Adult Survivors of Child Abuse or Neglect | Kay Trotter

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Adult Survivors of Child Abuse or Neglect

A few years back I started to notice that I kept seeing the same type of adult client coming to me. As I did an inventory of these clients I began to notice that they all had many similarities but the key factor was the transformation that took place during counseling. In each session I consistently found that I moved back and forth between talking to the 30 something man or women then talking to their 3-year-old inner child.  That’s right these adult clients were all survivors of childhood abuse or neglect coming to me unaware of how their childhood abuse was still impacting their day-to-day life as an adult.

This blog is dedicated to all my brave soul survivors who challenged themselves to look at their dark emotions and work to  overcome their fears.

Childhood Emotional Wounds

Research is just now beginning to understand how profoundly the emotional trauma of early child hood affects a person as an adult. They realized that if not healed, these early childhood emotional wounds, and the subconscious attitudes adopted because of them, would dictate the adult’s reaction to, and path through, life. Thus we walk around looking like and trying to act like adults, while reacting to life out of the emotional wounds and attitudes of childhood. We keep repeating the patterns of abandonment, abuse, and deprivation that we experienced in childhood.

The Brain and Childhood Abuse or Neglect

Research consistently supports that abuse in childhood can dramatically alter the way the brain copes with stress in adulthood. Consequently childhood trauma can shape the way your brain works. The limbic system sometimes called ‘the emotional brain’ is the area in the brain that initiates the fight, flight or freeze response, for surveyors of childhood abuse their amygdala which perceives danger is immune to the effects of stress hormone cortisol designed to regulate it’s response it may continue to sound an alarm inappropriately. This is because the production of cortisol in children with histories of abuse and neglect is stuck in a chronic ‘hyper-arousal’ state and may persists for many survivors throughout their adult years as well. Even when the abuse and violence has ceased and the environment is ‘safe’, many adult trauma survivors still perceive the threat to be present.

So Now You’re an Adult

As an adults survivor of childhood abuse or neglect you may find that you produce too much of the stress hormone cortisol which causes you to be in a state of ‘hyper-arousal’ which in turn decrease the volume of  your  hippocampaal causing poorer functioning of declarative memory placing you to be at a  greater risk for experiences of depression and physical inflammations. As an adult survivor you will be more likely to be highly stressed, have difficulties with anger and emotions, and be prone to self-harm, anxiety, suicide and depression.

What to do Now

Adult Survivors of Child Abuse (ASCA) is an international self-help support group program designed specifically for adult survivors of neglect, physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse suggest that you take some time with the following two self-assessment scales to help you determine your current level of safety. After each checklist and the scoring information, there are some recommendations, which are designed to help you determine whether you are ready to progress with a recovery program.

Safety Checklist

Check “Yes” or “No” to answer each question:

1. Do you have impulses to harm yourself?                                                        Y:___ N:___

2. Do you find yourself in unsafe situations?                                                     Y:___ N:___

3. Do you easily feel overwhelmed by feelings, thoughts,

memories or bodily sensations?                                                                            Y:___ N:___

4. Do you currently feel threatened by someone close to you?                       Y:___ N:___

5. Have you ever attempted suicide?                                                                     Y:___ N:___

6. Have you ever “lost time” or lost sense of being yourself?                           Y:___ N:___

7. Do you use alcohol or drugs to excess?                                                             Y:___ N:___

8. Is there a firearm or other potentially dangerous

weapon at your residence?                                                                                       Y:___ N:___

9. Have you been victimized by someone within

the last three years?                                                                                                    Y:___ N:___

10. Is someone close to you involved in illegal activities?                                   Y:___ N:___

SCORING: If you checked “YES” to more than three questions, your current risk level is HIGH.

