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August 19, 2018 - Welcome Guest!

Advice » Hard Knocks

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When will it be over?

Question:

From the age 9 to16 I was severely sexually abused by an older brother. My dad died when I was nine, so I guess he took his anger out on me. My mom was totally oblivious to ANYTHING that ever went on. She was in her own little world. Anyway, I have been in therapy seven years. I am trying to deal with all that has happened to me, but I am really tired of trying so hard. My family doesn't really care about me (unless they want something). I don't care about me. Therapy has helped me to be able to function in society. I really like my job. I love my family. Sometimes it is just not enough, you know?

Can I ever be normal? Can I ever have a normal physical relationship? Do you know of anyone who has overcome this obstacle? When will it be over?

Neicey (33 year-old woman) from USA

Answer:

Dear Neicey,

I am sorry that you were sexually abused, and, from your question, sorry that it is taking so long to get over. Unfortunately, you're in good company, at least in the company of millions of other survivors of sexual abuse. For all of them, getting over it means working through it: facing the facts of what happened to you, feeling the feelings about what it meant to you, finishing up the mess it caused by cleaning up what it did to you, then forgiving everyone concerned.

If the abuse itself is over, just not all the scars, then I am glad you are now safe to work it through.

When it is over is when you can look at all of it again without pain, shame, rage, hurt or sadness. Perhaps you have lost a pet or a grandparent who loved you. If they died some time ago, then you may be able to recall them without grief, even remembering good times together while they were alive, and not focusing upon their sickness or funeral and death. You could say your bereavement is over when you look back on their life with joy instead of only at the pain of their death.

When the sexual abuse is over, there may be no joy, but no need for the numbing of the pain, because the pain has been worked through. In order for it to be over, you might compare your abuse with a diamond. If you look at it from one angle, then you see certain facets of it, but if you turn it a bit, you see other sides of it. With sexual abuse, to work through it, you may have to look at it from several different angles to see all that it did to you.

If you were a child when the sexual abuse happened, there are several other facets. When you became a dating teenager, and a boy touched you, you may have seen different things than you saw when you were younger. When you become sexually active, many clients report they see new facets they don't like. If you have a daughter who grows to be the age you were at the time of the abuse, you may see even more facets, and wonder again, "when will it be over?"

The good news is that the skills you use for each facet will enable to work through the next one, and, eventually, you will feel competent at experiencing and working through the hard feelings. Not that you will welcome yet another round, but you will feel some self-confidence at being able to handle the toughest things in life and caring well for yourself.

The bad news is that you have to work through the trauma (or it will come back to haunt you in other parts of your life). You can't numb the consequences of sexual abuse with repression or drugs and alcohol. Many have tried; it only delays the work.

The best news is that you don't have to go through it alone. There are therapists and support groups available almost everywhere. There are also great books in your library, like The Courage to Heal. They will help you get past your defenses, through the pain, and, eventually, get over the sexual abuse.

I am a Certified Mental Health Counselor in Spokane, Washington. My private practice has brought me in close contact with many survivors of sexual abuse, and, if it is any comfort to you, most get quite impatient to be finished with their painful process and "graduate" from therapy. Nearly all abuse victims want to short-circuit recovery so they don't have feel and deal with all of the different horrible facets of the trauma.

Tonight a mother of girl who was sexually abused ten years ago, at age 12, reported her daughter said now she is stronger because she is getting over it. No one can make you promises that when you get done you will be stronger or better off for it. Chances are good, though, that something redemptive will happen from it.

I am a Christian, and believe that the Crucifixion was terrible on Good Friday, and that something redemptive, Easter, happened from it. You can hope for something good to come from this trauma, more than surviving. I am going to pray for that.

Make a plan to look at more facets of the sexual abuse with someone you trust. Part of the plan needs to be some breaks from thinking about sexual abuse. Try to get a vision of how you will be when it is over. Identify anything keeping from looking at the different facets, and recruit help to get past them. The worse the sexual abuse was, the more support you need to recruit to get over it.

Ray Wm. Smith

This question was answered by Ray Wm Smith Ed.D., D.Min. He is pastoral counselor working out of Spokane, Washington. Ray Wm Smith's specialties include abuse recovery, relational problems, anxiety, communication skills, grief recovery, and anger management.

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