Non-linear healing … “Healing is not linear; the cycle is often repeated.” Judith Herman.
My impressions about healing with a past that includes childhood sexual abuse are expressed in the attached diagram. I designed the illustration to help convey concepts that I am still coming to understand. I am not an expert in childhood sexual abuse healing. I am just another survivor trying to make my way through life.
The “Nonlinear Stages of Healing” diagram was a combination of several different resources that I have noted in my resources below. I choose a “Venn diagram” because I liked the way the circular healing stages continuously overlapped. I placed a heart in the center of the diagram so I would never forget that I am the most important part of healing. The tools are just floating freely about the stages where they might be most useful. Of course, the tools I have listed are not the only ones available so feel free to add on or move them around as needed. Make it YOUR healing journey!
Healing is a nonlinear on-going daily process. There is no magical or methodical scientific formula. It is also definitely not a race where you are competing with other survivors. My healing journey is still an evolving process and my views about healing from Childhood Sexual Abuse are definitely not a definitive source. There is not one definitive way to heal, however; there are some similar approaches that have helped most survivors. I think it helps to talk to a counselor or therapist about your past, find the problem causing patterns or themes that keep repeating in your life, and work on finding solutions to current life issues.
There are tools that can be used to help this healing such as, cognitive processing therapy (CPT) where you monitor your thoughts and record your “stuck point” and use a challenging thought worksheet. PTSD is a typical outcome for most people with a history of child sexual abuse and CPT is an excellent tool for anyone with a trauma history. Of course, CPT is just one of many tools to help and there are many other recovery tools. Healing from childhood sexual abuse is nothing like following a recipe or marking off a check list. The healing process will most likely be repeated numerous times with new revelations or deeper understandings each time they are approached. Just when you think you are done, something else creeps up.
Healing is also a cumulative process where the new growth is added to the old growth. The process is often repeated but we do not lose what we have already gained from past experience. Even if we repeat a mistake, many times we gained something different from this mistake that we did not get the last time. We don’t start from “scratch” each time we go through the healing process. So the healing cycle is often repeated but this healing cycle is also cumulative.
Another tool I and others have used is from the book The Courage to Heal … The following is a quick few word summary of the Healing Stages for childhood sexual abuse based on the Stages of Healing from The Courage to Heal, Bass and Davis, pp. 56-57 c2008. I have named a few of them a little different based on my own experiences.
Healing Stage Review
- Decision to Heal
- Safety First
- Breaking Silence
- Life Skills (Inner Child)
Attached is a PDF of the 2008 version of “The Stages” from the Courage to Heal.THE STAGE1
The following link is a list from the 1988 version of the Courage to Heal. Notice the 1988 version differs from the 2008 version of the Courage to Heal.
Another excellent website resource includes a different summary of the Healing Stages from the 2008 version of the Courage to Heal. The website includes some additional healing tips too.
There are several resources and guidelines available regarding healing with a history of childhood sexual abuse. Please feel free to check into the resources that I offered and into resources of your own to draw your own conclusions.
The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis (1988 & 2008)
Wounded Boys Heroic Men: A Man’s Guide to Recovering from Child Abuse by Daniel Jay Sonkin and Lenore E. A. Walker (1998)
Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence – From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror. New York: Basic Books. Herman, JL. (1992) (This book may not be considered a book about healing from childhood sexual abuse, however, for me; it helped me to get in touch with my anger for the first time. This book helped me to realize just how wrong everything that was done to me like no other book could.)
Reclaiming Myself After Child Sex Abuse – FREE PDF BOOK http://www.catherinehouse.org.au/Portals/0/pdf/research_projects/WomensResource_FINAL_Oct05.pdf
Therapy Guidelines: Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse. Wellington: ACC Healthwise. McGregor, K. (2001). http://www.nzfvc.org.nz/sites/nzfvc.org.nz/files/acc-therapy-guidelines-pdf-wcm2-020341.pdf
CPTWeb, the site for web-based learning of Cognitive Processing Therapy. https://cpt.musc.edu/
Numerous other books on Amazon – Be sure to read the reviews and pick one that you relate to the best. http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=a9_sc_1?rh=i%3Astripbooks%2Ck%3Achildhood+sexual+abuse&keywords=childhood+sexual+abuse&ie=UTF8&qid=1386969315
If you cannot afford these books remember to check out your local library. I have also found that if you Google the title of the book sometimes you will find a free chapter or excerpts from your book of interest
- Sexual Predator: They are guilty of child sexual abuse.
- Predator Sympathizer: They sympathize with the predator or they are trying to protect the sexual predator.
- Victim’s fault: They don’t believe the victim or they believe the victim is to blame and victim should get over it
- Child = Little grown-up: They assume kids should know better and they should protect themselves from sexual abuse.
- It’s “Stanger Danger”: They believe the myth that predators are crazed male strangers who are not responsible for their harmful behavior.
- It’s “The Norm”: Those who believe it will always be a part of life, so there’s no point in trying to end it.
- It’s Not Harmful: They believe the myth that child sexual abuse is not harmful. It is not as bad as you think it is.
- Misogyny: They believe the myth that sexual abuse only happens to girls or that girls ask for it.
- Exclusive Women’s Issue: They believe working to end sexual violence or child sexual abuse is an attack on men. They think this is a woman’s/feminist issue being “blown out of proportion.”
- Secrecy: They have skeletons in their closet.
- Lack empathy: They lack empathy, they just don’t care… if it isn’t happening to them they don’t want to know. They assume child sexual abuse rarely occurs.
- Embarrassment/Shame: It impedes on their comfort zone. What will people think?! They don’t want to bring shame to the family.
- “Passing the Buck”: “I should not get involved.” “This is between the victim and the offender.” “This is a law enforcement problem.” They believe Mothers or women are the only adults responsible for protecting children from child sexual abuse. They believe this is not a men’s issue.
- Apathy: It didn’t (or hasn’t) happened to them or anyone they know so, “why should I care.” “This really does not happen in most “normal” families.”
- Overwhelmed/Hopeless: The problem is too big to solve so just give up. Getting involved in anti-violence initiatives is too much work and feels hopeless.
- Insecurity/Lack Education: They don’t understand or know what constitutes abuse. They don’t understand what is trying to be achieved.
- More Pressing Issues: They don’t see it as pressing issue that impacts their community – too many other personal or world issues to concern themselves with.
- Denial…..plain and simple! There are just far too many people who would rather stick their heads in the sand and pretend it isn’t happening because they are too cowardly to hold the perpetrators accountable!
Inspiration of this list came from several sources surveyed and was initiated by Al Smith the creator of a child protection book “Koala and Bunny-Instilling Protective Behaviours in Children”( www.koalaandbunny.com ) along with the African version “Rhino and Elephant” ( www.sexualassaultclinic.org ). The aim of these books are to help prevent the sexual abuse of children by making them aware that they have private body parts that no one else is allowed to touch or tickle. Both books are FREE FOR ALL by visiting the websites: www.koalaandbunny.com and www.sexualassaultclinic.org .