Tag Archives: Sexual addiction

Sexual Health Awareness Week

September 13th to 19th was Sexual Health Awareness Week – and there are events across the UK promoting both sexual and relationship health education throughout September, some of which you can find here https://www.brook.org.uk/shw/ – and I’d particularly like to guide readers towards the webinar for young men which focusses on consent.

This is an area I work in, which you can learn more about by clicking this link, and which can be very difficult and delicate – supporting those who have been accused of, or are under investigation for, sexual assault or abuse.

I’ve been challenged on occasion for working with this particular client group.  I agree that there is no excusing the acts of sexual offending, on or off line. However, if a person has performed those acts there is, more often than not, significant trauma and/or or abuse in their own history, which impacted upon their personality, their development and their behaviours, and which led to the creation of cognitive distortions and, often times, dissociation, all of which needs to be processed and understood in order to prevent further offending in future.

There are also a number of men I work with – particularly young men – who have been accused of sexual assault when they are innocent. The difficulties of intoxication, blurred boundaries, consent and shame mean that sometimes people can’t clearly remember what happened, or that both parties cross lines they later regret, and sometimes people panic and make an accusation which is unfounded. Many of the clients I work with in this specific area of need have been accused of brutal, devastating things – but the truth of the situation is far more complex, and they are innocent of any crime.

The accusation itself is deeply traumatic, and the process of investigation can have lasting and significant impact not only on the alleged victim, but on the alleged perpetrator – especially when they are innocent, but become tarred with the accusation, and carry that shame.

This is why proper sex and relationship education, especially around consent and the impact of drugs and alcohol on inhibitions and our grasp of reality, memory and morality under their influence, is absolutely vital.

It’s at this time of year when hundreds of thousands of young adults, barely out of childhood, move out into the world as students. Away from home for the first time, free from the constraints of home life and keen to explore every new experience, expand their boundaries and embrace everything student culture brings, combined with meeting new people, in a new place, and bombarded with Fresher’s week party culture, many of these young adults come apart at the seams.

A lot of these young adults find themselves out of control, with free drinks and experimenting with drugs, with blank spaces in their memories of the night before. Many find themselves making decisions they otherwise wouldn’t have made, making enormous mistakes, making fools of themselves or – worse – making victims of themselves or of others.

Some think that universities need to take more responsibility for protecting these new students, limiting the activities in Fresher’s week which focus on party culture – but others say that the students are adults now, and free to make their own choices. Legally they may be adults, but research has evidenced that the prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain which controls impulsive and risk-taking behaviours) hasn’t yet developed as people reach early adulthood. This means that these young people quite literally don’t have the area of brain we need to make these decisions and form reasoned behaviours – putting them at far greater risk of endangering themselves or putting themselves and others at risk impulsively.

When you combine a tendency towards risk taking with excessive alcohol or drug consumption, young people are at the most danger of finding themselves in situations in which they can be accused of – or be guilty of – inappropriate or criminal sexual behaviours.

Education is the only way to challenge this – and to help your own young people to avoid those dangers when they are coming into adulthood and stepping out into the world to test their boundaries and explore their independence. Consent and safe sexual intimacy are vitally important messages for young people to understand, and which people still find difficult to discuss as openly as we need to.

When we have campaigns like sexual health awareness week it opens conversations in these vital topics – the signs of sexually transmitted infections (find out more about the most common STIs here https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/sexually-transmitted-infections-stis/) enthusiastic consent (find out more about consent here https://www.rainn.org/articles/what-is-consent) and protecting yourself against spiked drinks (find out more here https://theconversation.com/what-is-drink-spiking-how-can-you-know-if-its-happened-to-you-and-how-can-it-be-prevented-160538#:~:text=%E2%80%9CDrink%20spiking%E2%80%9D%20is%20when%20someone,alcohol%20to%20an%20alcoholic%20drink) are some of the most important conversations you should be able to have with and as young adults.

One of the best educational videos I’ve seen around consent is this:

The impact of a sexual assault can be life long, and deeply traumatic, and it can impact every aspect of a person’s life and future relationships. But being accused of sexual assault is also very damaging – and those who have been accused need support as well as the alleged victims – especially when the accusation is unfounded or the truth of the situation is that both parties have been harmed by a mutual mistake.

If you find yourself in that situation I am registered with both ATSAC www.atasc.org.uk (The Association for the Treatment of Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity) and StopSo www.stopso.org.uk ) (Specialist Treatment Organisation for Perpetrators and Survivors of Sexual Offending) I provide specialised counselling services for those who have committed – or who might commit – sexual offences, as well as those who have been falsely accused.

