Healing From Sexual Abuse

Among more than 1,400 adult females, childhood...

Among more than 1,400 adult females, childhood sexual abuse was associated with increased likelihood of drug dependence, alcohol dependence, and psychiatric disorders. The associations are expressed as odds ratios: for example, women who experienced nongenital sexual abuse in childhood were 2.93 times more likely to suffer drug dependence as adults than were women who were not abused. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sexual Healing From Sexual Abuse: Advice For Adult Survivors

  • By: Wendy Maltz, LCSW
 

I hate sex. It feels like invasion of myself and my body by someone else. Life would be great if no one ever expected me to be sexual again.

–Tina, raped by her father as a child.
 

“My penis and my heart feel disconnected. I use sex as a way to blot out pain when I’m feeling down. Masturbation is a lot easier than having sex with my wife. She wants a lot of kissing and hugging and I’m uncomfortable with all that closeness.

–Jack, molested by a neighbor as a young teen.

Like Tina and Jack, many survivors of sexual abuse suffer from a variety of sexual problems. And it’s no wonder. Sexual abuse is not only a betrayal of human trust and affection, but it is, by definition—an attack on a person’s sexuality. Our sexuality is the most intimate, private aspect of who we are. Our sexuality has to do with how we feel about being male or female, and how comfortable we are with our body, our genitals, and our sexual thoughts, expressions, and relationships. When you were sexually abused — whether you suffered a gentle seduction by a loved relative or a violent rape by a stranger — your view and experience of your sexuality were effected by what happened to you. The good news is that a variety of effective healing techniques now exist to help survivors overcome the sexual repercussions caused by abuse. What are the sexual problems caused by sexual abuse? The ten most common sexual symptoms of sexual abuse are:

  • avoiding or being afraid of sex
  • approaching sex as an obligation
  • experiencing negative feelings such as anger, disgust, or guilt with touch
  • having difficulty becoming aroused or feeling sensation
  • feeling emotionally distant or not present during sex
  • experiencing intrusive or disturbing sexual thoughts and images
  • engaging in compulsive or inappropriate sexual behaviors
  • experiencing difficulty establishing or maintaining an intimate relationship
  • experiencing vaginal pain or orgasmic difficulties
  • experiencing erectile or ejaculatory difficulties

 

What is sexual healing? Sexual healing is an empowering process in which you reclaim your sexuality as both positive and pleasurable. It involves using special healing strategies and techniques to actively change sexual attitudes and behaviors which resulted from the abuse. The process of sexual healing often includes: gaining a deeper understanding of what happened and how it influenced your sexuality, increasing your body and self-awareness, developing a positive sense of your sexuality, and learning new skills for experiencing touch and sexual sharing in safe, life-affirming ways.

Sexual healing can take several months to several years, or more, to accomplish. It is considered advanced recovery work and thus, best undertaken only after a survivor is in a stable and safe lifestyle and has addressed more general effects of sexual abuse, such as depression, anger, self-blame, and trust concerns. There are different levels of sexual healing work that a survivor can pursue; from simply reading about recovery to engaging in a series of progressive exercises, called “relearning touch techniques.” These exercises provide opportunities to practice a new approach to intimate touch. While some survivors are able to progress in sexual healing on their own, others find it essential to enlist the guidance and support of a trained mental health practitioner.

Professional care is recommended because of the high possibility that sexual healing will stir up traumatic memories and feelings. You don’t need to be in a relationship to do sexual healing work. Some exercises are designed for single survivors. However, if you have a partner, your partner needs to become educated about the sexual repercussions of abuse and learn strategies for participating actively and effectively in the healing process. Here are some ideas for how to get started in sexual healing:

1. Learn About Healthy Sexuality.

A first step in sexual healing is to learn to distinguish abusive type sex from healthy sex. If you commonly use words like, “bad” “dirty” “overwhelming” “frightening” “hurtful” and “secretive” to describe sex, you need to realize that these are descriptive of “sexual abuse.” “Healthy sexuality” is something very different. It is characterized by choice, consent, equality, respect, honesty, trust, safety, intimacy, and sensual enjoyment. In the books that you read and the movies you watch, decrease your exposure to abusive sex images and increase your exposure to examples of sex in which partners are responsible and express love and caring for each other.

2. See Yourself As Separate From What Was Done To You.

We are all born sexually innocent. Due to sexual abuse or subsequent sexual behavior, you may erroneously believe that, sexually, you are bad, damaged goods, or merely a sexual object for someone else’s use. Let the past be past, and give yourself a healthy sexual future. You are not strapped to the negative labels an offender may have called you or to the way you saw yourself as a result of the abuse. Now you have choice and can assert your true self with others. Old labels will disappear as you stop believing them and stop acting in ways that reinforce them.

3. Stop Sexual Behaviors That Are Part Of The Problem.

You can’t build a new foundation for healthy sex until you’ve gotten rid of sexual behaviors that could undermine healing. Sexual behaviors that need to go, typically include: having sex when you don’t want to, unsafe and risky sex, extramarital affairs, promiscuous sex, violent/degrading sex, compulsive sex, and engaging in abusive sexual fantasies. If you can’t do it on your own, seek help from 12-step programs and other supports. It takes time to break old habits and learn how to channel sexual energy in ways that nurture the body as well as the soul.

4. Learn To Handle Automatic Reactions To Touch.

Many survivors encounter unpleasant automatic reactions to touch and sex, such as: flashbacks of the abuse, fleeting thoughts of the offender, or strange reactions to something a sexual partner does or says during lovemaking. While these reactions are common, unavoidable, even protective, results of trauma — years later –they can get in the way of enjoying sex. By developing understanding and patience you can learn to handle them effectively. When you experience an unwanted reaction to touch, stop and become more consciously aware of the reaction. Then calm your self physically with slow breathing, self-massage and relaxation techniques. As soon as you can, affirm your present reality by reminding yourself of who you are now and that you have many options. You may also want to alter the activity in some way to make it more comfortable. Automatic reactions will diminish over time as you become more aware of and responsive to them.

