Millions of adults in the United States were victims of some degree of sexual abuse when they were children. In most cases this abuse leaves its affects to a greater or lesser degree. The affect it has on people when they become adults is dependent on many factors. The first factor is the severity and the duration of the abuse. The second most important factor is how the abused child processed the abuse in his or her mind. If the abuse was dealt with at the time, it would have a lesser affect later in life. If the event is buried or kept a secret, it can damage quality of life for many years.
The affects of sexual abuse can be depression, anxiety, inability to maintain intimate and trusting relationships, low self-esteem, substance abuse, as well as others. The first step is to stop keeping it a secret and talk about it. Keeping the experience of abuse a secret gives the experience and the abuser additional power and control over you and your life. It is time to take back your power. Start a journal and writing about your thoughts and feelings. Start by talking about it with close friends or start seeing a therapist. Recognize that you did nothing wrong and have no reason to feel shameful or guilty about your experience.
Beginning the Process of Recovery
If you experienced any kind of abuse as a child you can recover and eliminate most of the negative effects this abuse has had on you and your life. Abuse affects the way you see yourself, others, and how you interact with the world. Your thoughts and behaviors are based on decisions you made as that abused child. Part of the process of recovery is to learn to see through the eyes of the adult you are now and not continue to make decisions based on beliefs developed during childhood. A large part of what motivates someone who was abused as a child is to avoid painful feelings or being hurt again. Abuse survivors go to great lengths to avoid feeling pain.
The beliefs and thought process I have been referring to is not done consciously. Just like most behaviors we repeat again and again, the thoughts have been so internalized that the process takes place subconsciously. When people get to the point of realizing that how they are living life is not working for them, they have little awareness of what thoughts and beliefs are the source of the problems. We can only experience life from our point of view and have difficulty recognizing alternative ways of thinking and behaving.
Most people have an automatic thought process (an internal conversation) that determines their mood and how they react to what happens to them. In order to change something, we must first become aware of what requires change. Increasing this awareness is the first step in implementing the recovery process. Most abuse survivors put a great deal of energy into avoiding certain thoughts and feelings because it feels too much to handle. So, the painful experiences and feelings are buried in order to keep them out of awareness.
The Next Step in Recovery
The process of recovery does not require people to relive the abuse they suffered or re-experience the feeling they repressed. The process is more about coping and living more effectively in the here and now. You cannot change the past, so why go back and relive it? The goal is to develop healthier and more affective coping skills and live in the present rather than the past. The next step is to retrain your mind to realize that the past on longer exists and that all that is left of the abuse you experienced is the memory and the effect it has been having on you. It is time to put the past in the past.
I do not believe that you have to forgive your abuser(s) in order to heal. I believe you have to accept what you experienced and that you cannot change the past. The next step is to learn how manage your life, feelings, and relationships in healthier way. This is a brief overview of recovering from child sexual abuse. Everyone’s journey is different. But living a rewarding life and thriving can be accomplished for those willing to take the steps to heal.
I am a Life Management and Relationship Coach as well as a board certified sexologist. I have been working with individuals and couples for nearly 20 years. I have also worked with clients throughout the country via the internet for several years. Distance coaching is becoming more accepted and is as effective as face to face. My focus is to provide solution focused and judgment-free coaching.
I have both experience and training in sex therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, trauma resolution, and addiction counseling. I continue to add to my skills. Prior to having a full time private practice I worked in both Inpatient and Intensive Outpatient programs. My goal with all my clients is to help them achieve a more rewarding and fuller life.
Please visit my website for more information. www.alttherapist.org.