I can help, no matter what the truth of the situation, to process the trauma of both your past and this difficult present.

You can contact me through this website, through FacebookLinkedIn or email on amandaburbidge-counselling@outlook.com, or call me on 07849 037095 – you can also message or call via WhatsApp on the same number, and I offer video sessions for those who are still unable to meet in person. I can help – you don’t have to struggle alone, and our work together is completely confidential.

Safer Internet Day

The internet is a wonder – a tool which has been in our lives for such a brief period, by many measures, but which has so quickly become absolutely vital to so many areas of our lives.

It connects people globally, meaning that we can build relationships and friendships, that we can explore other cultures, experience events on other continents, share news and current events. The internet has allowed isolated people to reach out, has made it easy for us to shop for our groceries without leaving the comfort of our homes, to build businesses with lower overheads – there are so many ways in which it enriches our lives.

But – because it has grown so quickly – the internet has also grown more rapidly than the security measures and safety provisions could match. And, whilst so many of us simply benefit from the entertainment, networking and opportunities that a global network can offer, it also gives the darker underworld that human life has always come with an untouchable place to pedal their wares.

For every fun forum where like-minded people can talk about their favourite author, there’s a dark web listing for illegal weapons or drugs, for every dating site where we can seek a soulmate there’s a hidden world where innocent lives are traded like a commodity.

For lots of us the internet still feels quite new and modern – and our learning has been gradual, embracing it in some parts of our lives but ignoring the parts that mean nothing to us. We still remember the world pre-world wide web, and the ways we experienced the world (and coped with being out of touch with people!) but for the younger generation, the internet has been an every day part of their lives the way that TVs have been a part of mine, but were new to the recent generations before me!

This means that navigating raising our next generations safely, with this untameable beast, can be quite the challenge – and that parents often don’t know a great deal about what their children can access online – either knowingly or not. It’s astonishing how much of the very extreme content on the internet can be found with just a couple of clicks – and that it’s deliberately designed to be that way, so that people can accidentally happen across it and be sucked in.

Though many people might be embarrassed to speak about it, looking for porn is very, very common – particularly with the curiosity of youth, and the accessibility of a handheld device in a quiet bedroom – and though there’s nothing damaging or dangerous about a healthy sexual curiosity, these free sites are also host to a terrifying number of ads and links to the dark web, where it’s frighteningly easy to get sucked down a web of increasingly extreme content. Addiction to these forms of content is a growing issue, and it isn’t just the younger generation being exposed to it – those who once would have struggled to find a source for their darkest thoughts to be fed are now just the tap of a screen away from like-minded people.

With Safer Internet Day the campaign to educate and protect people from this dark underbelly sees Governments worldwide being petitioned to have better controls and regulations, better policing and response to online crime. The biggest social networks are currently not held accountable for the actions of their users, absolving themselves of any responsibility or refusing to cooperate with criminal investigations in a timely manner, meaning that more people escape justice, more victims suffer, and more innocents are exposed to content which can cause lifelong difficulties or damage.

As a tool, as a way to communicate, as a wealth of experiences, the internet can be a wonderland, and has truly changed the way the world works in just a few short decades – but more must be done to protect users, and those shaping the way that it is used, from harm – whether it’s intentional or as a result of blundering into the wrong corners of the web.

Today, think about the content that you consume – and the information about your private life that you so confidently share with a world full of strangers, not all of whom will want to be your friend.

Limit the amount of information you share, be careful about updating your location in real time, or telling the internet at large that you’ll be away from home when your address hasn’t been well protected. Protect your children and their private lives by limiting how much you show of them and remember that, without their consent, you may even be breaking laws in sharing too much about them. In particular, remember that there may be some people looking who don’t have your own innocent view of your children, and who may have ulterior motives for wanting images or information about them – or about you. Don’t share your financial information, don’t agree to meet with strangers without building trust and letting friends and family know what your plans are, and please do be wary of letting your young people explore the internet unsupervised; though they may be making good choices, there are still others who may expose them to inappropriate material. Secure your settings, and if you’re unsure how to do this, visit the safer internet day website for some great resources and information.

If you have found your life impacted by the darker side of the internet, or perhaps you’re worried that you or someone you love have travelled further than you ever planned to down the rabbit hole of dark web content, please do give me a call; my services offer you a safe place to talk honestly, without judgement, and to find ways to control your own impulses, to process your experiences, and to heal from the hurt of being exposed to traumatic experiences.

Call me now on 07849 037095 or email me on cnslng@outlook.com and I can help you.