RECOMMENDATIONS: Let this checklist tell you what you must do to lower your risk level and create more safety in your life. Some of the situations, such as that posed in question eight, concerning firearms or dangerous weapons, can be resolved easily: remove the firearm or weapon from your residence. With other situations, such as past victimization (question nine), there is little you can do except to make every effort to prevent a recurrence. In most of the other questions, the issues are somewhat complicated but not unsolvable. You can (and should) seek professional help if you lose sense of time or of your self or have impulses to harm yourself. If you are being threatened or abused by someone close to you, you need to take steps to protect yourself and to make the threats or abuse stop  even if this means ending the relationship. If you are unsure as to how to address any of these questions, then you may need help to figure out how to create SAFETY FIRST!

Suicide Behavior Checklist

Check “Yes” or “No” to answer each question:

1. Do you feel chronically depressed?                                                                Y:___ N:___

2. Do you have recurring thoughts of killing yourself?                                  Y:___ N:___

3. Do you have a specific plan to kill yourself?                                                Y:___ N:___

4. Have you acquired the means to kill yourself,

such as a supply of pills or a gun?                                                                       Y:___ N:___

5. Do you intend to carry out this plan to kill yourself

within a specified time frame?                                                                            Y:___ N:___

6. Do you have thoughts of actually killing or harming others?                   Y:___ N:___

7. If yes, have you made specific plans or arrangements

for this to occur?                                                                                                     Y:___ N:___

SCORING: If you answered “YES” to ANY of the above questions, your suicide/harmful behavior risk level is HIGH.


You need to first lower your suicide/harmful behavior risk before attempting to initiate or continue recovery from your child abuse. The two are probably connected, but it is very important that you concentrate first on stabilizing yourself before delving deeper into your abuse issues.


Adult Survivors of Child Abuse (ASCA) is an international self-help support group program designed specifically for adult survivors of neglect, physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse. Web page

The ASCA program offers:

  • Community based self-help support groups
  • Provider based self-help support groups
  • Web based self-help support groups
  • Survivor to Thriver workbooks

If you would like Dr. Kay Trotter to come talk to your group or find out more about her counseling practice, you can contact her at: Kay@KayTrotter.com214-499-0396, or visit her web site

Dr Trotter also post regularly in her FaceBook fan page

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  2. Jonna Rae Bartges

    EXCELLENT blog that speaks directly to the heart. The checklists are powerful tools, too. Thank you for shining a light on feelings we too frequently repress while the hurt keeps growing.

  3. Peter Verschoor

    I was emotionally neglected from a young age of about 3 through age 18.

    There was no emotional support from my parents. For example, I do not remember being held as a child.

    I think my parents’ neglect was not intentional. They were busy making ends meet and working.

    I was raised by being told what was expected of me at home, school and church. There was no room for “backtalk” discussion or questions. I was expected to simply do as I was told.

    As an adult I have, through intensive counseling, come to see that my parents did the best they could. They both grew up in war-occupied countries during WW II–father in the Netherlands under the Nazis, and mother in Indonesia under the Japanese.

    They delevoped a “survival mode” mentality to get through the war.

    This mode continued when I immigrated to the U.S. at the age of three.

    My insight is that my parents were probably neglected by their parents. This way, I don’t have to blame myself or my parents. We were all children once.

    Now that I understand and have forgiven my parents, I can move on, knowing that other nurturing people in my life have helped me to overcome my poor self-esteem, sense of being unloved, and in turn help others who are suffering.

    • jim k

      I suffered the same neglect as a kid My parents treated me like I was invisible They spoke to me about 10 minutes a year

  4. Jennie Mellem

    I recently confronted my father who I have always had memories of sexually abusing me as a young girl, about the age of 3-5. The abuse stopped at that time but of course it has deeply affected my life since then. I was asked to keep it a secret to keep the family together and now that I have revealed this secret I don’t know how to deal with it, I don’t know how to separate myself from the person who kept the secret and now this new person who is confronting the issue. My father of course denied it and my mother and several other family members don’t believe it either as my father is outwardly a good man. In fact I love him to this day and have a lot of good memories with him. His explanation is that I have skewed or false memories due to post-partum depression or some other mental illness as I have been breaking down emotionally and mentally over the past 6 months. Post-partum was present initially and now I feel completely lost and isolated from my family. I am confused and question myself as to my sanity and the accuracy of my memories. I love my family very much and want to maintain relationships but am unable to refute my memories. Has anyone else had this experience where they confronted an abuser whom denied it but still wanted to maintain a relationship with that person? Any insight would be much appreciated.

