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Reclaiming Myself after Child Sex Abuse

Reclaiming Myself after Child Sex Abuse

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Published by sos-sa
This book was written with female survivors of child sexual assault/abuse (CSA) therefore we have used the feminine pronoun throughout this text when speaking about CSA survivors. That is not to
say that much of the work covered in this book would not be useful and appropriate to males as well.
We believe all survivors will find benefit in working through this book, but males will have to alter the feminine pronoun as they read. There may be additional issues that male survivors need to face and deal with and these would not be covered in this resource. We have spoken about the perpetrator
of the CSA as ‘he’ because in most cases the offending perpetrator was a male. That is not to say
that women do not perpetrate sexual abuse, or that males are not the victims of child sexual abuse/ assault.
This book was written with female survivors of child sexual assault/abuse (CSA) therefore we have used the feminine pronoun throughout this text when speaking about CSA survivors. That is not to
say that much of the work covered in this book would not be useful and appropriate to males as well.
We believe all survivors will find benefit in working through this book, but males will have to alter the feminine pronoun as they read. There may be additional issues that male survivors need to face and deal with and these would not be covered in this resource. We have spoken about the perpetrator
of the CSA as ‘he’ because in most cases the offending perpetrator was a male. That is not to say
that women do not perpetrate sexual abuse, or that males are not the victims of child sexual abuse/ assault.

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Published by: sos-sa on Aug 12, 2008
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12/08/2013

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Many of us felt we had ‘a crushed or broken spirit’ and wanted

healing from spiritual emptiness. Some women said they drank or

used as a response to a wounded heart, a spiritual core that was

hurt. The spiritual issues we want to address include, improving

our ability to give and receive love, to ignite hope, find meaning

in the past and present situation, and locate our purpose to

recover, heal and live. These spiritual issues go deeper than just

our emotions and feelings, moving to the core of who we are

and who we want to become. They provide the motivation we

need to live and work at our healing. When our spiritual core is

stronger we believe we will move from surviving to thriving.

What do we Mean by Our Spirit?

There are many and varied understandings of the human spirit.

Many place it in a religious framework that can help people to

understand who they are. In this project we sought to give our

own understanding to what we view as our spirit. It may help you

to work out your own perspective on this subject.

The spirit is deep within us joining together our body and mind, our emotions and feelings. Our spirit

gives us a hope and a vision for our life. It is expressed through our emotions, but it is more than

emotions and free will. The spirit makes us alive in a total sense, instead of just a mechanical sense.

It is what gives our life meaning and purpose, and purpose is to the mind what water is to the body.

Our spirit energises our life and our whole being, making us feel alive, rather than just existing. The

spirit responds to relationships that nurture and love, and is crushed by hatred, abuse and violence.

We should be compassionate and gentle with ourselves

to nurture our spirit. If others in our support team provide

understanding and kindness our spirit will flourish.

It’s a difficult dimension to describe and we recognise some

people will say it is irrelevant to them, but for us it has been

just as important to our healing as the emotional and physical

dimensions. We describe it as the dimension that binds

the others together to give us a sense of ‘togetherness’,

I believe there is a strong spiritual

core to everyone. Everyone has an

individual essence that is ignited

at birth… we just have to keep that

inner spark burning. It is no one’s

right to put that out.

My spirit is the difference between

life and death for me, because it is

the thing that I believe that even at

the worst moments I was comforted

by it. It is my guide. As my spirit is

gaining strength my loneliness is

dissipating. I always feel like there

is something by my side where ever

I go, and I am guided by it. Without

it, I think I would be dead. It is my

vision. I call it God.

Having faith has brought me relief

and release. Believing in God has

kept me going. I fought with it for

so long, I was a very depressed

person and I went and did a course

on understanding depression. I had

a lot of anger. I found faith in the

Lord and it is very hard to explain,

but it has lifted from me and I have

found inner peace. The past doesn’t

break me up anymore and it doesn’t

hurt me like it used to. I have an

identity as a child of God. I have

hope and a reason for living.

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‘wholeness’, ‘integration’, and ‘life’. For some this spiritual dimension has been organised using a

religious framework, and we obtain from that understanding a source of hope, purpose, meaning,

identity and love. This provides a guide to making sense of life and how to live. It gives a framework

on which to reclaim and construct our life, which is helpful.

Those of us struggling with addiction recognise the psychological triggers for addiction can create a

long-term ‘battle’ which some view as spiritual. A battle between what is right and holds us together,

and what is destructive and pulls us apart. Addictions stop us from getting in touch with our inner spirit.

One woman notes that since she stopped using alcohol and drugs she has more clarity in her mind.

This helps her face life’s issues because she is finding within herself the inspiration and motivation to

recover. She said,

I feel the spirit may be the glue that holds the pieces of my life together and this glue is just now

beginning to set. My sense of identity and my sense of self is like jelly that hasn’t set yet. It turns

to water in the heat of self-doubt, and it is only able to set if I can reduce the heat. I calm down

and cool off when I connect with the spirit within me through prayer and meditation.

With loving nurture the spirit heals a little bit at a time; enough to allow us make the next step on

our healing journey. The next step isn’t going to come unless we are ready to take it. We can’t force

spiritual growth or healing on anyone. It flourishes when we love ourselves and have a nurturing

environment and compassionate people around us. We are all in the process of becoming. We are

not just the product of our past. This may seem cliché, but we are recognising it as a liberating truth

in our lives that is developing as we reconnect with our inner selves.

