As a survivor of sexual abuse at the hands of your parent, you know that you are in an incredibly painful position. Many people cannot fathom a mother or father doing such atrocities to their own child. They often believe this abuse is about sex, or even the mother’s or father’s secret homosexual desires. The sad thing is these misguided notions leave victims feeling alone, and possibly even doubting the abuse really happened. You may be trying to convince yourself that it was only a bad dream.
But it was not a bad dream. It really did happen.
Accepting that it happened may be the hardest thing you will ever have to do. No one wants to believe that their own parent, someone who is supposed to love and protect them, used and abused them in such an intimate matter. Accepting this happened may also be especially difficult if you learned to dissociate during the abuse. Dissociation is a common coping mechanism where mentally you disconnect with what is physically happening to you during traumatic events. In extreme cases, it can lead to Dissociative Personality Disorder (also sometimes known as Multiple Personality Disorder). In most cases, however, it leads to repressed memories.
If you are having trouble accepting that you were sexually abused by your parent, please think about some things…
- How do you feel around your parent? Do you have a strange or creepy feeling around him or her that you do not have around other people?
Do you have mental and physical problems such as those mentioned on the Types Of Abuse And Coping Tips page?
- Do you have bits of memories or foggy memories of being sexually abused?
- Do you have an exaggerated startle response when people touch you? Do you dislike being touched?
If you can answer “yes” to these questions, the abuse almost certainly did happen. I know it is excruciatingly painful to accept this fact, but there is one good thing about it – once you accept the abuse happened, then you can begin to heal from it.
Your journey to healing will be a long one, and challenging, but it will be worth it in the end when you finally have inner peace, are able to trust other people, and realize that you are a wonderful and valuable person.
Some suggestions to aid in your recovery are:
- If your parent is still in your life, keep your distance. Certainly it is your decision whether or not to sever ties, but I do strongly recommend at least limiting your time together. The distance will help you to think clearer which will aid in your healing. Also, if your parent is elderly now, and you must be around him or her, try never to be alone with your parent. Some elderly folks, in particular ones with dementia or Alzheimer’s, may behave inappropriately. Some older folks believe that because they are old, they can say and do whatever they want. They do not care what others think. Or, if they have dementia, they may resort back to their old behaviors because of the damage to their brain.
- Talk to someone. God is best of course, but also a non-judgmental friend, family member or pastor can help you. Just talking about it will help, because there is something healing about bringing pain into the light instead of hiding it.
- Journaling. Writing down your thoughts and experiences may help give you clarity on the situation, or ideas on how to cope.
- Take care of yourself. Do nice things for yourself that you enjoy, such as exercising, watching movies, indulging in hobbies. You cannot focus on what happened 24/7! Take breaks frequently where you do not focus at all on what happened or your recovery. It will help you in the long run.
- Never rush your healing process. It will not help you heal faster, but instead will have the opposite effect. Rushing will mean you ignore your feelings, pushing them deep down inside, only for them to manifest later on. Rushing never works!
- Recognize your triggers, those things that remind you of the abuse. They will give you insight that helps in the healing process.
- Forgive yourself. Many abuse survivors blame themselves for the abuse. You did NOTHING to make your parent abuse you! Your parent is the one with the problem, and unfortunately, that person hurt you because of it. That does NOT mean it is your fault.
- Forgive your parent. Not because she or he deserves it, because, let’s face it, he or she does not. Forgive because you realize that you deserve better than carrying around such negative emotions that can adversely affect your mental and physical health. You deserve instead to carry around peace and joy. Forgiving your parent also does not invalidate what he or she did to you nor does it mean you must have that person in your life if you do not wish to do so.
- Seeking a therapist may also be a very wise step for you to help you down this painful road. Whether you seek therapy or not, at least consider following the above steps. They will help you to recover from this trauma.
On the road to healing, I personally found my relationship with God to be my greatest help. He helped me more than I can say. Prayer and meditating on His word, the Bible, helped so much. Learning who the Bible says I am as a child of God is not only inspiring and comforting, but helpful in the healing process. If you do not have a personal relationship with God, please read the page Salvation Through Jesus Christ for more information.