How to Have Hope After Sexual Abuse

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How to Have Hope After Sexual Abuse

Written by Wendy M. Johnson 

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You survived sexual abuse and now need to know if you can ever have a life not plagued by your past. You may have developed negative coping strategies in an effort to cope. You may feel hopeless about your future and can become bitter, angry, and even confused. You may feel stuck. Those are normal feelings considering what you have been through. You may be wondering if you are capable of having healthy relationships, if you can trust again, if you can stop self-destructive behaviors, if the nightmares and flashbacks will ever go away, or if you even have a purpose. I have a question for you, “Do you believe that the abuse will stay with you forever or that you can heal from it?” Think about that question for a moment. You may want to Journal your thoughts and feelings. It’s a question to gauge where you are at, and it can change the course of your life or keep you stuck in your past. 

Catalysts to Healing: Hope and Determined Action 

Hope is understanding that you have not been robbed of a better future. Your future does not need to be as painful as your past, but that is exactly what many victims of sexual abuse believe. If you are not careful you may find yourself holding so tightly to your past fearing what the future may bring. But this mindset keeps you from knowing or learning that you are in charge of your future. Your future is up to you. Hope is not wishful thinking. It is a powerful mindset that better days are ahead. This mindset does not mean hoping your troubles will leave but having an understanding that you can overcome anything placed in your path. C.R. Snyder, the author of The Psychology of Hope, said, “Hope can disconnect you from your past negative experiences and connect you to a new future. The difference between hope and optimism is that hope includes practical pathways to an improved future. It is important to link hope to the existence of a goal and combine it with a determined plan for reaching that goal.”[1] Hope consists of goal-directed thinking and is linked with mental willpower. 

Determined Action to heal is a conscious choice. In the HEAL Program, you will learn the tools needed to heal. You will learn that you can overcome your past, stop the abuse from continuing, and tap into your potential. You may feel overwhelmed with the thought of trying to heal, especially when you don’t really believe it is possible. Those who do not take determined action to rise above the abuse won’t do so.[2] The worst decision a victim of sexual abuse can make is to give up and give in to a life of despair. They must stop feeling powerless and start taking responsibility for their actions. 


A victim’s greatest barrier to tapping into their potential is not healing. 


Hope Gives You a New Sense of Power in Your Life

You have a choice to decide how the sexual abuse will affect you and a new sense of hope in your life can help you to heal faster. If a person feels flawed, “it lessens [their] motivation to initiate action,[3] or believe there is any hope that their life can change. “To believe that there is nothing one can do to control one’s life greatly reduces one’s ability to learn and to solve problems. It’s as if your will becomes disabled.”[4] But when you learn new healthy coping strategies, you will see that you do not need to be bound by negative stigmas or old self-beliefs. Being sexually abused does not mean that you now have some terminal illness or a fate that dooms you to a miserable life. For change to endure, victims must transform themselves.


“As I got stronger, the truth no longer filled me with pain but became my strength and guiding force to protect myself and my own family.”

Survivor


Hope Comes From You 

A key element of hope is having an expectation that you can heal. Having a great amount of hope during the healing process can decrease other symptoms you may have. Once you take back your life from being a victim to survivor, a powerful transformation happens. You start to perceive life differently. You are no longer bound to your past, but rather bound to tap into your fullest potential, looking to the future knowing endless possibilities can occur. A healing journey is about an internal change that no one can make for you. When you experience the power of that internal change, you learn that not even the abuse, as horrific as it was, can rob you of a fulfilling life.

The bonus of becoming a healed survivor is that you can stop the abuse from being multigenerational or continuing and surround yourself and your family in an abuse-free environment. The healing process can be a temporary stage in your life. It is not an abstract thought. It is real and tangible and made manifest by the way you live your life. Despite your suffering, it is important for you to envision a future with a purpose.

Conclusion

Once you are empowered to heal, your life will change forever. Empowerment give you hope, education gives you power, and freedom from your past gives you the ability to choose the life you want. Victims need a purpose as much as they need any essentials in life. Purpose is the guiding force that helps you in your healing process. As an adult, you have the potential and capacity to tap into that highest and greatest part of yourself. It is so important for you to have hope and to believe in your potential. You have not been robbed of your future. You are the creator of it. Stop feeling powerless and start taking responsibility for what your future can hold. 

You can join our HEAL community  to help guide you through your healing journey. You are not alone. Do not let [healing] be a difficult concept to grasp. Instead replace it with the hope that you have great potential, can relearn positive coping strategies, and lead a fulfilling life. Are you able to imagine your life where no abuse exists? Journal what that looks like. Please share your breakthroughs! I love hearing from you!

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[1] Snyder, C.R. (2010). Psychology of Hope: You Can Get Here from There. Riverside: Free Press.

[2] Rothschild, Steve. The Non Nonprofit. Jossey-Bass, 2012. P. 17.

[3] Bradshaw. J. (1988) The Family. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications. P. 133

[4] Ibid.

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