5. Familiarize Yourself With Touch Techniques.

You can use special touch exercises to help you relearn intimate touch in a safe and relaxed way. Different from traditional sex therapy techniques (which can be overwhelming to survivors), the “relearning touch” techniques provide a wide assortment of exercises from which to choose as you feel ready. You can do some relearning touch exercises on your own, while others require a partner. Detailed descriptions of the exercises can be found in my book, The Sexual Healing Journey, and my video, “Relearning Touch”. These exercises help you develop skills such as: feeling relaxed with touch, breathing comfortably, staying present, communicating with a partner, having fun, and expressing and receiving love through physical contact.

The exercises are progressive and follow a sequence from playful, non-sexual touch to sensual, pleasuring touch activities. When necessary, you can address specific sexual problems, such as orgasmic and erectile difficulties, by modifying standard sex therapy techniques using the new skills acquired in relearning touch. You can repair the damage done to you in the past. You can look forward to a new surge of self-respect, personal contentment, emotional intimacy. When you reclaim your sexuality, you reclaim yourself.

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Domestic Violence Resources…..Courtesy of AARDVARC

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE RESOURCES

The organization affectionately called AARDVARC stands for An Abuse, Rape, and Domestic Violence Resource Center. Their fabulous website is a treasure trove of information and help that most victims do not even know exist. Take a look here and then go check them out! http://www.aardvarc.org.

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE
or #HOPE on Verizon wireless phones (toll and airtime free), TTY: 1-800-787-3224

How to Change Your Social Security NumberChanging Your Social Security Number: The SSA joins with other Federal agencies to provide greater assistance to victims of domestic violence. Some victims seeking to elude their abuser and reduce the risk of further violence choose to establish a new identity. As part of that effort, it may be helpful to obtain a new Social Security number (SSN).

Give Back a Smile ProgramGive Back a Smile Program: This program is dedicated to providing cosmetic dental care at no cost to all survivors of domestic violence. Potential applicants should call 800-773-4227 to inquire about participating in the Program. Leave your name, mailing address and telephone number including area code and an application will be mailed to you.

FACE to FACE
FACE to FACE: The National Domestic Violence Project

1-800-842-4546: A joint program of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. Provides free reconstructive surgery for victims of domestic violence, male and female.

ADT SecurityADT – Free Security Systems for Victims of Domestic Violence: The ADT AWARE® program is a coordinated effort among ADT Security Services, representatives of local law enforcement agencies, prosecutor’s offices and battered women’s shelters. After these community groups have selected participants for the program, ADT donates and installs electronic security systems in the homes of victims of domestic violence. The systems include a hold-up alarm pendant, which can be worn or carried with the victim while in the home. In the event of an imminent attack, the victim can press the button on the pendant, sending an immediate, silent alarm to ADT, which in turn notifies the appropriate police agency. Law enforcement agencies participating in the AWARE® program have agreed to respond to these AWARE® alarms on a priority basis.

Why Does He Do That: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men
Why Does He Do That: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men
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In this groundbreaking book, domestic violence expert Lundy Bancroft uses his unique perspective as a therapist for abusive and controlling men to help women, their children, and other family members who have been touched by abuse understand why abusers behave the way they do and what can be done about it. Bancroft teaches women how to survive and improve an abusive relationship; how to determine how dangerous an abuser is and when it is impossible to rectify a situation; and how to get out of a relationship safely. This book identifies nine types of abusive men, addressing different styles, from the physical batterer to the strictly verbal abuser. He dispels the pervasive societal myths surrounding abuse, exposing common excuses used by abusers, such as having experienced an abusive childhood or substance addiction. Bancroft answers commonly asked questions, such as what warning signs of abuse to look for early in a relationship; what is and isn’t abusive behavior; how to know if a woman and her children are in danger; and how to tell when a man is really changing.

 

From a blogger in Canada truly making a difference!

 

Trudy Metzger's Blog

Disclaimer: I have received permission to write about the details shared in this post.

***

One evening this week I witnessed one of the most powerful things I’ve seen in my life. To protect the individuals, I will be skimpy on details….

It all started several weeks ago, when I met a young woman through a mutual friend, whom I vaguely remember ‘meeting’ many years ago. Because of our age difference, she was ‘but a child’ and I was an adult, so there was no interaction, that I recall.

We met at a restaurant for dinner, as perfect strangers, and spent almost six hours talking, listening, and exploring her story. As she shared, raw pain spilled out, and, with it, the guilt over having suffered less than others in her life, and yet suffering deep trauma. She felt lost and alone.  Abandoned and rejected. Always had.

The three most traumatic…

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World Suicide Prevention Day


Abused and broken

Confused and withdrawn

Struggling…..wondering

Are all my dreams now gone?

The lives of my babies

Their mamma’s soul now torn

No money, home, or family

Wouldn’t they be better off on their own?

Can’t find hope for a future

Mine or theirs…..all alone

Life insurance and guardianship

Everyone’s better off if I move on.

The pills in my hand…..

Pain relief will come by dawn

Then a small voice pleads         Mamma keep on going,

I will help you be strong.

This voice gave me hope

Hope I thought was lost

Took and threw the pills away

Hugged my babies

And made a call.

When you have feelings like all hope is lost, pick up the phone and call 800-273-TALK. There is a voice. There is hope.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Photo credit: Wikipedia)