When we talk about recovery from sexual abuse, we often talk about trauma caused when a child experiences an intense event that threatens or causes harm to his or her emotional and physical well-being.
But one of the reasons why sexual abuse is so difficult to recover from – and takes so long to recover from – is because sexual abuse is a crime against “the self”. (Click here to learn more about the four factors that influence survivors of early sexual abuse.)
“My Self” Is My (or Your) Ability to Make Choices
And to live by those choices. It’s about our ability to have an impact on the world.
In the case of sexual abuse, somebody is forced to live through an experience that goes against their choice, or they’re forced to go through an experience that they are too young to choose. A sexually abused child is taught that what they want does not count – and neither do they.
Child sexual abuse is an expression of power that damages the very basis of a child’s sense of self. It inflicts psychological, emotional and social damage that affects a child’s ability to relate to themselves and others.
Taking Back Your Power
Recovery means learning how to become a “self” again. But this can be very difficult for anyone who’s experienced sexual abuse because a key part of our personal power is an ability to be aware of it’s limitations.
Our strength comes from the ability to live with vulnerability, which can be extra difficult for anyone who has experience sexual abuse because to experience abuse is to experience something that makes you feel very vulnerable.
It can be a huge challenge to open your eyes to vulnerability again, yet vulnerability isn’t a weakness. Instead, the ability to be vulnerable, to heal, is possibly our greatest measurement of courage.
Dr. Brené Brown, an American author, scholar and public speaker, shares her research on vulnerability in the video below. While not directly targeting survivors of sexual abuse, her TedTalk speaks directly to the point of every individual’s struggle with both shame and vulnerability when she remarks that we each ask the following question:
“Is there something about me – that if either people know or see – they’ll judge that I’m not worthy?”
The message conveyed may significantly resonate with those coping with their, or a family member’s, experience of child sexual abuse: