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Sexual Abuse - Remembering
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.
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.
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? To select and enter your answer go to .