Sexual abuse and healing

A little over three weeks ago I wrote about coping (badly) with sexual abuse, and although I felt I was coping badly, at the same time it was the end of my permanent internal dialogue about sexual abuse in my childhood. I wrote:

I think the only way for me to resolve this ongoing internal dialogue is to trust what I feel, and to trust my inner child. Their fear and pain are not lies. And what I feel - my adult self - is not a lie either. I feel abused and violated. I feel used. I feel pain. For now mostly pain. But also fear, disgust, shame. And, little by little, anger. More and more anger.

When I brought it up in my next therapy session with my psychologist, she responded with "now you can start the healing". And the truth is that I feel that I am on the long road to healing this wound.

A first summary of this process I wrote ten days ago. And the truth is that the permanent internal dialogue has not returned, that the doubts have not returned. On the contrary, what I have been experiencing in the last three weeks for me confirms more and more the reality of sexual abuse in my childhood.

I have already written about my anger, my rage, my fantasies, above all, of killing my father slowly. Recently, I am more with grief and sadness. I understand that both are phases of the healing process. According to an article (Spanish) Fases en la superación del abuso sexual infantil en adultos (Phases in overcoming childhood sexual abuse in adults), published on the website of the Centro Andaluz de Intervención Psicosocial (Andalusian Centre for Psychosocial Intervention - CAIP), the five phases of healing after childhood sexual abuse are:

  1. Negation: "nothing has happened..."

  2. Negotiation: "something has happened, but...".

  3. Anger: "something has happened and I don't like it..."

  4. Mourning: "something has happened and it has had serious consequences."

  5. Acceptance/Forgiveness: "something has happened and I have healed from it."

I think it is important to note the qualification they put before the phases: "It is necessary to emphasise that these phases are not strictly linear, they are not steps to be climbed or descended, but interconnected processes, in which progress in one of the phases helps to advance in the others. Accepting what has happened, experiencing anger, sadness or forgiveness, are all aspects of the same journey of recovery. While there is a temporal logic, which is often observed in the progress of therapies, I believe that what is really helpful is to take this classification as different aspects that emerge again and again throughout the process. This perspective can help clarify and understand the complex and emotionally confusing situation of those facing recovery from early sexual abuse".

I think I have left the first two phases behind since I have managed to close my permanent internal dialogue. In a way, in my case it was not so much denial (or negotiation), but rather the doubt that has prevented me from beginning the healing. Fortunately, this doubt no longer exists. I am clear on the issue of sexual abuse, on the "something has happened and I don't like it".


I have had my days of anger - a lot of anger. As it says in the article: "Sometimes dreams or fantasies arise in which the abuser or an associated figure is violently beaten or even killed. For some, such experiences are satisfying and calming, but for many, like intrusive thoughts, they are disturbing". Yes, I have had and have these fantasies, and the truth is that for me they are satisfying. The article continues: "It is often helpful to remember that dreaming about it does not mean that they will be acted upon and to be able to reread these fantasies in the light of what has happened, providing a context that calms the fear of madness or destructiveness itself, so that these fantasies are put at the service of recovery and do not hinder it, for they are logical expressions of people in such circumstances." Good. Good especially as I find it very hard to allow myself the anger. I have never felt this fear of madness or destructiveness. I know perfectly well that these are fantasies, and that I am not going to go to my father's house to kill him. It would be giving him too much importance.

Sadness and mourning

I am now with mourning and sadness. As the article says: "Accepting the existence of abuse and its consequences not only produces a defensive feeling of aggression and anger, it also means going through a mourning for all that has been lost. Abuse leaves its mark on a person, there are certain experiences that will never be the same again. Childhood has been hurt and there are consequences".

What struck me in the part about mourning is, above all, this part: "Often, during the episodes of sadness and crying, the person connects in a very vivid way with the child they were and their tremendous feeling of loneliness. Gradually the tears tend to come from a deeper and deeper place, comforting and healing. As Mic Hunter says: 'Abused children find it difficult to be spontaneous and playful because they have to take life seriously. It's hard to focus on having a good time when the night before you were forced to have oral sex with an adult family member'. The sadness phase involves a deep contact with the inner child, with its loneliness as we have said, but also with that spontaneity and playfulness so typical of childhood, a way of life that has been hijacked by the early violation of its limits. The sadness of this phase becomes an ally of recovery, since it not only expresses a cry for loss, but emerges from contact with that inner child and its thirst for life and expansion".

For me, this connection with my inner child has been a very important part of my process for more than six weeks now. I doubt very much that without this connection I would have been able to close my permanent inner dialogue. And it is true that in the last few days my tears are coming from a deeper and deeper place. The images of the abuse are no longer the most dominant thing, rather it is this "tremendous feeling of loneliness" of my inner child, but also their despair of having to continue to live in the house with their abusers. Especially during the last two days, this connection with my inner child has been very painful because of this desperation, because of their scream "Ich will hier raus!" (I want to get out of here!), and I can do nothing but try to calm them, to love them, to reassure them that the abuse is in the past, to tell them that they are strong, that they can cope with this. And hug them, accompany them in their crying.

I don't remember this despair, as I don't remember anything, really. I am not aware that, as a child, I once tried to escape from my parents' house, nor am I aware of a suicide attempt. I do remember - from a few years later, from when I have memories - that thoughts of suicide have always been a constant in my life. But my escape was more my daydreams, imagining my own world and escaping from the real world I had to live in. It was my way of escaping, of dissociating myself emotionally and mentally. I also remember hating my mother, wishing her dead, imagining her dead. Curiously, I don't have any memories of living with my father or my brother, although I shared a room with my brother. It is as if they have not existed for as long as I can remember, although I am obviously aware that we lived in the same house. I have partial amnesia about living with my abusers - a memory gap. An emptiness. A nothingness. I understand well that it is my mind protecting me.

More likely than not I will return to days of rage, and again to mourning. I can't imagine that this process is almost complete.


Let's see when I get to acceptance. In the article it says: "In this phase, the person is able to forgive themselves. As the objectivity of what happened (the violation of the boundaries of a powerless child by a stronger adult) and all the aforementioned subjective feelings arising from it are accepted, guilt and shame also tend to dissolve. These feelings of self-blame are characteristic of many people abused in childhood. When this bleak and distorted view of themselves is abandoned, self-esteem naturally begins to improve.

Accepting the reality of what has happened with all its consequences is a difficult journey. As can be seen in the different phases, doing so involves contacting strong emotions of rage and going through a mourning for lost innocence and joy. Once the person has been able to move through the confusion, anger, nostalgia, rage and sadness of the past, they are able to let go of the burdens of the past to embrace and actively build a new, more enjoyable and meaningful way of life."

I don't see so much forgiving my abusers, but I do understand the need to free myself from the power they have over me, even though I don't want it, and, most likely, I am not even aware that they still hold me prisoner.

But, I will reflect (and write) more about this when I get to it. I am now in mourning and anger, and have left denial and negotiation behind. I think this is an important step forward.