    • drkaytrotter

      Thank your for sharing these very painful memories and I applaud you for having the courage to look at how your past is impacting you current life.
      It sounds like you are ready of the next step in getting the help you need and I strongly encourage you to enter into a counseling relationship so you will have someone to guide you through the process of discovery – pain – healing, and ultimately the courage to change.

  5. Tempe

    I wanted to tell you some of what I’m going through. I’m reading a book about forgiveness, and it says that in order to forgive, I will need to tell someone what I’ve experienced and am feeling. There is no-one for me, so I needed to find a blog. See, when I was a baby, my mom had a really bad post-partum depression. My ten-year-old brother took care of me during the first months or years. (I’m not exactly sure how long– this whole story is a bit of a family secret.) So, now I’m saddled with a really needy personality. So much so, that I haven’t had a friend since high school. I’ve been fired from many of the jobs I’ve held, and even though I’m almost fifty, I’m in a job that pays less than twenty thousand dollars a year.
    This makes me feel like a failure. Every time I’m confronted with the fact that people avoid me, and it is SO frequently that I’m made aware of this, I feel so angry at this problem.
    I’m not mad at my mother any more. She’s not really at fault. No-one is. Maybe I am, because I responded to this neglect by developing a really strong need. I don’t know.
    Now I’m ready to forgive the universe for doing this to me.

    • drkaytrotter

      Thank your for sharing these very painful memories and I applaud you for having the courage to look at how your past is impacting you current life.

      It sounds like you are ready of the next step in getting the help you need and I strongly encourage you to enter into a counseling relationship so you will have someone to guide you through the process of discovery – pain – healing, and ultimately the courage to change.

      • Tempe

        Dr. Kay:

        I can’t under any circumstances afford real therapy. What are there in the way of free counseling groups?

        • drkaytrotter

          Tempe – I would suggest you look into community agencies in your area and don’t forget universities and colleges run counseling clinics at reduced rates and often times free.

  6. Jimmy Trent

    This is such an important issue, I was lucky to have a happy childhood but I have met people in my adult life who have been affected by the issues you have discussed. I think it’s very important to donate tochildrens charities whenever possible.

  7. catherine

    Thank you for this info, I recently found out my mum was molested by her father (my grandad). I want to be supportive and loving and getting some understanding helps me to do so. This is a recent discovery / confirmation of her fears held inside for over 45 years, her childhood memories blank for so many years, but slight anxieties and flashes have become to resurface. Confirmed by her twin and older sister just recently they to buried the pain.
    Getting an understanding of how childhood events affect those later in life is important in the healing process.
    My mum is amazing, giving and loving, my heart aches for her, but I trust this is a journey that will lead to peace and contentment.


  8. blue

    Hey can i seek help, I’m from india.
    Just never went to a psychiatrist as an adult i just am not gutsy talking to a doc.
    i lie of a perfect past to people n even when i really tell my problems i fabricate most of the cruel facts.
    is there a problem ? i don’t know how to deal with it. i am 24.

    • drkaytrotter

      Nimsaa – the best thing you can do is humble yourself and go see a counselor explore and learn about who you are and start the journey to who you want to be.

