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Healing From Sexual Abuse: A Strategy

On all topics related to childhood sexual abuse, please understand that by using female pronouns I am definitely not saying that all abuse happens to girls. It happens about twice as often to girls, but abuse is abuse and it's horrible in any form. If you are thinking about a boy, please change the pronouns as you read.

DIFFERENT THERAPISTS, DIFFERENT APPROACHES

There are differences of opinion in all areas of mental health.
The opinions given here are only mine.
There are other competent opinions.

There are also differences among those who have been sexually abused.

Some people were hurt more than others.

Some people "split" more often than others.

Some people have only one flashback in a lifetime
while others have daily flashbacks for months.

My opinions, by necessity, aim at the "average."



THE FOUR BASICS OF HEALING

Considering all factors, all adult victims of childhood sexual abuse need:

DAILY SELF-CARE

PSYCHOTHERAPY

A REGULAR SOURCE OF SUPPORT

BODY WORK

It would be ideal if everyone did all of these things at once,
but it is not necessary.
Most people start with therapy,
then add the other elements as their healing continues.

These four elements are listed in order of importance,
not in usual chronological order.
(Daily self-care IS the most important, but, sadly,
it is often the last thing victims feel strong enough to do.)



DAILY SELF-CARE

By daily self-care I mean devoting
a half-hour to an hour each day (not more)
to nothing but your healing!

This time should be spent in any safe activity
which has the purpose of healing from abuse.

It might include reading about healing,
relaxing in a warm tub,
attending therapy or support groups, whatever...

The regularity of this time for yourself is very important.

What Happens During Self-Care:
The little girl inside gets soothed
- not just by that day's activities -
but also by knowing there will be more for her tomorrow.

The adult gets soothed
and impressed by her own competence at self-care,
and by the practice she gets at being enough for herself,
and by the practice she gets
at being aware of her feelings and her thinking simultaneously.



PSYCHOTHERAPY

Don't settle for less than a good therapist who feels right to you,
who is willing to see you at least weekly in the beginning,
and who believes in his or her own competence
when it comes to working with sexual abuse.

Beware of any therapist who says that short-term therapy is appropriate!
This therapist is putting the insurance company's desire to control costs
ahead of your need to heal from the abuse!

(Also see "Therapist's Responsibilities"
in the article on "False Memories and Responsibilities.")



A REGULAR SOURCE OF SUPPORT

The regular source referred to here
means in addition to family and friends.

Just like all of the other things listed,
this support needs to be very reliable.

If you live in a large enough city
you will probably be able to find
a support group specifically designed
for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
Attend a few meetings to see
if the group feels supportive and healing to you.
If it doesn't, keep looking until you find the right one.

If there are no support groups in your area,
here are some other good ways to get support:

  • A church or other social group that gives LOTS of support. Other members should know about the abuse, even if it isn't often discussed.

  • "E-mail Advice" Services (my own or some other good therapist's). "E-mail Advice" may not be powerful enough to qualify as real therapy - but it can be a major source for support and counseling.

  • Internet "Chat Rooms" specifically designated as sexual abuse support groups and moderated by a therapist.

  • Talking REGULARLY with one or two others who have been abused sexually and are healing in ways that are consistent with the ways you have chosen.

  • A support group that is not specifically focused on healing from sexual abuse (as long as members know about the abuse and support your other healing activities).



BODY WORK

The purpose of all body work is:
To teach you how strong you are physically, as an adult.

Some people take karate classes,
others get regular therapeutic massages,
others work out on their own.

Almost any intense use of your body,
if it is regularly scheduled, will work.

For reasons too complicated to go into here,
you should know that any physical activity that is "rhythmic"
(like hitting a punching bag repeatedly, or jogging)
will be far less helpful for you than non-rhythmic activities.



HEALING FROM SEXUAL ABUSE IS NOT AN "OPTION."

You will either do it by my plan,
or by someone else's plan,
or in your own planned or unplanned way.

But you will be healing all your life.

It's only natural.
It cannot be avoided.


More About Sexual Abuse

Please Tell Your Friends About This Site.

Enjoy Your Changes!

Everything here is designed to help you do just that!

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Write To Me, I Want To Hear From You!
Tony Schirtzinger, Therapist (Milwaukee) 

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