Many survivors of childhood sexual trauma and abuse remain silent about their abuse. Some will never break their silence and will continue to suffer alone. Hanging on to the blame and shame that are not theirs to hold. For those that do tell, there will be survivors that are supported by family and friends and unfortunately, many survivors will not be supported. Survivors instead may be blamed, asked why they don’t just get over it or asked why they continue to let something bother them that happened decades before.
As survivors, we may have pushed the memories aside or disassociated and then in midlife find ourselves suddenly being triggered and having the floodgates open up which can completely turn our lives upside down. We may at this time feel gutted, and suffer from flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, nightmares, anxiety, and more. Suddenly we may find ourselves questioning our own sanity. We may have fears that if we were to tell anyone they would know how horrible of a person we really are. We may start to believe these negative thoughts and lies we tell ourselves. We may hate ourselves so much that we spend an unbelievable amount of time punishing ourselves, hating ourselves for not stopping the abuse, for struggling in healing, for not “ having it together”, drowning ourselves in alcohol and drugs, and feeling shame, dirty and unworthy.
When healing from childhood sexual trauma and abuse we need to go back and challenge the negative thought patterns that we may have stemming from abuse. Abuse and perpetrators lie and unfortunately, we can believe these lies.
In healing, we must learn to break our silences, not an easy task. To discuss the things we have experienced and have a trusted person reflect back the truth that we may have lost.
We must learn that childhood sexual abuse is a trauma and injury that can not be forgotten but rather needs to be processed.
We must learn that we are loveable and deserving of much and we must learn how to love ourselves, and all our parts, and see our own worth that we sometimes may fail to see.
We must reach out to the inner child that suffered so much and had no one, look at them, hold them, love them and say they did not deserve the crimes done to them. The adult part of us will need to care for this child and teach them that they are no longer alone, that we ourselves are our own heroes and we will be the ones to save this child that was not protected.
Healing is hard but not unattainable. Healing may look different from survivor to survivor so we must trust the process and not compare. Not beating ourselves up for not healing quickly enough and learning a new way of thinking and operating. Undoing the trauma both in mind and body takes time. We may not feel whole or connected. Healing may look like taking 3 steps forward and six steps back and then doing it all over again. We must not get discouraged but rather accept ourselves for where we are at.
At first, the memories may be constant, and we may think we will never return to normal but what is normal?
For us, normal after-abuse may mean living in a state of hypervigilance, anxiety, distortions, disassociation, and separated identities.
Healing means giving ourselves grace, the permission to ask questions, to learn, to gather support, and not have all the answers. Healing means cutting ourselves some slack for not knowing the things that we believe we should. Healing means accepting ourselves, asking for help, and developing a love for ourselves that may seem selfish.
Healing takes place when we incorporate both the mind and body. What our minds don’t remember our bodies do so healing means healing the whole person. We can do this by processing our trauma and learning to appreciate our body's fat rolls and all. Healing is learning to feel safe again in our own skin, taking care of ourselves, and finding ways to feel fully present in our mind, body, and soul. Trauma therapy, peer group meetings, good nutrition, exercise, meditation, yoga, and learning to be a part of a community can help with this.
If you are just beginning your healing journey please remember you are not alone. It may feel like we are but there are many of us out here. You will not stay where you are today if you put in the work. Again, this path is not easy. You will always remember the abuse but as you find healing and do the work you will work toward acceptance, and healing. The pain from abuse will lessen. You may find yourself looking back and saying wow, I’m not where I was 3 weeks ago, 6 months ago, a year ago, or five years ago. You will begin to find joy in things again, find authenticity, learn to be transparent, and care for yourself. You may find yourself expanding, growing, and seeing the pleasures in life again.
If you are just beginning your healing or have been on this journey for years you matter. Your story matters. You can find healing, it will not be overnight but there can be improvements, new opportunities, and understanding. Someday you may even find yourself looking in the mirror and realizing that all along you have been strong, you have worth, and the fact that the child you went through so much and are still here to talk about it took grit, took courage, perseverance, and that at the end of the day when this could have crushed you completely, you are looking at a person that truly survived and that's worth celebrating.
Keep up the good work. You can do this. You survived something that not all survive. You are here walking this journey one day at a time and we are all here rooting for you. You will become your own hero and in the end, you will see your inner child just as I do. A magnificent individual that went through hell and lived to tell about it. You are your own hero, a special gift, and worthy of much.
Founder of EmpowerSurvivors
EmpowerSurvivors is a 501c3 nonprofit organization offerring peer support for those
who experienced childhood sexual trauma and abuse.
Survivors helping survivors. This is what we do!