Thursday, October 15, 2009

Healing is Possible

If you have been sexually assaulted or abused, you might have experienced a range of physical reactions and results, such as:
  • varying degrees of physical pain
  • physical injuries
  • no physical pain
  • sexual pleasure (which can feel very confusing)
  • physical numbness
In addition to those common physical feelings, most children, teens and adults who've been abused also feel:
  • fear
  • anger or rage
  • shame
  • guilt
  • embarrassment
  • dread
  • isolation
  • confusion
  • "deadness" inside, lack of any feelings at all
  • helplessness
  • anxiety or nervousness
And in addition to all that, it's common for abused people to feel trapped by the abuser. The abuser might threaten to hurt another person or a pet, or to kill the victim as well as sexually assaulting him or her. Even if no threat is spoken, the abuse itself is a threat to safety, trust and security, so many victims say nothing.

Some people feel stupid for "getting caught," thinking they "should" have been able to predict or prevent what was going to happen. They feel they "should" have been able to fight the attacher off or avoid the attack.

Certainly, if you already knew the abuser, you might feel betrayed by him or her. And many people, especially children and adults who've already been victims of other physical violence, carry a deep feeling that they deserve to be assaulted in this way. They might feel responsible for the abuse.

If any of these responses to sexual abuse and assault sound or feel familiar to you, please know that although they are common reactions, you do not have to continue to feel this way.

You did not cause your abuse. You did not make someone else decide to attack you -- period. No matter where you were or what you wore or how old you were, you did not cause the abuse. You had the right to say "No" at any time, even if you were too afraid or  young or drunk or confused to say it out loud. Being unable to stop the abuse or assault is not the same as being responsible for the abuse or assault.

Help is available. You don't have to be alone. Many people are trained to help survivors of sexual abuse and assault.

Healing is possible. Absolutely. Many previous victims of abuse and assault have become able to live happy, secure, satisfying lives. They are free of the guilt, anger, shame and feelings of powerlessness created by the abuse.

You can move forward from where you are now.

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