My research has identified four key questions for people recovering from childhood sexual abuse to consider. Some of the answers will be individual to you and it is vital that you make your own choices. After thinking of your answers to these questions you might feel that you want to take action yourself or you might want to find help and support from others to help you.
It’s not easy and everyone stumbles, but when we put more time into ourselves, and access the help we need, it’s easier to move from more negative ways of coping to more positive ones.
Recovering is a life-long process. We can’t forget, but we can keep trying to live the life we deserve. I hope these ideas help.
1. Am I safe?
Safety is vital for recovering, not just in the therapist’s room but in your life and many participants referred to it. Some told me about negative experiences in adulthood, such as abusive relationships or bullying at work, that had traumatised them further. Being safe is the bedrock of recovering. It is hard to focus on recovering when you don’t feel safe.
2. Am I heard?
Many people reported that, in general, people didn’t want them to talk about what happened to them. Friends and partners who listened without judgement were appreciated so much. A quarter of people who took part said that relationships were the most important factor in recovering.
For professionals, a warm, understanding, caring approach was really valued. Participants talked about important interactions that really changed their lives for the better. Counselling and therapy were valued by three quarters of survey respondents.
3. What do I like to do?
Abuse involves denying the child the right to choose. Recovering works best when the individual makes their own choices. Nearly three quarters found creative activities helped, such as art, reading, writing, gardening, design, poetry and gaming. It does not matter what it is as long as you love it, it is challenging but achievable, absorbing and fun. This creates a mental state called flow. During flow you feel less anxious, more in control and safer. These benefits can carry over into everyday life.
4. How can I improve my relationship with my body?
The body is an important area where recovering is created and expressed. Abuse creates a mental severance between your body and your mind. Recovering involves making friends with your body again. Nearly half of the people who filled in my survey said they found touch and movement helped, such as sport, yoga, massage, walking and dance. These activities bring many benefits, including creating flow, releasing emotions, helping you feel safer because you are stronger and faster.
If you want to read more about my research visit the resources page.
Image details: Alma-Tadema, Lawrence; Reverie: Far Away Thoughts; Doncaster Museum Service; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/reverie-far-away-thoughts-69130