Sexual Trauma and Athletes
On the surface he was an athlete in his prime. A collegiate football player. Tall, muscular build, good looks, with a gregarious personality.
However, he was hiding a secret. During our session he revealed that as a little boy, he was molested by a teenage male in his neighborhood.
No tears were shared, he seemed to be in shocked that he finally released his deep dark secret. He tried to brush over it, but it came back and he noted that only four people in the entire world knew of this incident.
One person was his current wife. Next was me. Third was him and last was his perpetuator who died several years ago.
Now let me ask you something…yes you. You the all-star volleyball player. You the stand-out on the football team. You the amazing dancer and even you the coach and former athlete.
How has carrying this burden helped your athletic performance?
You don’t have answer because we all know it does not. Carrying a burden of this magnitude can lead to internal strife and/or feelings of guilt and condemnation.
It’s Not Your Fault
Relating to the ability to perform and being sexually traumatized is like mixing oil and water. You may even do great exploit within your sport such as Olympic Gold Medalist Simone Biles. Biles is also a survivor of sexual trauma.
During the trail of disgraced USA Gymnastics Team doctor Larry Nassar, Biles stated,
“There are many reasons that I have been reluctant to share my story, but I know now that it is not my fault.”
I believe many athletes that suffered sexual trauma go through this process. With Biles statement I see four phases that she and other survivors of sexual assault go through: Condition, Chaos, Coping, and Callousness.
Condition created by Sexual Trauma
The Condition is the actual event that took place. According to RAINN (Rape Abuse Incest National Network) 7 out 10 rape cases are committed by someone known to the victim. In Biles case it was the USA Gymnastics Team Doctor.
Chaos caused by Sexual Trauma
In Biles’ narrative she reported feeling “reluctant” to share her story. I believe this is the chaos or confusion that survivors of sexual trauma try to manage.
The main reason is because they are acquainted with the perpetrator and still trying to sort out their thoughts and feelings about the event.
Coping with Sexual Trauma
Once survivors have made up their minds not to speak out as Biles did they develop methods of compartmentalizing their problems.
Some become overachievers and use their pain to help them progress. However, many turn to other vices e.g. drugs, alcohol, violence, etc.
Callousness and Sexual Trauma
Over time I believe survivors of sexual trauma form a callousness that produces layers to protect their emotional well-being.
On the contrary, the formulation of layers does not always produce healing. In some cases these layers have formed over infected areas and the scab must be peeled open treatment, or for this example therapy to treat the infected area. Once treated, the wound can heal of sexual trauma without the effects of contamination.
Psych Problems that Poison Performance
No athlete wants a weakness. No athlete is rewarded a college scholarship or given a multi-million dollar contract because of their flaws.
Yet, today many athletes are weakened psychologically due to sexual trauma. With that being said, let me share three Disorders Athletes may be dealing with as a result sexual trauma. They include but are not limited to: Depression, Sexual Dysfunction, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
One of the deceptive symptoms of depression is apathy. If you Google ‘apathy’ you will find words such as, “indifference,” “lack of interest,” “unresponsiveness,” “dispassion.”
You cannot be a champion athlete playing with dispassion which is the opposite of passion. You will likely be ineffective if you engage your sport with feelings of indifference and unresponsiveness.
Moreover, having a lack of interest demonstrates that you may need to sit on the side lines or risk possible injury or the injury of a teammate.
I remember many years ago my friend told about a young lady he was dating. One evening when they were being romantic the atmosphere changed.
The woman began to slap at his face and started “dirty talking” while using harsh profanity while engaging each other. My friend paused and shared with her that this type of behavior was not necessary.
As they talked about the incident it was discovered that when his lady friend was a preteen her perpetrator would “dirty talk” and hit her during molestation. Her perpetrator told her that men liked it rough.
Prior to my friend other men may have been aroused by this type of behavior. As a result of that she continued to act in this manner figuring this is the method of pleasing all men.
From the opposite end of the spectrum some people are hyposexual. Hyposexuality means that a person has low to no sex drive. Yet, other feel that sex is completely unnecessary and view it as a waste of time.
Whether it is dirt talking sex, hyposexuality, or the perception that sex is nasty. These are just a few symptoms that can manifest as a result of being sexually traumatized.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Many people have heard of PTSD and it’s some it’s symptoms. Those well documented indicators include nightmares and vivid flashbacks.
Subsequently, another symptoms that is overlooked is mistrust. Individuals who have gone through sexual traumatization have problems with trusting people.
As a result of that they may struggle with forming healthy relationships that can be beneficial to them and their families. From an athletic prospective mistrust can lead to disconnectivity among teammates.
In turn, this lack of connectivity influences the chemistry of the team. This is another reason why it is important for amateur and professional athletes to seek help if they are survivors of sexual trauma.
Now Is The Time
It is never easy or convenient for athletes to admit they struggle in an area. But even if you do admit you are struggling with your past assault. Admission alone is not good enough. You need the help of a trained professional to assist in this area.
If you need to improve your speed, you would find a track coach. If you were trying to improve your jump shot you would hire a basketball coach. If were a dancer in need of help to perfect a solo you would hire a dance coach.
If you needed these resources and they were available would you wait to find someone or hire them immediately? Chances are you would hire them as soon as possible.
You need counseling, you need help if you are a sexual trauma survivor. Surviving does not mean you are thriving. Book a session today and let me assist you in improving your performance so that you can thrive.