The statistics are real. 1 in 6 for women and 2 and 50 for men.
The pain is real too. And if you live in the Lansing Area, especially hit hard with the Larry Nassaur scandal, everyone seems to be talking about , "...starting the healing process...". I've been asking myself, what does this even mean? And if there is a way to describe the process of healing, wouldn't more people be willing to try?
Here is what I found. Just like predictable stages of grief that follow loss, there can be predictable stages for healing the effects of sexual abuse. Although most of the stages are necessary, some of them are not applicable for every person. This information is published by The Archdiocese of Milwaukee and found on their website www.Archmil.org. I like this stages approach. It makes sense and it offers hope when the process gets hard.
Of course, Trauma is a complicated topic. Other resources I like include authors like Bessel van der Kolk. Peter Levine, Janine Fisher, and Collin Ross. They all have written many books you can easily find on Amazon. One strategy I have found helpful to support our work in therapy is to use these resources as a spring board for our treatment goals.
Still thinking about addressing the proverbial "elephant in the living room"? Maybe it will help to break down the process like this:
1. The Decision to Heal- This involves recognizing the effects that the abuse is having in your life and choosing to make a commitment to healing and being willing to change.
2. The Emergency Stage- This is the hardest part. Beginning to deal with memories and suppressed feelings can throw your life into complete chaos. This stage is difficult, but it won't last forever and having the courage to experience it offers freedom and healing.
3. Remembering- In this process, we work to get back in touch with both memory and feeling.
4. Believing it Happened- Most adult survivors often doubt their own perceptions. Believing that it happened and that it hurt is important.
5. Breaking the Silence- Telling is a powerful healing force that helps get rid of shame.
6. Understanding that it Wasn't Your Fault- This is obvious, but can be hard especially if the abuse happened as a child.
7. Contacting the Child Within- This will help us find compassion for your pain, get in touch with anger towards your abuser, and find greater intimacy with others.
8. Trusting Yourself- Self talk is important. Finding ways to trust your own perception, feelings, and intuition, will help you experience a more confident and self assured you. This is where we learn to stay out of the victim place.
9. Anger-This is powerful and learning howto direct the rage you feel towards you abuser and towards those who did not protect you is vital.
10. Disclosures and Confrontations-This is not for everybody, but it can be helpful to process the healing.
11. Resolution and Moving On- Just like grief, these stages don't necessarily happen in order. As you open yourself up to this process, you can begin to find that your perspectives will change, feelings stabilize, and you will come to terms with the abuser and others associated with the circumstances of the abuse.
A whole new world is waiting for you at the end of this healing process. Let me know if you or your family members are ready to dive in. I can't promise you it will be easy, but I can promise you it will be worth it. Call today for an appointment and let's just start by facing one day at a time...