Healing from Sexual Abuse
A Cycle Of Shame Is Keeping You Silent And In Pain—You Are Not Alone
Sexual abuse and violence are some of the most hushed topics in our society. Yet, a significant portion of adults and children across the globe are survivors, carrying shame and trauma from their experiences. Convinced we are alone or somehow to blame for what happened, we may avoid, hide, or stifle our emotions—missing out on the support and community that is essential to our healing.
But, as it’s said in trauma studies, “The body keeps the score.” At the core of many mental health struggles is stored trauma that keeps us stuck in the past and locked in a cycle of self-doubt. There are coping mechanisms we used during the assault or abuse that kept us safe at the time but have since become counterproductive and even harmful in some cases.
Disassociation—an acute disconnection or detachment from one’s thoughts, memories, and identity—and PTSD are common conditions among survivors. And other mental health hurdles, including emotional dysregulation, depression, anxiety, and addiction are prevalent in our community.
Symptoms Of Unprocessed Sexual Abuse
If you are a survivor of sexual assault or childhood sexual abuse, you may often feel isolated by your experience. Living in the shadow of shame and self-blame, you might battle with feelings of unworthiness or a sense that you are damaged in some way. This naturally impacts your ability to trust, connect, and feel safe with others.
As a result, you may find some of your relationships triggering. Whether you struggle with angry outbursts, repeat unhealthy relationship behaviors, or have trouble creating boundaries, your connections may lack security, intimacy, and fulfillment. Not to mention your familial relationships may be strained, especially if a relative perpetrated the abuse.
It’s understandable that you have a hard time coping or that you feel safest when you avoid thinking about the experience. But the trauma of sexual abuse and violence is not your burden to carry alone. Left unprocessed, it can prevent you from achieving true, lasting healing.
Fortunately, in individual therapy and group counseling, you can find valuable perspectives that will aid you in overcoming the trauma of sexual assault and abuse.
Sexual Violence And Childhood Sexual Abuse Are Common Societal Issues Hiding In Plain Sight
Even though the statistics included in the infographic show a significant prevalence of abuse, assault, and effects of trauma that follow, the actual numbers are probably even higher. Plenty of instances of assault and abuse go unreported, causing many experts to believe that the occurrence of sexual violence against women is closer to 50 percent.
But of course, assault and abuse don’t just affect women and girls. Research done by sexual abuse experts estimates that close to eight percent of boys around the world are abused. And instances of sexual assault are staggeringly disproportionate among transgender and gender nonconforming populations.
The Shame Of Sexual Trauma Doesn’t Belong To Survivors—It Belongs To Abusers And A Culture That Enables Them
In most cases, perpetrators of sexual abuse are closely acquainted with their victims. And it’s not uncommon for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to become offenders themselves. The tragic cycle of child abuse dates back to the beginnings of human history, and the legal protection of children is a relatively new concept in our society. In fact, child abuse of all kinds was not outlawed until 1974, when the Child Abuse Prevention & Treatment Act was passed. Unfortunately, however, sexual, physical, and emotional violence against children continues despite protective legislation.
Because we as a society lack the vocabulary and awareness to effectively address the menace of sexual violence and childhood sexual abuse, a stigma has been created. For those of us who are survivors, this stigma translates to a shame that hinders us from seeking support. And in many cases, our abuser instilled the message that what happened was either our fault or not that bad. Some of us may not have even realized that sexual abuse took place until later in life, as we developed an awareness of and vocabulary for our trauma.
With the insight of a counselor, you can learn more about the effects of sexual assault or childhood sexual abuse. And by entering the safe space of therapy, you can let go of the shame of abuse and begin to move forward.
Sexual Abuse Therapy At Bay Area Mental Health Empowers Survivors To Take Control Of Their Lives And Emotions
Even though sexual trauma can be very isolating and compromise our ability to trust others, finding community is an essential part of the healing process. After all, sexual assault and abuse are relational traumas—and relational traumas have to be repaired inside of a trusted relationship.
At Bay Area Mental Health, we are invested in providing our clients with a safe, nonjudgmental atmosphere where they can foster a healing connection with their therapist. We understand the experience of survivors and offer evidence-based individual counseling and group therapy to help reduce the shame associated with sexual abuse and assault.
Our Approach To Counseling For Sexual Assault And Childhood Sexual Abuse
Our practice is first and foremost trauma-informed, which means we take great care not to re-traumatize clients as we offer foundational healing on a deep level. Therapy is always individualized to meet the unique needs of our clients who are survivors of sexual violence or sexual abuse.
To help those struggling with emotional dysregulation and negative self-belief, we may incorporate behavioral techniques—like Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)—to adjust the relationship between their thoughts and feelings. Somatic methods, which target trauma stored in the body, can be helpful for regulating the nervous system. And for clients who have developed treatment-resistant symptoms of depression, anxiety, or PTSD due to sexual abuse and trauma, we offer Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy (KAP).
In addition to individual counseling, we offer a variety of group therapy opportunities specifically designed for survivors of sexual assault and abuse. Our Survivors Program includes weekly group therapy sessions for survivors of sexual assault or childhood sexual abuse to find community, as well as a curriculum for partners of survivors. Our Survivors Groups meet during the following times:
Tuesdays, 7:00p – 8:30p with Sarah Hill
Thursdays, 5:30p – 7:00p with Jessalyn Eatchel
And you can find out more about our group therapy openings here.
Bay Area Mental Health was specifically founded to help trauma survivors work through the shame and pain stemming from sexual abuse. We know that on the other side of the shadow is the light of a community, waiting to help you feel safe and whole again.
Maybe You’re A Survivor Of Sexual Assault Or Abuse, But Not Sure If Therapy Is Right For You…
My experience wasn’t that bad.
If you are a survivor of sexual violence or abuse, it’s important not to minimize your pain. Someone harmed you, and avoiding the reality of your past will only lead to more pain and dysfunction.
Sometimes the only way out is through, and in counseling for sexual abuse, you can navigate the pain with a supportive therapist invested in your healing.
It will be too hard to talk about my sexual trauma with a therapist.
We understand that discussing your sexual abuse or assault in therapy might be a scary prospect. But healing trauma isn’t about the story—it’s about the felt experiences keeping you in distress.
In therapy, you will never be forced to talk about anything you don’t want to, and our time spent with you will focus on what you are struggling with today. If our work together in therapy brings up sexual trauma, we will do what we need to do to gently work through your experience, but we won’t ever go digging for pain.
I don’t have the time and/or money for counseling.
If you struggle with the lingering effects of sexual trauma, you probably aren’t living the life you want for yourself. But are you willing to invest in creating a fulfilling life and becoming the person you want to be?
Therapy is an investment in your future self as you learn to heal the wounds of sexual abuse and move forward.
You Can Escape The Shadow Of Assault And Abuse
You aren’t alone in your experience of sexual trauma, and you don’t have to be alone in overcoming the pain of your past. With a counselor who specializes in sexual violence and childhood sexual abuse, you can find healing through community.
To schedule an appointment or a free, 15-minute consultation with one of our sexual abuse therapists, we invite you to visit our contact page.