Friday, February 8, 2008

Healing From Sexual Abuse

Healing from Sexual Abuse by Dr. Sidney Langston

~The Process of Healing~
Healing for those who have been sexually abused is like a renovation process. All the old wounds need to be cleaned out and repaired. Truth must be faced, the sorrow embraced and grieved. Usually this cannot be done in isolation. It is best to talk it through with a trusted friend, pastor or professional therapist.
Abused individuals need to be gently led out of denial so that the truth of what happened to them can be faced. Acknowledging the truth is the initial step toward rescuing themselves from the bondage of powerlessness, betrayal, confusion and rejection.
When truth is faced they can learn to let go of dissociative behaviors which allow them to block the pain of abuse from their memories. Dissociation can be a useful survival tool because it allows victims to mentally escape to a safe place so they are not in touch with their pain. If they have developed multiple personalities, another dissociative defense against pain, these personalities, in time, can be integrated.
Abuse victims need to learn not to minimize or make excuses for the perpetrator or for parents or other adults who did not protect them. They don't help themselves or the offender by living in the darkness of denial. In the healing process, they need to come to the place where they can honestly say "Yes, I was abused and something was taken away from me that I can never get back." Giving living offenders a chance to face the damage they have done can be a great step of healing.
Abuse victims should never accept responsibility for the actions of their abusers. Neither should they feel a need to ask forgiveness for the emotions they might have felt during or after the abuse. Forgiving the offender, when emotionally and spiritually ready to do so, will enhance the healing process.
Another element of healing is for the victim to honestly look at ways they have tried to protect themselves from further harm. In order to manage their pain, most victims utilize dysfunctional ways to protect themselves. As understandable and natural as this is, it leads to more torment. These dysfunctional patterns of behavior need to be exchanged for more effective methods of coping.
Learning how and what to grieve is also necessary to the healing process. Facing pain and embracing sorrow with the expectation of finding comfort feels wrong. But it is the right way to deal with abuse. Victims need to grieve what has been taken from them. They need to let themselves feel their lost innocence. They need to mourn their lost childhood, their loss of trust, and their feelings of betrayal and rejection. Just as important, victims need to mourn the fact that they have hurt themselves, and perhaps others, by their dysfunctional protective actions. As they face their sorrow they can find comfort and healing as well as the strength to let the pain go and get on with their lives.
Victims need to take time to reflect on their spiritual needs and draw additional healing from that. Becoming well-informed about abuse and gaining insights about its dynamics enhances the healing process. It is helpful to keep a journal that records memories, feelings and events related to the past abuse and their struggles to deal with it. It helps to journal the steps taken toward healing, recovery and hope.
If you are a victim of sexual abuse, please take these steps of recovery in your own life. The journey to wholeness is painful and arduous, but not impossible. If you are willing to go through the healing process you will be amazed at the relief and freedom you will experience. Don't delay. You are worth it.

Reference Allender, Dan. (1982). When trust is lost, Healing for victims of sexual abuse
Grand Rapids, MI: Thomas Nelson Publishers.