What is Sexual Abuse? Using Forgiveness and Spirituality to Move On

This week's blog is a very emotional and devastating one-- sexual abuse.  Many people grow up holding all in of the pain, shame, and fear that sexual abuse has caused them.  Our hearts go out to you if you are one of the many who struggle with the internal dilemma of disclosure and healing.  Today we will discuss Forgiveness, Spirituality and Resolution.

Forgiveness of the abuser isn't an essential part of the healing process, although it tends to be the one most recommended.  Many people believe that confronting the abuser is something that has to be done in order to forgive-- and this isn't true.  Many times, confrontation of an abuser who continues to be an unsafe person (whether emotionally or physically) can cause further trauma.  Other times, it can be a dramatic and cleansing tool.  No one can tell you what is the "right" way for you to get to a place of forgiveness.  The most important thing and the most essential piece about forgiveness is that it is for yourself.  It wasn't your fault.

Spirituality.  Having a sense of a power greater than yourself can be a real asset in the healing process.  Many individuals who have been sexually abused feel anger towards God for allowing the abuse to happen and struggle with spirituality as it relates to the healing process.  Spirituality is a uniquely personal experience.  You might find it through traditional religion, meditation, nature, or your support group. 

Resolution and Moving On.  As you move through these stages again and again, you will reach a point of integration.  Your feelings and perspectives will stabilize.  You will come to terms with your abuser and other family members.  While you won't erase your history, you will make deep and lasting changes in your life.  Having gained awareness, compassion, and power through healing, you will have the opportunity to work towards a better world.  Just remember, healing from sexual abuse is a process... not a one time thing.  Most importantly, be gentle with yourself!  Learn to nurture yourself during this process and take care of the child within you.  Recognize that taking a step backwards, doesn't mean failure or lack of progress.  You are allowed to have feelings and to grieve.  And, once again, speak to a professional counselor if you are struggling with this process.  Healing isn't meant to be done alone.  As we previously stated, we often times see individuals that don't confront their abuse until many years later, wishing they would have done it sooner.  Our hearts and prayers go out to you if you are a survivor of sexual abuse, and we hope this week's blog topic has been helpful to you on your journey towards healing!

Resources for healing from sexual abuse:

The Courage to Heal by Ellen Bass & Laura Davis

Beginning to Heal by Laura Davis & Ellen Bass

The Right to Innocence by Beverly Engel

Healing from the Trauma of Childhood Sexual Abuse by Karen Duncan

The Sexual Healing Journey by Wendy Maltz 

Joleen Watson, MS, LMFT is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. She enjoys doing marriage counseling, relationship counseling, couples counseling, and individual counseling.  Imagine Hope also specializes in family, child and adolescent counseling and serves Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Noblesville, Zionsville, Westfield, and Fishers.