  9. amiebyrron

    Hi, glad I found this site. I have 2 older brothers. One recently committed suicide and my other brother is sychzoprenic. We we’re negleted, and I was sexually abused by the brothr who died. Our parents are alive, but my Father has no mind left from booze and my Mother, will not face the past, even to help me to live, I have no answers,no closure. The night my brother left he called me around 2am drunk. I told him we will talk tomorrow(it was his birthday) and I hung up the phone. I have been abused in every wat possible. I beleive what broke my soul is being severly neglected. Emotionally, and physically. Trust is only a word to me..Ring worms, pin worms, lice, bladder/kidney infections , I now understand is not just how kids are. I am struggling with acceptance, with everything. I am under a great Dr;s care. Were thinking I might go to hospital for a while, so I can go were I need to safley. I just feel like my brother committed suicide and I went to hell. Thank you

  10. Nikki

    I am a survivor of childhood physical /sexual abuse. I have learned that talking about the abuse is so important in the healing process. My mother and step-father both were alcoholics, my step-father would wait for my mother to fall asleep, then sexually assault me. The abuse went on for years, until I finally had enough, when I told my mother she confronted him. He of course denied it, she believed him and told me not to say anything, because the police would take me away and I would never see my family again. Since he could’nt sexual assault me, he physically and verbally abused me. During the abuse at the hands of my step-father, I was sexually assaulted, once again by a family member. I didnt say anything about the sexual abuse. Years passed then my older brother started physically assaulted me, and yes my mother knew about the abuse I endured from both my step-father and brother. I struggled in school, because of the abuse as well as being bullied at school. I started cutting myself to ease the pain, she mother told everyone I was just trying to get attention. I am now an advocate for domestic violence/sexual assault victims, and speak out about bullying in school.

  11. sarah

    Hi, i just found this site, really appreciate the information and seeing others stories is comforting that i’m not the only one who has to deal with such issues! My mother was a schitzophrenic (diagnosed officially when i was just a baby) By then she had already physically beaten my older sister (who is almost 3 years older than me ) and god knows what horrific things my sister went through. Then at age 3 my father finally divorced her and took custody of us. I have heard many stories about what went on between me being a baby and age 3- i believe she attempted suicide with me in her arms and also attempted suicide on herself and then again with my sister and i at a beach before she was sectioned and got divorced. Im told i was neglected never physically harmed just emotionally neglected and can only presume not fed correctly either. So age 3 we lived with our father who constantly worked and was not there for us at all, we had nannie s so im pretty sure i was still neglected emotionally and underfed until i was age 9 and we moved all moved area to live with our nan so we d be taken care of. My nan did a excellent job, taught me how to wash, fed us properly, loved us loads and i began excelling with hobbies school life etc. Throughout all this time though i was mentally abused by my older sister who was clearly acting out as she was so badly physically abused she bullied and undermined me all throughout my life which was a confidence/self asteem killer ! Then at age 12 my father met a lady and we moved to the countryside without my sister. This move wasn’t great for me as i was settled with my nan and was happy for first time in my life. I remember going through a awful phase of pulling my hair and eyelashes and found it really hard to start a new school as i was too shy and anxious i felt neglected here too as my stepmother wasn’t particuarly caring or neurtering and i was alone quite often without friends and became too anxious to eat infront of people too. Then at age 16 i began modelling made some money and moved out to my own place at age 19. Since then iv found it really hard to settle into a proper job due to anxiety issues. I became a high class escort (not great i know but i had a mortgage to pay ) met a older arab man and began a 5 year relationship that was mentally abusive extremely controlling and not pleasant. Sooo a year and a half ago i plucked up the courage to leave him …. no income behind me no job and a whole load of anxiety issues/sefl esteem issues and neglect – i now believe im on the road to recovery as iv been to a psychologist and am on a very mild dose of anti depressant to combat the anxiety and possible ptsd i may have due to all the drama iv had in my life. Now, im not nearly as anxious i have forgiven my family and am working really hard on healing from it all. I don’t smoke anymore barely drink and have no bad or destructive habits, i am retraining as a fitness instructor and practise yoga daily to combat stress. So life is finally settling down at age 26 ! I am aware that i need more psychotherapy to combat everything thats gone on but cannot afford that so i generally google ways to help myself heal. I have remained single since i left my ex and am in no hurry for any relationship until i can combat my issues. The main issues i see that effect me is very poor concentration and memory- i think this could be a result of neglect as a child and would like to work on that asap. I still struggle with socialising sometimes as i get bouts of shyness/anxiety in new situations but i overcome these in time, i hope me sharing my story helps others to know you are not alone with this and we should all work harder to make sure we do not repeat history with our own kids x good luck to you all x