Tip

Some discoveries we made about healing the spirit that you may wish to reflect on and use if

you find them helpful.

• Recognise previous living and relationship patterns can be transformed.

You have to come to a place where you are looking at your problem and you say, ‘OK I have

seen this and looked at it enough. I now want healing and peace from this.’ That’s what I ask

God for. I want to be a whole person. Then eventually I hope I can get to the stage (and I am

moving that way) where I can find encouragement from what I have been through, knowing I

am a better person because of it. Yes, I am truly getting there. I’m much more at peace with

my past now.

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• Recognise your wounded spirit can be healed.

I would like to say to my father, ‘You took a piece of me when you put that pillow on my

head and put me in the dark, which is where you left my soul. From that point I have been

scratching and crawling around trying to find and grab the pieces of my spirit and keep them

together enough to keep me going… enough to have a baby and do it totally differently to

what you did’.

• Recognise circumstances that trigger feelings of confusion, anger, shame, guilt, blame, doubt

and fear, as these are risky situations. Find a safe place to reflect and share your concerns.

• Be prepared to spend some time reflecting on difficult situations and think about your attitudes to your

situation which may be unconsciously contributing to your suffering. Think about your desires, fears,

values, beliefs, attitudes and demands that you may be placing upon yourself. Where do they come

from? Who are they connected to? What experiences are they connected with? Is there a reason you

stick with these views? If you want relief from suffering then you need to take the time to bring into

your conscious awareness the values and beliefs you hold that contribute to your experience of pain.

You will experience the most healing if you hold on to beliefs that return you to compassion for, and

connection with, others.

• Building human relationships within a faith community is healing to our spirit.

• Getting alongside another person to tell your story and share your pain with a compassionate

listener is healing.

• Prepare strategies to handle your negative experiences which produce suffering (revisit Chapter

2 for ideas).

• Learn to use ‘centreing’ strategies that help you focus your energy on the places where it is most

needed to heal. We find meditation, prayer, deep relaxation exercises help. Meditation and prayer

still the mind and help us gain control over our thoughts. There is sound evidence in health

research that says prayer is more potent and helpful than many medical interventions in healing

different biophysical diseases, but especially in healing mental health needs.

• Find contentment in simple things that ease emotional tension.

I might not have much in my little abode because I am starting from scratch but the

contentment of my son sitting across from me and my daughter sitting next to me, regular

friends, watching a movie… I think you can’t put a price on that.

• Find support and relief in religious faith and the presence of your higher power. For some the

connectedness they feel and the opportunity to participate in faith communities is providing

a sense of belonging, and an opportunity to participate in life in ways that are supportive and

nurturing. Additionally, the values of a faith provide help to focus life and make sense of suffering.

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I went to church by myself when I was 11. My mum and dad had split up and I wouldn’t

go with him, so I went to church by myself. To this day I don’t know why, but obviously

something drew me there at that time. My mum had a nervous breakdown and by 11 I was

taking over her role. I got my brother to school and looked after my sister. I know going to

church got me through it. I don’t remember what it was, but it cushioned something for me

so I could live and move on.

• Reading the sacred text/s of your faith can provide hope and inspiration that heal the spirit. It

helps us know who we are within the bigger picture.

It allows me to put my story with your story and together our story can be placed in his story

(God’s story).

This web of relationships is what holds us in place in the world. Most sacred texts give us

an account of our story and our place within that story, so we know where and how we are

connected into life.

• Nurturing creativity takes your mind into areas that nurture the spirit… painting, cooking. Do

something that gets your head out of the darkness of looking inward and shifts your focus

outside of yourself.

• Getting out among the natural environment nurtures the spirit: go for a walk along a beach, in a

park, in the bush, feel the wind, the sun, smell a flower, pat a dog, feed some ducks… there are

many wonderful nourishing activities you can use that connect you to nature.

Journal Exercise

• What do you define as your spiritual dimension?

• If this aspect of your life is important to you, then think of times when you were most full of

contentment, peace, hope, joy, love etc.

• What were you doing or experiencing at that time that can give you clues as to how to nourish

your spirit?

Note these down for each of the emotions detailed in point 2.

• How can you build more of these experiences into your life?

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Summary

It is not enough to just face the issues that child sexual abuse raises and the concurrent feelings and

emotions. To action change and work out preferred ways of living and being you need to consider

the issues and plan to action ways you can deal with these important subjects. Some common ones

we discussed in this chapter include the ongoing impact of the perpetrator/s and the subtle hold

they can continue to exert over our lives. You will need to deal with intimate partner relationships and

the aspects of trust, reciprocity, love and communication within those relationships, as well as the

vexing activity of sexual relations within such a relationship. An important aspect of reclaiming healthy

relationships is the recognition and maintenance of healthy personal boundaries within partnerships

and within families. The final area we considered briefly was the area of spirituality. Some women

struggle with an inner emptiness that leaves a yearning for inner peace and love, and a desire to

renew a sense of meaning and purpose in life. The suffering that CSA invokes can lead to a deep

need to examine the spiritual core of one’s self so we reclaim our right to personal wellbeing and

wholeness.

The final chapter deals with the process of discovering yourself and the various aspects of the healing

journey that facilitate transition and the reclaiming of a stronger sense of self.

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