Healing the Scars of Sexual Abuse- Part 1

Some women are groomed into believing that we really want to have sex, when all we really want is the attention and affection of an admiring male.  Other women may be abused in far more violent ways, such as having sex forced upon them without their consent, sometimes by a stranger, and sometimes by a trusted acquaintance.  These experiences often wreak havoc in a person’s life and marriage relationship. 

…With approximately one-third of women experiencing some sort of sexual abuse in their lifetime, it’s a question many of us wrestle with – How can we heal the scars of sexual abuse?  Our bodies naturally heal from physical wounds given time, but how can we heal emotional wounds?  Although we may have experienced physical pain, sexual abuse is ultimately an offensive attack on our dignity, self-esteem, and sense of sexuality.  And what effects do such abuses have on our lives?  The most common symptoms of sexual abuse are:

*  avoiding or being afraid of sex
*  approaching sex as an obligation
*  experiencing negative feelings such as anger, disgust, or guilt with touch
*  having difficulty becoming aroused or feeling sexual sensation
*  feeling emotionally distant or not present during sex
*  experiencing intrusive or disturbing sexual thoughts and images
*  engaging in compulsive or inappropriate sexual behaviors
*  experiencing difficulty establishing or maintaining an intimate relationship
*  experiencing vaginal pain or orgasmic difficulties
Perhaps some of these symptoms have been an issue for you, and you never connected them to your previous sexually abusive experiences.  Whether these are new revelations or old news, let’s consider how we can reclaim those precious parts of who we are as healthy sexual beings.  Entire books have been written on this topic, so I’m not going to pretend that one article will suffice and completely heal you of all your past hurts.  However, I hope the ten steps toward healing that we’ll be unpacking over the next few posts will get you thinking and moving in a healthy direction as you seek to overcome the negative effects that sexual abuse can have on our life and relationships.
1.  Assign responsibility and let go of shame.

Regardless of how a girl dresses, walks, or talks, she never deserves or asks to be sexually abused.  Every person has the right to say no at any point in a relational encounter, and when a man doesn’t take no for an answer, he’s guilty of sexual abuse.  Period.  Or perhaps you’re carrying a sense of shame because you didn’t say no, either because you were too young, naïve, or inexperienced to assert yourself.  But it’s never, never, never a child’s responsibility to tell an adult to stop abusing them.  The responsibility to do the right thing rests solely on the adult, even if the child is parading themselves naked in front of them and begging to be sexually touched somehow. 
The reason we often feel shame over our own abuse is because our perpetrators usually refuse to accept their own guilt or take responsibility for their actions.  We know that our abuser should feel shame over their misdeeds, but when they don’t exhibit shame by asking for forgiveness, that shame becomes a hot potato tossed in our direction, and we subconsciously hold on to it.  We’re made to feel as if we “wanted it” or “asked for it” somehow.  Nonsense.  Neither guilt nor shame belongs in your court.  Place the responsibility solely where it belongs — on the perpetrator — and let go of your sexual shame.

 continued…

Excerpted from The Sexually Confident Wife: Connecting with Your Husband Mind*Body*Heart*Spirit by Shannon Ethridge. Copyright 2008.  All Rights Reserved. Published by Random House Inc, New York, NY. Used by Permission. Not to be copied without Publisher’s prior written approval.