According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18! Some experts estimate the real statistics are even higher – it’s overwhelming. But if you were sexually abused as a child or teen, there is hope for your healing!
Here are 6 steps you can take to find healing:
- Break Your Silence.
You’ve probably heard the saying: “You’re only as sick as your secrets.” You may not have any desire to tell anyone that you were sexually abused. Ever. But if you buried your wounds deep down inside, the only way to heal is to break your silence. Start by telling a trusted friend or counselor about the abuse you endured. Take your time, express whatever emotions you feel comfortable showing – whether you feel anger, sadness, or shame. The bottom line is this: the more you share your story, the less power it’ll have over you.
- Write in a Journal.
In addition to sharing your story, begin writing in a journal. Write about who betrayed you and how it made you feel. Describe how you suffered and what you lost because of the abuse. It’s also important to name what happened to you in order to heal. Place the blame on the person who abused you. You may struggle with blaming yourself—don’t! You were a child or a teen when you were sexually abused; blame clearly belongs to the adult, teen, or child who abused you. After writing in a journal, you may need to work through some of the feelings that recalling these painful memories stirred up. Get help from a professional – a Christian counselor or psychiatrist.
- Grieve Your Losses.
In order to recover from abuse, it’s necessary to fully grieve your losses and what was taken from you. Feel sadness for the child you once were who experienced so much pain. A lot was taken away from you. And deep down inside, you may feel numb, empty, or sad. Grieve your losses. People who ignore their grief stay stuck in it. You have experienced losses of safety, love, trust, comfort, and of course, your innocence. Grief work will help you heal and allow you to move on in your life.
- Treat Yourself with Compassion.
You may struggle with feelings of fear, doubt, and low self-worth. Change the way you think about yourself by learning to be kind and accept yourself. Stop thinking in ways that condemn yourself for the abuse you endured. Remind yourself that it was not your fault. And begin to treat yourself with love and compassion. You’re no longer a victim to your abuser or to the negative voices in your head. Instead, find your true worth and value in the unconditional love of God.
- Overcome Unhealthy Habits.
According to the American Psychological Association’s Division of Trauma Psychology, childhood sexual abuse has been associated with alcohol and drug abuse, anxiety, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, suicidal thoughts, and more. Perhaps you’ve turned to an addiction like alcohol or overeating to cope with your pain. No matter what you struggle with or how much pain you’re going through, there is hope! The first step is to reach out, admit you’re powerless to do it on your own, and ask for help. You can also learn healthy ways to cope:
- Exercise regularly
- Eat healthy, well-balanced meals
- Get adequate sleep
- Limit alcohol, and don’t use drugs
- Connect with others
- Move Forward.
Can you forgive and forget? You can forgive, but never completely forget. Healing and moving forward, though, is possible. It’s important to work with a Christian counselor who can help you work through the steps of forgiveness. It is possible to move forward when you begin to trust people who are safe. This takes time and takes risking what you’re used to protecting. A counselor will be an invaluable part of this process.
There is HOPE! Your past does not have to own your present and future. Begin to take a step today in the direction of healing. You are worth it! “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” Isaiah 41:10.
If you or someone you know is struggling from childhood sexual abuse, we can help! Call us at 800-NEW-LIFE (639-5433). We can pray with you and help you find a Christian counselor or Life Recovery Group in your area.