Dr Jozelle Miller
November 7, 2017
Sexually abused as a child…

(Continued from last week)

How to help yourself?

Try not to blame yourself

No matter what the circumstances of the sexual abuse of a child, it is never the fault or responsibility of that child. Even if you are aware that there was some degree of collusion, or you feel in hindsight that you wish you had been able to act differently, this does not lessen the absolute truth that it is the duty of adults to care for children and protect them from exploitation.

Some survivors find it helpful to observe children who are the same age that they were when the abuse took place in order to underline for them how great the power difference between adults and children really is and how easy it is for an older person to manipulate the trust, innocence and vulnerability of a child.

Take care of yourself now

The fact that something bad has been done to you is not a reason to deny yourself pleasure, or to punish yourself. It is, in fact, a reason to care for yourself. If you can learn to treat your body with respect and kindness, you will help the healing process. Therefore, look for simple ways to show care for yourself and kindness to your body.

If you find you are tempted to harm yourself – for example by starving or overindulging, by cutting yourself or even by attempting suicide – seek help and support so that you can begin to bring this behaviour under control.

Find appropriate outlets for your feelings

If you have been abused, you have a perfectly good reason to be very angry and full of grief. It can be hard to know what to do with these feelings. It may not be possible or helpful to express them to the person responsible. Even if you do, he or she may well fail to accept responsibility.

Feelings can be helped by finding others who will listen to your story sympathetically and help you express yourself. Writing down what you feel can help – many survivors find it helpful to write down their feelings in the form of a letter – you don’t have to send it, but don’t leave it lying around! Many activities can help relieve pent up feelings of anger – exercise, sport, or simply going somewhere private or noisy and shouting.

Grief can be relieved by allowing time to reflect and by expressing the sadness. You may fear that once you allow these feelings to emerge they may take you over. This is a natural fear; however, in fact, the opposite tends to be the case – once a feeling is allowed adequate expression, it becomes easier to control.

Try and find both support and privacy

Abuse can be a profoundly isolating experience. Even when you do speak about it, people may either dismiss what you tell them, or they may over-react. However, as is now recognized, abuse is an all too common experience; so you are certainly not alone in what you have suffered.

There are now many agencies which will offer appropriate support and have much expertise in helping survivors heal themselves. We list some below. Some people have the opposite experience and find that the abuse which has happened to them has become common knowledge, and as a result feel that their privacy has been invaded.

Remember you only need to tell the people who you want to tell and it is up to you to decide how much you want to tell them. Certainly no one will be able to guess what has happened to you if you decide not to tell them and no one has the right to force their opinions or their advice on you. Do not despair.

Human beings are remarkably resilient and have a vast capacity for healing themselves. You may well feel that you have been irreversible damaged emotionally or even physically; that you may not ever be able to form a functioning relationship or have an enjoyable sex-life; that you will never recover. However, this is not likely to be the case. Although you can never change your history, with time and care you can make sense of what has happened to you and can minimize the negative effects.

Further help

If you have been abused as a child, you might want help to make sense of your feelings and worries. This may be even truer if the abuse is continuing.

It can be very difficult to trust someone with something as personal as this and may require a lot of courage. It may be easier to share your feelings with a stranger rather than a friend.

Professional psychological services are provided by the VALEO Experience; please feel free to contact us for the help and support needed to overcome this ordeal.