What is the relationship between power and sexual abuse?

This month Psychologies Magazine is looking at 'power' and they've asked psychologist Dr Nina Burrowes to explain the relationship between power and sexual abuse as part of her video series 'Sexual abuse: The questions you've never had the chance to ask'.

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To submit your question for this video series tweet Nina @NinaBurrowes or submit it in the comments section below.

Dr Nina Burrowes

The Cartooning Psychologist, -

I'm a psychologist who uses cartoons to help people understand themselves and others. I use my cartoons to start the conversations we're afraid to have, to help people understand the things about themselves that they normally try to avoid, and to celebrate the best things about being human. You can find out more about my work at www.ninaburrowes.com or follow me @NinaBurrowes


Go to the profile of Michael Charles Ferrand
about 7 years ago
Dear Dr Burrowes,
I have been in therapy on and off for many years and only during my current weekly sessions have I been able to start to make sense of myself. Also since retirement I have had fewer 'props' to hide behind, so 'myself' is more exposed. To put it simply, my boarding school survivor's persona led me to being psychologically abusive in my relationshjps with women, mainly; I think, because my experience of being sent to boarding school (my parents returned home to South America the next week - 4 weeks ship journey away) on my 9th birthday, the bullying and sexual abuse ( including an aggressive sexual attack at 13 by another boy, witnessed by two of his friends) and my mother's inappropriate behaviour towards me after I left the school just before my 15th birthday, when she returned to England on her own. Your short talk speaks of sexual abuse taking away one's power and that one's strength comes with an awareness of one's vulnerability. I think that denying my vulnerability must have affected my capacity for empathy and would explain my psychologically abusive behaviour that I would not recognise - hence defensive, arrogant,immature attitudes. I have at times felt despair at my inability to understand or make sense of my experiences though I appreciate their effect on loved ones. I was in my 40's when my first therapist told me that being left in boarding school was an abandonment and akin to a death and that my mother's behaviour was abusive. Yet I had felt only shame and guilt, though had hidden it well. Consequent therapy has been rather hit and miss, tackling the symptoms rather than seeking the cause. Recently, my current therapist has used the word 'rape' to describe the attack on me when I was 13. Why was I shocked to hear this. I know all the above has haunted me all my life, yet I have downplayed these matters, as though it is too long ago, or nothing to do with why I behave the way I do sometimes. I have been diagnosed with depression, not severe. I seem to be making connections about events, situations and behaviours in my life and hope it is not too little too late. Any advice would be welcome. Thank you for taking the time to read this