3 Myths that Stop You From Healing From Sexual Abuse

Myths about Sexual Abuse | 10 min read

3 Myths that Stop You From Healing
From Sexual Abuse

Written By Wendy M. Johnson | @WendyMJohnson7

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Why do so many survivors of sexual abuse believe that healing is not possible? Shame, self-blame, self-guilt, denial, societal responses, and being stuck in a cycle of abuse are some of the biggest hindrances that keep survivors from getting the help they need help that is available to them. Often the first person a victim goes to is a family member. If their response is negative or blaming or accusing them of lying the victim can withhold ever telling another person. Victims can live a life without getting the help they need from just one negative response.

Other times, survivors know they cannot tell anyone. Perhaps they understand the unspoken rule of how society treats its victims of sexual abuse or were threatened or blamed. On the other hand, we know that today, more than ever, there is help for a survivor and that healing from sexual abuse is possible. Psychologists, social workers, therapists, support groups, and educational recovery programs are available throughout the U.S. 

It seems hard enough dealing with just the family and community responses, but survivors also have to go through a healing journey in which they find themselves addressing their past distressing realities. When a survivor feels isolated from not being able to talk to those that are close to them, they may hesitate to reach out to others for fear of rejection. Isolation can also lead to denial, shame, or minimizing what happened or how impactful your abuse really was, and how it has affected your life. Denial can be harmful because it causes you to ignore problems for which there are solutions and shame can influence you to deny warning signs that are treatable. 

Many survivors do not know where to start on their healing journey because they often do not reach out to others for help and can fall prey to myths. If a survivor feels they are damaged already or that there is no hope, then why should they try to heal? They see seeking help as a hopeless pursuit. Even survivors who have tried to heal and found no peace or that it was too hard, or they had a bad experience with a therapist can fall prey to myths. But it is important for survivors to understand that healing is possible and that getting educated and challenging their own mindset(s) can lead them to a journey of healing.

3 Myths That Stop You From Healing From Sexual Abuse

Myth 1: I cannot heal therefore you cannot heal 

Truth 1: Survivors of sexual abuse can heal from their past and lead fulfilling lives 

You may know survivors who have struggled through their healing journey. Some have been in some form of therapy or support groups for years, even decades. Hearing that healing can take years or decades can hinder a survivor from even starting. Why would something take so long to overcome? You may have heard survivors say:

  • They have tried to heal but could not
  • You can ‘almost heal’ but not completely
  • Blatantly telling you that you cannot heal
  • It will always stay with you
  • You may have heard: “If that happened to me, I could not heal from that”

You may have already attempted to heal but have found that healing was a maze of confusion. The key to healing is to NOT listen to others who say you cannot heal. Negativity is contagious, especially when it comes to sexual abuse. You do not need to suffer from the effects of sexual abuse your whole life. There is help and yes, it does require hard work on your part. 

Healing starts with a choice to get the help you need-help that specializes in sexual abuse. You would not go to an optometrist if you have knee issues. Likewise, with healing, go to experts that specialize in your issue. At HEAL we see survivors start their journey broken inside with no confidence or self-worth. With the tools they are given in our life-changing 14-Session interactive educational healing program we see them transform. With the right guidance specific to sexual abuse, you will learn how to overcome those behaviors that sabotage your recovery and enable you to make positive changes in your life. No matter where you are in your healing journey, at HEAL we know There is Life After Abuse! 


I was told over and over I could not heal. I was ready to move on with my life with all the tools I learned and put them into practice. I was told by my support group members (who had been going to the group for 5 years) that I would be back. I was reaching my one-year mark of attending group and one year of weekly therapy appointments. Although I had attended other support groups and saw other therapists in the past, I had finally found a support group that focused on sexual abuse and a therapist who specialized in family sexual abuse. My specific issue. I made a choice that I would work with focus and intent in overcoming my abuse. I actually did the homework and did reflective journaling that really helped me to process my sadness, betrayal, and heartbreak. I never went back because I had learned all I needed to. I cried more that year than any other year. I processed my pain and yes, it was scary. But I knew I was with the right therapist and support group (even though they did not support my leaving) that talked about the issues I needed as a survivor to overcome. I learned healing does not need to take up so much of my life and I also learned that I was strong and resilient and had courage. I was no longer a victim of my past.

