A Story of Transformation & Recovery after Childhood Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse, when experienced by a child, is the most wounding and trust destroying experience, anyone can live through. And yet, people do recover from this experience and for those prepared to put in the most arduous, but ultimately rewarding effort, the transformation to someone’s soul, is quite remarkable to witness. I work with sexual abuse and those who have experienced it, because I witness incredible transformations. For this reason, I believe, I have the most rewarding role and the most privileged of insights into an aspect of humanity. It’s a team effort, client and I, and important we both understand that we are in it for the long haul. I’ve learnt from working with survivors of sexual abuse that when the process is reaching its heights (and lows), that’s when the preparation provided by therapeutic work, carves out something truly remarkable. I enjoy when this process leads to individuals developing personal leadership roles (in a family, in a friendship group) or a community role, a voice for the society we live in, and this often happens. Here’s a story of one such individual…….
Sexually abused as a child by her father, grandfather and Uncle, this woman hit crisis point as adolescence enveloped her. At this age, understanding of her abusive history is kicking in and self awareness brings much shame, doubt and self judgement. Acting out is normal for such teenagers, but significantly more for this individual than the average teenager. She became promiscuous and learnt to enjoy the mind numbing qualities of alcohol. However, blessed by a high degree of emotional intelligence, and perhaps some good fortune, she met a man, significantly older than her, who provided many qualities that stabilised and provided security. She married young, at just 21 years and raised a family of four. It wasn’t until her early to mid thirties that memories began to surface about her history of sexual abuse. Prior to this she had no memories of the sexual abuse. Her world then collapsed. Whilst her inner world was in absolute chaos, the marriage stood strong. This was a love match of strength and acceptance, prepared for the duration of challenges that included many suicide attempts. Reports were ultimately made to the police, and after many, many years of legal delays, changing legal representation and other complications, her day in court arrived in relation to her father. Torturous though it was, this woman drew on her growing emotional intelligence, the support of her marriage and her love of her children and ultimately read out her victim impact statement in court. She was blessed by a wonderful, female judge. Another gift from the universe, as some individuals have a different outcome, damaged by judges of poor understanding and even prejudice. The perpetrator received a nine year jail sentence. He remains in jail, as other victims came forward. However, there were many sacrifices along the way.
Sacrifice is the inevitable outcome with significant personal work. You change, so those around you are challenged by those changes. It forces them to change, or not. Some like the changes and support them, others don’t. This woman lost her family of origin, who could not bare the revelations about their family being aired publicly. A blossoming career did not continue, the stresses of mental health challenges, court preparation and court appearances too much to uphold a responsible job. Working continues but at a different level, a manageable, more flexible level. Much effort has been put into raising the children in a way to ensure that such an abuse of trust could never happen again. Enormous consciousness was required to succeed at creating a family structure where abuse would not be tolerated. And of course, not everything is perfect, sometimes these boundaries are too rigid, there is too much fear and anxiety about potential threats, and this can harm the children. However, when committed to therapy, there is a regular space for reflection and assessment of how things are going. The outside, though caring, perspective of the therapist can assist in negotiating when historical trauma is creeping into current situations and causing problems. For this woman, the new family dynamic is healthy, open and growing continually. The pain however continues.

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