Greetings From The Desk Of Darlene J. Harris – Relationships And The Survivor of Childhood Sexual Abuse by Annie O’Sullivan

Greetings Everyone!

I hope all of you are well.

I hope you enjoyed the article by Rachel Grant “Beyond Recovery” and I want to thank Rachel again for her willingness to share with And He Restoreth My Soul Project.

I was recently blessed to be a guest speaker at San Diego City College. At the invitation from a very good friend Professor Karen Lim the presentation was on Reclaiming Life After Abuse.  The presentation was well attended and well accepted.  However,  but, reclaiming one’s life is not always easy and relationships are an area where tension and an array of other emotions and feelings can become overwhelming.  After all, sex is a relationship act of pleasure and not meant to be violent.  The article by Annie O’Sullivan on “Relationships and the Survivor of Childhood Sexual Abuse.” This topic is very close to my heart because the severity of the violent act and the impact on survivors.  This is part-one of “Relationship And The Survivor Of Childhood Abuse” and we truly hope you increase in wisdom and understanding as you read through this article.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact me or Annie O’Sullivan.


Darlene J. Harris


Annie O’Sullivan was born in the New England Area. Growing up in a military family, she traveled much of the U.S. with her family as they followed her fathers’ military career. Soon after graduating from high school, she left to serve in the USMC. While on active duty she married, had two children, attained the rank of Sergeant and ultimately entered therapy. She spent two months hospitalized for PTSD and depression and the following two years on disability as she began put her life back together.

In the end, Annie would log over two years of counseling, private and group. She went on to receive BSLS and two Graduate Degrees. She currently resides in the Western United States where she works in Land Management and lives with her dog Simon. Annie spends many hours working on her blog (read in 78 countries) pulling together information from various sources, sometimes from the media, sometimes from other survivors as guest writers as well as information on what events she is involved with.

She also has an internet radio program on Blog Talk Internet radio where a wide variety of guest talk about their life experiences and projects. One of the goals is to show that you can have a conversation about a dark topic and come away enlightened and smiling. 

Annie now has three grown children who are successful and grandchildren who are happy, proving that the chain of abuse can be broken.

Her book, Can You Hear Me Now? has been read all over the world. It takes you through an intimate life journey through the eyes of a child, with all the confusion, misunderstanding and the will to persevere and seek goodness in the world. It is also the story of the toll taken 50 years later on the body, caused by mental, physical and sexual abuse. This is not your typical survivor story. Can You Hear Me Now? Is the voice of a child as you have never heard it before.

Against the odds, life is good.

Relationships and the Survivor of Childhood Sexual Abuse

Part 1

Where did our road map into the future come from? Who taught us how to navigate? How to love? Who to trust? When to trust? Secrecy and keeping thoughts and feeling to ourselves became our true reality. Imagine yourself as a child, seeing the world through a child’s eyes, and then being introduced to a erosive and violent actan act that serves to not only damage one’s physical body and mental/cognitive mind-set, but also disrupt one’s spiritual being. And yes, it is all these things without being beaten. I believe violence compounds the problem.

Wounded attachment is an insidious component that I have seen repeatedly in my work with adult survivors of childhood sexual assault. What is wounded attachment? It’s the unconscious way of being attracted or attached to someone or something that reminds the survivor of or reinforces the wound/trauma, or in this case the sexual assault. At its core, it’s the way in which survivors subconsciously seek out relationships that reinforce the wounded aspect of themselves. (Valerie Kuykendall-Rogers, MA, LPC-S, June 2013)

A neglected and abused child often develops a confused attachment style when they are raised in an environment of inconsistent or unavailable attention.  This is especially true when the parent or caretaker is abusive, intrusive, neglectful or otherwise dangerous.  These children can go on to become adults who make poor partners later on in life since they are prone to acting out against themselves or others.  We (survivors) often have such high levels of abandonment and trust issues that without intervention relationships become caught in a revolving door of different version of the same relationship.

Survivors of Childhood Sexual or Physical abuse also learn to ignore his or her own needs.  As adults survivors tend to be fiercely independent and will not admit to needing others. Early training that our needs, wants and requirements don’t matter or are no importance are difficult to overcome, even when you are aware of the faulty thinking.  

There can be great frustration in trying to be perfect and not getting what you need, often times not knowing what you need.  A relationship can then end in a self-fulfilling prophecy of the very abandonment the survivor fears most.  Partners leave in frustration.  

They might also remain single and avoid relationships altogether. (Note: singleness does not imply a person is avoidant; finding a good partner takes a certain measure of good fortune!) 

This avoidance is where I’ve been finding my own self the last few years.  It’s lonely. There is so much pain in a failed relationship.  And failure.  Society doesn’t look at you and say, oh that person wasn’t right for you.  They say things like “Too bad you couldn’t make it work.”    

Then there are your own children.  Are you saying enough?  Are you saying too much?  Should you say anything at all?  What are the boundaries?  Who is showing me how to be a good parent? What if they grow up and never talk to you again?

Relationships are based on how we attach to others.  Expressing your feelings, ability to nurture, comfort and feeling connected. Some of us struggle with the connectedness part. If you spent your formative years running away from feelings that overwhelmed you, who tells you that you don’t have to run when you don’t even know your are still sprinting away from the very thing you want the most? is a marvelous self-help site that talks about the wounds you have as a grown wounded child.

Instead of relationship issues many articles and those in the mental health field call it an attachment disorder. It’s a painful label. However, it seems that without labels no one knows how to talk about what the problem is.

I like to think about attachment/relationship issues and my dog. My dog, Simon, was a 15-month-old rescue. He’d been poorly fed, abused and beaten up not only by the past owner but by the other dogs. Simon was on his way to being euthanized. No hope for him. He was terrified of people, other dogs, cats and even puppies. A look his way and he would cower and urinate where he stood. My heart went out to this creature.

I took him home for 5 days. “Only 5 days,” I said. “If there is no improvement I can’t keep him.”

I bought him some chew bones, food and a ball. He stared at the chew bones. He didn’t eat. He didn’t know what to do with the ball. I stayed with him for those five days. He jumped when I moved. He watched everything around him and whimpered when my cat went to check out the house quest. I spoke to him quietly and played soft music in the background.

I kept Simon. He will be 8 years old this month. I had him for two years before he let me scratch his belly. He learned to trust and he learned to love. If my English Shepherd can do, I have to hope we all can.

We need to be able to set healthy boundaries, understand and respect them. It matters for our personal safety, and growth as well as healthy relationships whether it be family, friends, co-workers, or partners.  

We were given a bad roadmap to our future. Let’s lose it and get a new one. We’ve been alone too long.


Annie O’Sullivan

Author, Can You Hear Me Now?