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Section 16
Sexual Abuse - Remembering As Healing

Question 16 | Answer Booklet | Table of Contents | Printable Page

Understanding how memory is disrupted and connecting trauma symptoms to current and past problems is a continual yet gradual process in healing. While this process does temporarily escalate certain symptoms, such as anxiety, eventually women learn that remembering is a key part of their recovery. Women should remind themselves that as children they survived the abuse and that as adults they can survive the remembering of it as well. They can focus their thinking with verbal and mental reminders that help them to affirm daily that the abuse is over. What women remember will help them heal. So much of what women feel confused about and think is wrong with their lives originated from the abuse. Women are helped when they reframe the difficult experience of remembering as freeing themselves from the trauma versus staying trapped in the cycle of abuse. This reframing can remove the avoidance patterns and other barriers women have molded to defend themselves against the fear of their memories and to keep the sexual abuse a secret. While childhood sexual abuse harms every victim, the memories can no longer harm anyone. As women understand, accept, and verbalize how the trauma affected them, they move closer to regaining their true self and preventing the reenactment of the trauma in their daily lives. By learning new responses to situations and people, women gain confidence that their lives can be restored with healing.

Supporting Your Healing
1. Write your memories of the abuse in a notebook. When you no longer need them, you can destroy it. In your own time and in your own way, remember what will help you to heal. Acknowledging what you went through because of childhood sexual abuse will be a relief.
2. Recall how the abuse made you feel so that you can begin the process of learning to trust not only your memory but your emotional experiences as well. Write down how the abuse affected your memory. If you are in therapy, share these effects with your therapist. You can tell her directly or allow her to read from your journal.
3. As you continue to read, consider sharing some of your memories with people you trust and with whom you feel comfortable sharing. You do not have to tell everything; you are entitled to your privacy. Privacy is not the same as secrecy. You have a right to choose what you will tell.
4. You can learn constructive ways to release your feelings. When you allow yourself to express what you went through as a child, you will find that you pass through many of the emotions that have been locked within you for so many years. Understanding and expressing feelings of outrage, shame, and fear about the abuse is an important step. The appendices in the back of the book offer suggestions on how women can express as adults feelings about the abuse in a safe manner.
5. Retelling the same memory without a purpose for retelling can sabotage recovery. If you need to discuss some part of a memory to understand yourself better, then certainly do so. Eventually you will be ready to let go of each memory that you disclose as you move forward with your healing.
6. Have you experienced flashbacks? What can you identify that causes flashbacks to occur? What helps you to get through a flashback? How do you restore yourself after a flashback?
7. Make a collage of the effects from your experience of childhood sexual abuse. Put them together on a board as you would a puzzle. As you heal from them, you can remove them one at a time. Underneath the effects write down healthy and positive characteristics about yourself that are being restored to you. For example, under the effect of "shame," you might write personal attributes such as "caring," "intelligent," "sensitive," and "funny." As you discover who you are as a person, you can reveal the woman you are becoming. Think of her as the woman you were meant to be all along.
- Duncan, Karen, Healing from the Trauma of Childhood Sexual Abuse: The Journey for Women, Praeger Publishers: Westport, 2004.
The article above contains foundational information. Articles below contain optional updates.


Personal Reflection Exercise #9
The preceding section contained information about remembering as healing. Write three case study examples regarding how you might use the content of this section in your practice.

What can be the result of framing? Record the letter of the correct answer the Answer Booklet.

Answer Booklet for this course
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The article above contains foundational information. Articles below contain optional updates.
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