Dr. Drew on staggering impact of sexual abuse
On Wednesday night, HLN's Dr. Drew talked to sex abuse victims and experts to try to figure out what sexual abuse does to a person and how people can stop it from happening.
“Is there something we know about the biology of people who have survived trauma and become victimizers that allows them to compartmentalize so much that they may disavow completely those parts that were doing the victimization?” Dr. Drew asked neuroscientist Dr. Allan Schore.
Schore says that recent studies on brain development and how trauma impacts the brain focus not only on the effects of trauma, like hypervigilance and fear states, but also in that response to trauma, the brain can literally shut itself off. People can completely disconnect from it.
“For example, in the case of a 4-year-old child who was being abused and there`s pain involved, in order for survival purposes, the brain has to literally shut that off and disconnect from the emotions from the pain,” Schore explained.
Dr. Drew asked if that is the part of the brain that is disconnected from the more conscious parts.
“Yes,” Schore said. “Not only that, but it`s disconnected from the emotion parts of the brain and the ability to feel emotions, such as guilt … also [disconnected is] the ability to have normal relationships to trust in other people. All of that is negatively impacted by this matter of shutting emotions down, of turning them completely off, and just seeing people as objects, not subjects."
Dr. Drew and Dr. Schore then viewed The New York Times interview where former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky says: “If I say ‘no, I`m not attracted to boys,’ that`s not the truth because I am attracted to young people, boys, girls.”
Dr. Schore reacted, saying, “I think he is trying to struggle intellectually with his left brain, but in terms of his right brain and emotionally, there`s no movement there at all. There`s no insight at all.”
Dr. Drew added that “victimizers may be so shut down in certain parts of their experience and their brain, that it doesn`t connect, literally … you can actually see the brain wiring is diminished quickly.”
Schore also talked about the reason sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect has a more of a negative effect on young people.
“The brain is developing in the first two or three years, which is even before the fourth year,” he said. “And so that abuse, at that point in time, will actually alter the trajectory of the brain, especially the right brain, which regulates emotion and also later leads it a predisposition to the use of drugs.”
Later, Dr. Drew talked to former porn star Jenny Ketcham who says she used sex as a drug.
“It was easier to interact with people on a sexual basis just because that was where I ended up finding my self-worth because that was introduced as the only thing worthy in me,” she stated. “And so I ended up going through a slew of men and women and making my life`s work about having sex, which ended me in the field of pornography, which is a good place if you want to make your life about sex.”
Ketcham explained that she wasn't abused by an adult. "The interaction that took place between me and another young child was such that it shouldn`t have happened at the age that it happened. It`s just too young. And, you know, as a result, I went around and took advantage of other young children and, you know, ultimately inflicting the same kind of abuse on other people."
Actor and sexual abuse survivor Tom Arnold also noted, despite all that's been mentioned, there is hope, concerning the process of recovery.
“We've been wounded, but we don`t have to be damaged people,” he said. “There is help out there. Just get it out. Write it down. There`s a 12-step meeting. There are people out there like me that have similar stories. Share your story. You know, be honest about it. Then we can put it behind us a little bit."
Dr. Drew added, that “ultimately, the healing occurs in an interpersonal way. The trauma occurs in a relational context. The healing occurs in a relational context. We have got to remember that. You`re not alone. We affect each other.”
Hear more from Dr. Drew weeknights at 9 p.m. ET on HLN and follow the show on Twitter @DrDrewHLN.