Healing Sexual Abuse Wounds

The more often our boundaries have been violated in childhood, the greater difficulty we have differentiating ourselves from others and the more likely we'll become victims of continued sexual abuses. Blurred family boundaries in our...families cause us to feel stressed and confused when we try to identify our own limits and goals in relationships. Plagued with an identify a solid sense of ourselves, we doubt our own rights in relationships. We feel unsure. That uncertainty and lack of self often leaves us even more vulnerable to sexual, physical and emotional attack from others.

All of us who have suffered multiple sexual assaults can be helped by directly confronting our sexual abuse. Fortunately, recovery doesn't have to take place alone. Sexual assault healing can include participating in self-help groups, Twelve-Step programs, and individual and/or group therapy. The kind of treatment we need and how long the healing takes depends largely on how much damage the abuse caused us.

Sue Saperstein, M.A., a therapist in private practice in San Francisco, California, says that to achieve sexual healing we need to learn to respect the child within us as 'innocent, powerless, and good.' She says, 'Acknowledging our good, innocent powerless child begins to help us shift our perspective from shame, guilt, and self-blame.'

Saperstein says that it's the child in us who was hurt. It is the adult who remembers. We must begin to separate from identifying with our abusive parents [or other abusers] and gradually develop a nurturing internal adult/child relationship. In other words, we must learn to be our own parent. 'This allows our self-hate,' Saperstein says 'to become self-love and allows us to nurture our bodies. It allows us to experience being loved.Sexuality then becomes a choice of being touched. Arousal becomes an experience of choice, rather than a response to aggression or internal betrayal. Arousal becomes centered in our own place of control rather than outside of ourselves. Sexuality, arousal, and choice then become empowering for us."

"Christine Courois suggests treatment goals for healing in her book, 'Healing the Incest Wound'. Although these goals were originally intended for incest survivors, we've adapted them to apply to all forms of sexual abuse. We've also added the treatment plan goals of others: Bass and Davis, and Eliana Gil. While some of the goals may not appear to relate directly to sexual healing, each of them can positively affect the development and maintenance of healthy, sexual-affectional relationships. For those of you abused sexually as children, sexual abuse therapy can:

  • 1. Assist you to commit to the treatment process by offering hope and by encouraging you to envision a picture in which your actions can lead to realistic life changes.
  • 2. Help you develop a supportive, theraputic relationship with your therapist.
  • 3. Guide you making contact with the vulnerable child within.
  • 4. Help you acknowledge and believe your sexual abuse memories and experience(s).
  • 5. Challenge minimizing and denial of past and present abusive behaviors.
  • 6. Begin the process of breaking your isolation and low self-esteem.
  • 7. Help you recognize, label, and begin to express the full range of your feelings.
  • 8. Confront your tendancy to blame yourself and/or protect your abuser.
  • 9. Assist you in learning to trust, feel safe, and reach out to others in forming healthy relationships.
  • 10. Support your grieving process with compassion. This process involves expressing your feelings of loss, anger, and sadness.
  • 11. Challenge the internalized negative beliefs about yourself. Replacing them with positive affirming beliefs and less distorted ones.
  • 12. Increase your ability to make changes in your life based on what you want and feel.
  • 13. Develop the development and expression of your spirituality and of your inherent creativity.
  • 14. Teach you basic life skills in parenting, communication, decision-making, conflict resolution and boundary setting.

  • These goals take time, support, and patience to achieve. You can work on them in steps and stages at your own pace. Changes in one area of your life can indicate and support changes in other areas. The journey, while long, results in the development of a life to which you are entitled."

    The source quoted for the above is a book entitled:"Aching For Love" by Mary Anne Klausener and Bobbie HasselBring

    My Views On Healing From Sexual Abuse

    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 dysfuncion, at times addicitions, 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. So, 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 as importantly, 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 aheadof 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 aboutyourself, 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. In terms of self-nurture and to that end 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', 'I am deserve to feel good about myself' are a couple of examples of affirtmations.

    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.

    © A.J. Mahari

    "Your joy is your sorrow unmasked"

    "What is fear of need but need itself"

    "Your hearts know in silence the secrets of the days and the nights. But your ears thirst for the sound of your heart's knowledge"

    "All these things shall love do onto you that you may know the secrets of heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life's heart."

    "Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, not all of your tears."

    "Would that I could be the peacemaker in your soul, that I might turn the discord and the rivalry of your elements into oneness and melody."

    "And how shall you rise beyond your days and nights unless you break the chains which you at the dawn of your understanding have fastened around your noon?"

    All of the above quotes are quoted from "The Prophet" Kahlil Gibran"

    "Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace." Amelia Earhart

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