Tips for Healing from Childhood Sexual Assault
Most children who are sexually assaulted choose to numb that pain with drugs and alcohol. There is a reason there is an epidemic of mental health issues in the world today. Billions of people with a wounded inner child who is desperately crying out to be loved. Sexual assault is a very deep wound and one that will wreak havoc in our life if we cannot heal it.
These experiences are intensely traumatizing and can have a profound and long-lasting impact on our mental and emotional well-being.
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in four girls and one in six boys will experience sexual abuse before the age of 18.
Healing is a process that takes time and patience. It is important to understand that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to heal, and each person’s journey will be unique.
However, there are some steps that can be taken to help facilitate the healing process.
Seek Professional Help
Talking to a therapist, coach, or counselor who is trained in working with survivors of sexual abuse can be extremely beneficial. They can help you process your feelings, provide support, and give you tools to cope with triggers and flashbacks.
Connect with other Survivors
Joining a support group or connecting with other survivors of childhood sexual assault can be a powerful way to find validation, understanding, and healing.
Engage in activities that promote physical and emotional well-being, such as exercise, yoga, meditation, and journaling.
Learn to recognize and manage triggers (see below for free resource). Triggers are intrusive reminders of the traumatic event, such as certain sounds, smells, or places. It is important to learn how to recognize and manage triggers in order to prevent them from overwhelming you.
Develop Healthy Coping Mechanisms
As a child you will have learned to survive your abusive situation through coping mechanisms that are unhealthy in adulthood. Leaning how to healthily deal with triggers, stress, and obstacles will give you a much greater level of control over your life. This can include exercise, journaling, artistic/creative expression, volunteering, talking to a trusted friend or therapist, or engaging in a hobby.
Learn to forgive your younger self for not knowing how to escape the abusive environment or knowing how to deal with the emotions of that trauma, as well as forgiving those who harmed you will help liberate you from your pain and suffering. Forgiving yourself and others does NOT mean forgetting about the abuse, nor does it absolve the person(s) of the horrible acts they inflicted upon you. Instead, it means you can let go of the anger, bitterness, and resentment that can hold you back from healing. It in no way excuses or belittles what you went through.
Healing Happens in Layers
Healing is a process and there will be setbacks. It’s important to be prepared for them and have a support system in place to help you through difficult times.
Unique Challenges for Men
While the healing process for men who have experienced childhood sexual assault is similar to that of women, there are some unique challenges that men may face.
One of the biggest challenges for men is the societal expectation that men should be strong and not show vulnerability. This can make it difficult for men to talk about their experiences and seek help. Many men may feel ashamed or embarrassed to admit that they were sexually assaulted, and may fear being seen as weak or unmanly. This can lead to men bottling up their emotions and not seeking the help they need.
Another challenge for men is the lack of representation and resources for male survivors of sexual assault. Many therapy groups and support groups are geared towards women, and it can be difficult for men to find support that is specific to their experiences. This can make it harder for men to connect with other survivors and find validation and understanding.
Men may also experience unique symptoms such as feeling guilty, ashamed, or responsible for the abuse, which can affect their self-esteem and self-worth. They may also experience sexual dysfunction, difficulties in relationships, and may have a tendency to act out in aggressive ways.
Despite these challenges, it is important for men to understand that seeking help and healing is possible. It’s important to find a therapist or counselor who is trained in working with male survivors of sexual assault and who can provide a safe and non-judgmental space for men to talk about their experiences.
It’s also important to find a support group or community of other male survivors. This can provide a sense of validation and understanding, and can help men feel less alone in their journey.
In addition, men should be encouraged to engage in self-care and healthy coping mechanisms, such as exercise, journaling, and hobbies. They also should be encouraged to learn to recognize and manage triggers, and to develop healthy relationships.
Unique Challenges for Women
As a woman, there are some specific challenges that may be faced during the healing process. One of them is the societal expectation that women should be submissive and passive. This can make it difficult for women to talk about their experiences and seek help. Many women may feel ashamed or embarrassed to admit that they were sexually assaulted, and may fear being blamed or not believed. This can lead to women bottling up their emotions and not seeking the help they need.
Another challenge for women is the prevalence of sexual assault and the likelihood of knowing someone who has also experienced it. This can make it difficult to find validation and understanding, and can lead to feelings of isolation and believing they are making a bigger deal about it than they should be. Women may also experience unique symptoms such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, and difficulties in relationships and have trouble with trust and intimacy, which can lead to a tendency to act out in self-destructive ways.
Despite these challenges, it is important for women to understand that seeking help and healing is possible. It’s important to find a therapist or counselor who is trained in working with survivors of sexual assault and who can provide a safe and non-judgmental space for women to talk about their experiences.
It’s also important for women to find a support group or community of other survivors. This can provide a sense of validation and understanding, and can help women feel less alone in their journey.
In addition, women should be encouraged to engage in self-care and healthy coping mechanisms, such as exercise, journaling, and hobbies. They also should be encouraged to learn to recognize and manage triggers, and to develop healthy relationships.
Overall, remember that healing is a process, not a destination. It will take time, but with patience, determination, and support, you can overcome the effects of childhood sexual assault and move forward in your life.
Download 3 Free Worksheets
Download these free printable/fillable worksheets and learn how to challenge your negative & intrusive thoughts and identify your triggers!