Healing the Scars of Sexual Abuse- Part 4


8.  Feel the feelings and let them out in a safe environment.

There may be times when a sexual abuse survivor experiences overwhelming emotions that they simply don’t know what to do with.  However, repressed emotions create enormous amounts of pent-up anger and can produce deep depression.  Rather than take your negative emotions out on your husband (remember, he’s your lover, not your abuser), vent them in a safe environment.  My safe place was group counseling meetings, where I was able to unapologetically express my anger by tearing up old phone books and pillows, screaming at empty chairs, and writing honest letters to my abusers that I never intended to send.  By the time I went home, I was too emotionally exhausted to pick a fight with my husband, which was a good thing.

9.  Break the cycle of abuse.

Because sexual abuse is an attack on our sexual identity, we often search for restoration in the same places where that identity was originally stolen – in sexually abusive relationships.  It’s like we’re trying to recreate similar scenarios and power struggles in order to “win” this time.  But you’ll never win at that game.  You’ll only continue to hurt yourself and others in the process.  Every dysfunctional encounter will add to your sense of sexual shame and confusion and drive you one step closer to insanity as you continue doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.  So instead of running toward an extramarital relationship to help you survive your emotional aches and pains, try a more effective approach.  Run toward a counselor who can help you heal, and run toward a more intimate relationship with your husband.  Then you can not just survive, but thrive in spite of the sexual abuse in your past.

10.  Connect to your spiritual self to foster spiritual healing.   

Again, our bodies naturally heal themselves, but our spirits require a more intentional effort. Although it’s our bodies that were attacked, it’s ultimately our spirits that feel the most pain and suffer the most consequences.  Nurture your spiritual self through prayer, meditation, or worship.  Listen to music that calms you and makes you feel good.  Savor a soul-stirring book or movie.  Enjoy deep conversations with a female spiritual mentor.  Allow your spirit to bring to your consciousness what you really need in order to feel better about yourself and your sexuality.  Your spirit has the answers.  But you must connect with your spiritual self in order to hear those answers.
In addition to these ten steps, the most important thing that any woman can do is to hold on to hope – hope that even a sexual abuse survivor can become a sexually confident, sexually satisfied wife. 


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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.