Stages of Healing from Sexual Abuse

Although most of these stages are necessary for every survivor, a few of them—the emergency stage, remembering the abuse, confronting your family and forgiveness—are not applicable for every woman.

The decision to heal:
Once you recognise the effects of sexual abuse in your life, you need to make an active commitment to heal. Deep healing happens only when you choose it and are willing to change yourself.

The emergency stage:
Beginning to deal with memories and suppressed feelings can throw your life into utter turmoil. Remember this is only a stage. It won’t last forever.

Many survivors suppress all memories of what happened to them as children. Those who do not forget the actual incidents often forget how it felt at the time. Remembering is the process of getting back both memory and feeling.

Believing it happened:
Survivors often doubt their own perceptions. Coming to believe that the abuse really happened and that it really hurt you is a vital part of the healing process.

Breaking the silence:
Most adult survivors kept the abuse a secret in childhood. Telling another human being about what happened to you is a powerful healing force that can dispel the shame of being a survivor.

Understanding that it wasn’t your fault:
Children usually believe abuse is their fault. Adult survivors must place the blame directly where it belongs—on the shoulders of the abusers.

Making contact with the child within:
Many survivors have lost touch with their own vulnerability. Getting in touch with the child within can help you feel compassion for yourself, more anger at your abuser, and greater intimacy with others.

Trusting yourself:
The best guide for healing is your own inner voice. Learning to trust your own perceptions, feelings and intuitions forms a new basis for action in the world.

Grieving and mourning:
As children being abused, and later as adults struggling to survive, most survivors haven’t felt their losses. Grieving is a way to honour your pain, let go, and move into the present.

Anger—the backbone of healing:
Anger is a powerful and liberating force. Whether you need to get in touch with it or have always had plenty to spare, directing your rage squarely at your abuser, and at those who didn’t protect you, is pivotal to healing.