- It is the practice of replacing a spouse with a kid.
  • Making sexual remarks about a child’s growing body.
  • Intruding on minors when they are nude.

While many people are unaware of covert sexual assault, the consequences are typically severe. Many people may feel useless, ashamed, or enraged. Adults frequently experience fear of intimacy, as well as eating disorders, addiction, and emotional distance. It is critical to identify it since it might be the fundamental cause of many interpersonal problems. For example, because boundaries were so frequently broken as a youngster, adult limits in love relationships might be perplexing. These boundaries might even be perplexing in friendships at times. It might be tough to determine how vulnerable you should become.

When people have these sorts of connections with their parents, their boundary systems might become distorted. It might be difficult to determine how close you can safely become to a spouse or even a friend. Parents exploited children who had been molested in secret.

Covert Sexual Abuse Examples:

A parent may admire his daughter’s attractiveness and make remarks on how men would swoon over her when she is older. A woman may climb into bed with her kid and cry to him about how lonely she feels in her marriage, telling him that she wishes her spouse was more like him.

Children who grow up in these entwined parent-child ties may feel exceptional at the time. While not sexually incestuous, these familial situations might be examples of covert abuse. The youngster may not perceive himself as a victim. Indeed, they may feel fortunate and unique. Indeed, they may feel fortunate and special.

As these dynamics persist throughout their youth, they may manifest as a variety of traumatic reactions as adults. Mood swings, persistent poor self-esteem and self-worth, rage and resentment, and feelings of emptiness can all be traumatic symptoms.

Covert emotional abuse and psychological abuse go hand in hand. It does not entail openly dominating actions like rage, belittling, threatening, or accusing. Ambient abuse is also known as stealth abuse, covert abuse, and passive/aggressive conduct.

Because covert abusers are difficult to identify, characterize, or confront, they utilize persistent, secret mind games such as gaslighting, avoidance, pretending ignorance, blame-shifting, word twisting, and covert aggression to control your mind and emotional responses.

How To Fix It?

The initial step to fixing or mending anything is to identify what was the problem and when it started to take place. Where was that boundary breached? You must be able to detect where lines were crossed to modify boundary systems. This will help you become more aware of what is going on in your existing relationships.

Slowing down your existing relationship exchanges and giving yourself time and distance as required is advised. You run the danger of being reactive to situations when you respond to prior mistreatment. You must allow yourself time and space to feel grounded to cope with your spouse in the present. This can take some practice.

Domestic assault, child abuse, and covert sexual abuse are all crimes, and they need to be addressed. Every person should know how to protect themselves and contact officials if they are in any danger.

Lisa Clontz

Author Lisa Clontz

Lisa Clontz is an experienced Executive Director at Shelter Home of Caldwell County, specializing in providing shelter and support services to victims of domestic violence, child support, rape, and sexual assault. With her years of expertise, Lisa passionately assists women and children, helping them access the necessary resources and care they need. Her unwavering commitment to creating a safe environment and empowering survivors has made her an invaluable advocate in the community.

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