It is incredibly shocking to learn that over 4.7 million women have experienced sexual assault at least once since the age of 15, according to Statistics Canada. Surviving sexual abuse is a physical, emotional, and a psychologically jarring event. If you have experienced sexual abuse and are facing a seemingly insurmountable challenge, take heart. You can and you will survive sexual abuse with one strong and purposeful step at a time.
Photo by Artem Kovalev
Most individuals that have survived sexual abuse avoid disclosing their experience due to confusion, shame, denial, fear, and even self-blame, according to psychotherapist Beverly Engel. She goes on to say that when you do not tell someone that you trust, you rob yourself of the opportunity to receive support, understanding, and a chance to heal fully. So it may seem like the hardest thing to do, but it benefits you greatly to tell someone about what happened. If you find it hard to speak the words, consider writing a letter. It is best to go with an approach that you are most comfortable with.
Seek Professional Help
Survivors of sexual violence, especially in their childhood tend to know their attackers, according to the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance. These attackers tend to be in positions of trust and authority. For example, nearly 1,700 clergymen were accused of the sexual abuse of minors in Germany alone, according to the Institute of Criminology of Heidelberg University. In such cases of clergy sexual abuse, it is extremely helpful to seek professional help. Seeking medical aid, therapy, or even legal aid can take you one step closer toward healing.
Reconnect With Yourself
It is common for survivors of sexual abuse to enter into a state of hypersensitivity—sights, sounds, and even smells may trigger flashbacks and recollections, according to HelpGuide. In response to this hypersensitivity, abuse survivors numb themselves by shutting down their emotions, sensations, and try to disengage from their environment. As you may imagine, this is an extremely toxic state to go into. To avoid this, it is recommended that you try to reconnect with yourself when you are ready. You can try rhythmic movement, meditation, and even write yourself letters.
Surround Yourself With a Proper Support Network
When you’ve lived through sexual abuse, a common response is to shut yourself away. This impedes your progress toward healing, however. Getting support from other people is vital to any survivor’s recovery. If you are not comfortable with socializing with family or friends, you can try to reach out to survivor support groups. There you may meet others who are trying their best to recover, too. Those who share similar experiences are in better positions to offer their support to you.
Surviving sexual abuse—or any sort of abuse—will take time, help, and commitment. Naturally, you will have days that are tougher than most and you must not let that hinder your progress. Always remember that you are not alone in this regard and there are a great many people who love and care for you. Take one purposeful step at a time and you just might be surprised to find yourself in a much better place.