Understanding Trauma & Violence


A third-grade girl asks her fourth-grade cousin to engage in explicit behavior she saw in a video. Both children, not understanding the implications, partially undress and the older child lies on top of the younger one, mostly just looking. As adults, the younger child views it as a silly childhood incident, while the older one struggles with the memory. The same person who was the older cousin in the first scenario experiences unwanted touching from ankles to thighs by an older boy in fifth grade, despite crying and trying to refuse. Are either of these experiences COCSA? How does the individual deal with this? Is therapy necessary in such a case?


Thank you so much for sharing this scenerio with us. The experiences you've described are complex and sensitive childhood interactions that can have lasting emotional impacts. It's crucial to understand that only the person who experienced these events has the right to label or categorize them. Their perceptions and feelings about these experiences are uniquely theirs and entirely valid however they label these encounters.

Regarding the incident between the cousins, children often engage in exploratory behaviors without fully comprehending their meaning or implications. While some might categorize this as child-on-child sexual behavior (COCSA), it's important to consider the context of childhood curiosity and lack of understanding that appeared to be going on in this scenerio. The fact that the two cousins view this experience differently as adults is not uncommon. People can have very different reactions to shared childhood experiences, and both perspectives are valid.

The incident in fifth grade, where you described unwanted touching despite expressing discomfort and refusing, clearly involved a violation of boundaries. However, again, only the person who experienced this can decide how to label or categorize this experience. It's entirely understandable that this event would be distressing and potentially traumatic.

In terms of dealing with these experiences, it's important to acknowledge that their feelings about both incidents are valid. While the first scenario with the cousin may be seen as childhood exploration stemming from curiosity rather than malicious intent, the fifth-grade incident is distinctly different. This second scenario involved a clear violation of their boundaries and consent, and does not carry the same sense of innocence or mutual exploration as the first incident. The distress they feel about the fifth-grade experience is entirely natural and understandable. It's crucial to recognize that these two events, though both occurring in childhood, might fundamentally different in nature and impact. Processing emotions from both these experiences can be challenging, however, and it's completely normal for them to struggle with this. 

Therapy can be incredibly beneficial in working through these experiences and their emotional impact. A professional therapist, particularly one specializing in childhood experiences or trauma, can provide valuable support and strategies to help them understand and cope with these memories. They can help the individual develop healthy coping mechanisms, work through any feelings of guilt or shame, and find ways to integrate these experiences into their life narrative in a way that promotes healing. 

While therapy isn't mandatory, it's a helpful tool that many find invaluable for working through complex childhood experiences and their lasting effects. If these memories are causing significant distress or impacting their daily life, seeking professional help would be a positive step. It's important to remember that seeking support is a sign of strength, not weakness. Talking to someone through a hotline or online chat who specializes in violence prevention or response (for example RAINN or ChildHelp) can also be an alternative to further process these experiences with someone who understands the nuances of childhood sexual harm.

It's also worth noting that healing is a process, and it's okay if it takes time. The individual should be patient and compassionate with themselves as they work through these feelings. Their well-being is important, and they deserve to find peace with their past experiences. Whether through therapy, self-reflection, or other forms of support, taking steps to address and process these experiences can contribute significantly to their overall emotional health and well-being.

Throughout this process, it's crucial to remember that their interpretation and labeling of these experiences are theirs alone. No one else can define these experiences for them or tell them how they should feel about them. Their journey of understanding and healing is personal, and their perspective is the one that matters most. Thank you so much for reaching out to us.

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