  12. dave

    There has been child abuse since the dawn of man/woman on this planet and there will be till the end of time.. This is a sad truth of mankind.. My story is one of those.
    My Father and Mother Grew up in the great Depression. My father grew up in the entertainment business till the war in Japan and he went to the south pacific to kill the enemy and make them pay for Pearl Harbor and that is what our soldiers did .But there was a high price to pay for the mental damage the war did to their mental well being. My mother was raised in the back country of Louisiana.Her father was a mechanical engineer and an alcoholic and her mother was mentally unstable so she had to help raise her brothers during the depression on very little of any thing food,milk etc.

    My father came back from the war and his family had moved to Louisiana. This is where he met my mother. His sister set them up on a date. what she did not know was that my dads mother had set up a wedding to get my dad married so she could keep him from driving her nuts. Little did my mother know that my father was a severely disturbed person.He abused her in both mind and body.One story of my older brother when he was five years old. my father had left a hatchet where my brother and a friend could get to it .Well they cut a small tree down my father had planted..When my father got home he beat my brother so severely.that he had open cuts all over his legs, butt and back.My mother said that my father put hot water and put him in the tub to clean and treat his wounds he made him wear long sleeve shirt and long paints. and sent a note for him to not suit up.

    I was born in 1954 and we moved to the east Texas oilfield where my father worked as an electronic repair man.I don’t remember much till about the age of 4 or 5. We moved in to a 2 story house. this was the house of hell. I remember our father waking us up in the middle of the night to move every thing in the house around.

    If my mother was having a bad day. she would yell at dad to beat us and it was on.
    If you were in bed asleep he would get you out of bed and take us in to their bed room. It was something my brothers and I had done. He would put us on our knees in front of each other and take turns slapping each other as hard as we could if we didn’t do it hard enough he would slug us in the stomach hard enough to make us throw up. and after. we finished up with military style exercises. To teach me to read he took to his work shop and stood me in from of him and slugged me in the stomac till i could perform like one of the circus animals he grew up around..i was only Five.

    I grew up wondering when he was going to go to far and kill me or one of my siblings
    Or my mother.This was a man who did not think any about forcing my mother to give oral sex in our station wagon on vacation think we were asleep. I can remember my mothers pleas that it smelled bad as i looked over the back seat and saw him force her head down The night before my older brother went in to the Navy my father stomped him on the floor and sent him to boot camp with three broken ribs. I remember him picking my little brother up by the neck and throw him against the wall as hard as he could., it knocked the breath out of him and i thought he was dead.but he started to breath.thank god.

    I made a mistake and played the Beatles song Let it be on the juke box at pizza Inn . and when we got home I got one of the worst beatings of my life for playing a song about jews he said.. My mother signed me up for drivers ed when I was 16 and I paid with money I had earned. That was a bad mistake he beat me with bamboo limbs he made me trim off and bound them together and made me pull my pants down and then he tied my hands to the rear bumper of our cars bumper. this was out side in our drive way. the police drove by and said to give me a lick for them.This was the 60s and was okay for these men of this era to abuse their families.Till this day he brings up any little thing you did to him when we were little but will not admit his vile things he did to us. I could talk for hours on how this affects us even now but that’s another day Child abuse is a life sentence. You have to take it one day at a time. Till this day my Brothers and sister can’t seem to bond because of the abuse of turning us against each other. My father believed in divide and conquer.An old war plain.

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