The horror of sexual abuse is that no matter how severe the physical pain, the mental torment is even worse. Unless you find full healing, even if the physical pain ended in childhood, your inner pain and distress will still be with you when you are a grandparent. There is no need for alarm, however. Healing is possible!
The journey to healing from sexual abuse is not quick or easy. The obstacles in your path will come in a different order than mine did but we usually all face the same ones somewhere along the journey.
The pain you feel now isn’t so much from the things that were done to you. Instead it is mostly the result of the lies that you believed as a result of the abuse.
WHERE DO YOU BEGIN?
Contact your local Women’s Crisis Center or Child Abuse Prevention Center, whichever one is more applicable to your form of abuse. If you’re an adult survivor, call the child abuse center. If you don’t know the name and phone number of the center in your area, call your county social services department and ask. They’ll have all the information you need.
Find a qualified, experienced, specialized therapist. Do not go to a family counselor. You have heavy-duty wounds and most professionals will find themselves out of their league. You need a specialist. The advocates you contact in ‘step one’ above can recommend someone.
Pursue healing with all your might and that includes choosing the very best, most qualified specialist you can find. Make your decision based on qualifications and abilities and recommendations from survivors and advocates.
God wants you to be healed. Pursuing healing is an important, sacred act. If you are suffering and wounded, how can you love your spouse or parent your children or praise your God to the best of your ability? You can’t. Work on healing. Give it your highest priority. Everything else in your spiritual journey can wait; everything else can come later. Heal first.
LOSS OF SELF
It is necessary to become very aware of the inter-relationship between past and present in order to grow and heal in the here and now. When we were sexually abused, we suffered to one degree or another a loss of self. This is an extremely profound and life altering loss. It must be realized, undenied, faced and grieved for. Many survivors come from families in which there is much dysfunction, at times addictions whether to food, alcohol and/or drugs. Healing sexual abuse, unlike sexual abuse itself, is not multi-generational. For it is only secrets that breathe, grow and thrive in the darkened corners of families.
A very major issue for survivors is that of boundaries. When one is so completely violated at a young age, at any age for that matter, one is less aware if at all aware of one’s right to individuation. One’s sense of self and others is usually very blurred. In healing from sexual abuse, it is vital to learn as much as one can about boundaries, their definition, how to institute them and equally, how to maintain them in such a way that enables the survivor to meet their own needs; as opposed to ‘people-pleasing’ and putting other’s needs ahead of their own, all too often.
In healing from the scars, the deep woundedness of sexual abuse, it is very helpful for each survivor to assess the foundation of all of their current strengths. In surviving the abuse and coming this far, and in looking to heal, you are truly a strong person and you need to know this about yourself and focus on your positives and not so much on the negatives.
In healing the self, one must first remember and feel what are or have often been very repressed memories. Giving healthy expression to these and letting them go in a process of grief and sadness is part of the over-all self-nurturing required to truly heal.
Healing is very much about self-nurturing and about meeting one’s own needs, often most of which have remained unmet since the time of the abuse in childhood. Getting in touch with one’s own chosen vehicle of spirituality or spiritual expression will open up many parts or aspects of life that have been for so long lost to the survivor prior to healing. We can connect with our spiritual selves in many many ways some of which include: organized religion, through an appreciation of nature, meditation and philosophical study just to name a few.
We, as survivors, must also affirm our right to healing. The use of positive self-affirmations, which is a cognitive approach that enables growth, change and healing can be very beneficial. Affirmations such as ‘I am worthy’ and ‘I deserve to feel good about myself’ are a couple of examples of affirmations.
The final point to be made in terms of Healing the Sexual Assault Wound is that it is so possible to do so. Healing does take time. For many it takes a lot of hard work in therapy. It is vital that if you are just wading into your past, or just realizing what happened to you, that you know that you can heal!!! The wounded little children inside of us deserve as do we, the adults of today, to be as fully functioning as emotionally and sexually experiential as we wish to be.
It is important to be mindful of the principles of recovery when reviewing choices and challenges in daily life. The following slogan may prove helpful in relapse prevention.
1. One day at a time. It is possible to maintain ability to cope in the here and now. One is responsible for recovery only today or even for just one hour at a time. Preoccupation with the past or future elicits negative thought patterns.
2. Easy does it. Recovery is a slow, lifelong process. This reminds the survivor to be tolerant and respectful of the natural courses of change.
3. Be gentle with yourself. Non-revictimizing coping requires relaxation, rest, fun and balance in the overall lifestyle.
4. H.A.L.T. These four conditions frequently signal risk for relapse: Hunger, Anger, Loneliness and Tiredness.
5. First things first. Survivors will try to do everything at once. It is important to make recovery the first priority in every decision.
6. Act as if. It is useful to counteract doubt by “acting as if” the program will work for you. With experience comes faith because you will see that you are actually recovering.
7. If it works, don’t fix it. This addresses 2 problems in relapse: grandiosity and perfectionism. It is the survivor, not the program, that needs to change.
8. Let go and let God. This reminds the survivor to stop fighting and surrender concerns to the Higher Power.
9. This too shall pass. Believing that negative emotional situations will change insures that life it tolerable.
10. To thine own self be true. The setting of boundaries should reflect personal rather than societal needs.
11. Live and let live. The survivor focuses on working one’s own program and respects the rights of others to find their own way.
12. Keep it simple. Survivors thrive on crisis and complex, unsolvable problems.
13. There but for the grace of God go I. Survivors are troubled by the desires to compare and control. This addresses the need for humility and recognition in the survivor process.