Stages of Healing from Childhood Sexual Abuse

Although most of the stages that follow are necessary for every survivor, a few of them - the emergency stage, remembering the abuse, confronting family - are not applicable for every person.

The Decision to Heal
Once one recognizes the effects of sexual abuse in one's life, one needs to make an active commitment to heal. Deep healing happens only when one chooses it and is willing to change.

The Emergency Stage
Beginning to deal with memories and suppressed feelings can throw your life into utter turmoil. Assure the victim that this is only a stage. It won't last forever.

Remembering
Many survivors suppress all memories of what happened to them as children. Those who do not forget the actual incidents often forget how it felt at the time. Remembering is the process of getting back both memory and feeling.

Believing It Happened
Most adult survivors often doubt their own perceptions. Coming to believe that the abuse really happened, and that it really hurt, is a vital part of the healing process.

Breaking Silence
Most adult survivors kept the abuse a secret in childhood. Telling another human being about what happened is a powerful healing force that can dispel the shame of being a victim.

Understanding That It Wasn't The Victim's Fault
Children usually believe the abuse is their fault. Adult survivors must place the blame where it belongs - directly on the shoulders of the abusers.

Making Contact With The Child Within
Many survivors have lost touch with their own vulnerability. Getting in touch with the child within can help one feel compassion for self, more anger at the abuser, and greater intimacy with others.

Trusting Oneself
The best guide for healing is one's own inner voice. Learning to trust one's own perception, feelings, and intuition forms a new basis for action in the world.

As children being abused, and later as adults struggling to survive, most survivors haven't felt their losses. Grieving is a way to acknowledge pain, let go, and move into the present.

Anger
Anger is a powerful and liberating force. Whether one needs to get in touch with it or has always had plenty to spare, directing rage squarely at the abuser, and at those who didn't protect the victim, is pivotal to healing.

Disclosures and Confrontations
Directly confronting the abuser and/or one's family is not for every survivor, but it can be a dramatic, helpful tool.

Resolution and Moving On
As one moves through these stages again and again, one will reach a point of integration. Feelings and perspectives will stabilize. One will come to terms with the abuser and other family members. While one won't erase history, one will make deep and lasting changes in life. Having gained awareness, compassion, and power through healing, one will have the opportunity to work toward a better world.

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