The Healing Process of Childhood Sexual Abuse
Childhood sexual abuse is a heinous crime, and the physical and emotional damage poses devastating lifelong effects on survivors. However, it can be possible for survivors to heal. There are many different stages of healing after surviving childhood sexual abuse. While everyone's recovery journey is unique, here are five common stages that survivors may experience when healing from childhood sexual abuse.
Stage 1: Denial
The first stage of healing is often denial. It can be challenging to accept that something so traumatic has happened, especially if the abuse occurred at the hands of a trusted individual. Survivors may try to convince themselves that it wasn't as bad as they remember or that it didn't happen at all.
Stage 2: Anger
Once the survivor starts to come to terms with what happened, they may experience a lot of anger. They may be angry at the abuser, at people who didn't believe them or stop the abuse, and even angry at themselves. Finding healthy ways to express this anger, such as journaling, therapy, or physical activity, can help survivors through the recovery process.
Stage 3: Bargaining
In this stage, survivors may start to bargain with themselves. They may try to make deals to undo the damage that was done. For example, they may promise to never think about the abuse again if they can forget it ever happened.
Stage 4: Depression
Once the survivor truly accepts what happened, they may experience depression, which is a common result of trauma. They may feel hopeless and helpless, and there's no way to move on from what happened. Depression can interfere with everyday life, so it's essential for survivors to seek professional help to get the support they need.
Stage 5: Acceptance
The final stage of healing is acceptance. In this stage, survivors come to terms with the abuse and start to move forward. They may still have bad days, but they also have good days. They will often still have triggers, but at the acceptance stage, survivors may have learned how to cope with and manage triggers. And most importantly, they've learned that the abuse does not define them.
How These Stages Impact the Adult Years
While the above is a general outline of the stages of healing after childhood sexual abuse, the healing process is unique for each survivor — and the denial stage can last from childhood well into adulthood. Each healing stage can be extremely emotionally taxing on survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Many survivors fear coming forward or may not even recognize that the abuse occurred until much later in life. For this reason, many U.S. states have extended the statute of limitations on childhood sexual abuse cases so that survivors who discover or remember the sexual abuse later in life, have the chance to seek justice and hold their perpetrators accountable for their actions.
Getting Help When Ready To Speak Out
Childhood sexual abuse is a traumatic experience that can have a lasting impact on the survivor. However, it is possible to heal from the trauma. With time, patience, professional counseling, and self-care, survivors can rebuild their lives.
If you or someone you know is struggling with the aftermath of childhood sexual abuse, resources are available to help. When ready to speak out against your perpetrator, know that we believe you and you are not alone. The Zalkin Law Firm, P.C. is here for you and ready to support you through every step of the process.
Contact us today (800) 477-2989 to learn your rights.