Survivor


Myth 2: I will always be damaged or flawed because of the abuse

Truth 2: A person’s abusive actions towards you do not diminish your worth

Sex abusers want you to feel powerless, broken, damaged, and flawed so they can continue to manipulate you and keep you silent. Even if you do not have contact with your abuser, they want you to stay weak even as you grow into adulthood because ‘adults’ can expose them. Sex abusers want you to feel worthless because an empowered survivor scares and intimidates them. 

Victims of sexual abuse can also fall prey to believing the abuse happened to them because of who they are, and they can start to perceive themselves as flawed to the core. ‘Damaged goods’ is a phrase cruelly given to victims of sexual abuse because their virtue was ‘taken.’ To some it is interpreted as the victim is now flawed no matter what age the victim was or how it happened, even dismissing sexual abuse, which is then absorbed into a victim’s self-belief and self-narrative. When in reality your worth cannot be damaged because of sexual abuse. 

Survivors often base how they feel about themselves based on how people treat them. ‘If you are treated bad therefore you are bad’ is a false narrative. If you feel damaged or flawed remember that a person’s actions towards you do not diminish your worth but it can impede your own healing. Healing from sexual abuse can help restore your perception of your worth. Just as you have been wrongly taught that you were damaged or flawed, you can learn that you were never damaged. The healing process is about reminding you of who you really are, a person of value, worth, and deserving of love. 

Feeling damaged or flawed can be one of the biggest hindrances to healing and it can make you feel ‘what is the point.’ Your future can seem helpless, unchangeable, and uncontrollable. There is a sense of passivity since you do not believe that your actions will make a difference.[1] As you get stronger, you will come to understand that YOU are the most significant factor in how you feel about yourself, your life, and your circumstances. By overcoming feeling broken and damaged by learning new skills and ‘dismantling’ your old beliefs, you can tap into your potential and feel empowered.

Myth 3: Time heals all wounds

Truth 3: Time does not heal all wounds, intentional work does

Minimizing the effects of sexual abuse in your life can be a barrier to healing. It becomes hard to move past something you are not really working on, and it is hard to move past something you are not in touch with. By not being in touch with your past experience you can deny, ignore, and even excuse the abusive behavior. It does not matter how long ago the traumatic experience was, avoidance is not a healthy response. There are many reasons for not working on the sexual abuse you experienced such as fear of the pain of your past memories, you may still have a relationship with the abuser, or you do not know where to start. Admitting the abuse happened and being able to identify how it has affected your life is one of the first steps in the healing journey. Time does not heal; intentional hard work does. The healing process involves recognizing how the abuse affected you no matter how long ago it happened.

Conclusion

Myths are a set of beliefs-false beliefs or false ideas. Believing the myths surrounding sexual abuse can be barriers to your healing journey. By rejecting the beliefs that you ‘cannot heal,’ ‘you will always be damaged or flawed,’ or rationalizing that it ‘happened a long time ago,’ you can tap into your resilience, strength, and courage. You are the answer to healing in your own life. No one can heal for you. By investing in YOU, you will find strength and empowerment. Joining the HEAL community can help you to get started or continue your healing journey and hear from other survivors’ stories of hope and resilience. The goal is to inspire your involvement in your healing journey. Do not prolong getting the help you need and choosing to take control of your life! Please make sure to comment and let me know how you were able to overcome your own myths regarding sexual abuse. 

Love and Friendship,

Wendy


[1] Galor, D. (2001, December). Why do trauma survivors blame themselves? https://drsharongalor:wordpress.com/2011/12/08/why-do-trauma-survivors-blame-themselves/.

Ever imagine what it would be like to live a life without shame? Join the HEAL community today. 🎉

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