Stages of Healing from Childhood Sexual Abuse
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Care and Commitment

Comfort them and send healing for their wounds of body, soul and spirit.

Although most of the stages in the healing process are necessary for every survivor, a few of them - the emergency stage, remembering the abuse, confronting family - are not applicable for every person. Survivors are encouraged to seek professional help to receive the care and support they need.

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.


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 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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The Archdiocese of Milwaukee

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St. Francis, WI 53235

Phone:  (414) 769-3300
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