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  • Kennedy McLean

Attachment Wounds in Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Assault

Updated: Jul 7, 2019

Whether a one time occurrence or multiple acts, childhood sexual assault, can cause considerable damage to the psyche, and some survivors are left with a skewed way of seeing the world.

Depending on the age when a child experienced sexual assault, they often have blurred ideas of love, nurturing, trust, attention, and affection, and may begin to believe that the only way to receive love, or attention, is to please the person abusing them. These beliefs remain into adulthood and are seen in later relationships.

It is common for survivors believe that once the assault ends, the trauma is over and does not need to be discussed again. If the child does not receive counselling or treatment to process the wound, as they become adults it is common to see individuals caught in a cycle of relationships that reinforce these wounded attachments.

Unconsciously, survivors of trauma are often attracted or attached to someone or something that reminds them of the wound or the trauma, and seek out relationships that reinforce the wounded part of themselves. An example is continuously engaging in romantic relationships where the survivor is belittled or where they feel like they have to make everyone else happy at the expense of their own happiness.


Awareness plays a critical role in helping adult survivors of childhood sexual assault move toward recovery and healing. It is not a simple process, there is no way to change what has happened in the past but recovery often means learning new ways to understand oneself. It can mean learning how to feel safe in the world, learning to trust oneself, setting boundaries, being able to enjoy intimacy. Recovery is an individual process and it is never to late to start healing from childhood trauma and psychotherapy can play a vital role in that process.