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Therapist shares how to overcome trauma of sexual abuse, recognize warning signs

As Olympic athlete Simone Biles and other gymnasts spoke before Congress Wednesday on Larry Nassar, the topic of abuse is at the forefront.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The emotional testimony of four U.S. Olympic gymnasts was heard by Congress Wednesday.

Simone Biles said federal law enforcement and gymnastics officials turned a “blind eye” to U.S. gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar's sexual abuse of her and hundreds of other women.

Local 24’s Rebecca Butcher spoke with a therapist on how to recognize signs of abuse and overcome emotional scars. 

“To be clear I blame Larry Nassar and I blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse,” said elite gymnast Simone Biles while addressing Congress.  

Biles spoke this message to Congress, that consequences must be swift and severe to those who allow a predator to harm children. 

So how can we help to keep those around us safe? Be on alert for warning signs. 

“In adults a lot of times, I work with sexual assault survivors, they oftentimes will not tell anyone,” said therapist DeAvila Ford. “But they are hyper vigilant. In children, they kind of probably will start acting out, becoming also more reclusive. So, isolating themselves.”

Ford said the emotional healing from abuse doesn’t happen overnight but takes time. 

“A lot of times they may take responsibility for the actions of this person that of course hurt them and just kind of reconstructing that belief that they’re not responsible for someone else’s actions and it’s not their fault,” the therapist said. 

Ford explains working through negative beliefs and replacing them with positive beliefs helps in finding ways to live with and overcome what trauma happened. 

“If no one is believing that this happened or if your story is valid,” she said. “We have to do better about creating safe spaces especially for women but anyone who endures it.”

Ford said she works with her abuse clients to not only build resiliency and making the world better for those after them. 

“Whether you’re a child or adult it is okay to say that this is my experience. You don’t have to minimize that or allow people to minimize that."