Today we have a guest article from Dr Ava Brown about surviving sexual abuse. She speak from personal experience and has just released a book, The Mango Girl, which we will be taking a look at in the coming weeks, alongside an interview with the lady herself. Until then, we leave you with Dr Brown as she talks about The Long Journey Out of Sexual Abuse.
For anyone that has gone through any form of sexual abuse the road that must be taken transitions from the feeling of “victim” to “survivor”. There is no “getting over it” but instead, learning the process of getting through it. This requires that you have guidance both from professionals and from those that have shared experiences.
Sexual abuse comes in many forms and each is just as vile as the next. From rape and incest to sexual molestation, it is difficult to separate the fact that the act was not about sex, but instead about power over the individual. Sexual abuse happens all over the world and is sickening, one of the top crimes in some countries. Survivors run a gamut of feelings and emotions and it’s important to know what to expect – and to recognise them for what they are. The feelings of guilt, shame, remorse, low self-esteem and relationship intimacy problems are wrapped up in a complicated scenario of oneself. The main rule is to know that it is not your fault and this must be a mantra that you carry with you every day.
There are steps to get survivors from where they began to where they need to be and the first involves seeking out a local program that addresses crisis assistance. This will help as baseline groundwork to bring recognition to everything that the person is going through. In a goodtherapy.org article they state:
“Immediate crisis assistance after sexual assault can prove invaluable and even save lives, but therapy can also be helpful for those who experienced sexual abuse in the past. Some therapists specialise in addressing the trauma of sexual assault, and long-term assistance may be beneficial to some survivors of sexual abuse.”
It’s very common to have feelings of suspicion and lack of trust. Reporting to the authorities may have that twist of futility, but it’s important to realise that while you don’t have to press charges, reporting may keep someone else from attack and can allow you to feel as if you are taking an action. This can help as a step to feeling less vulnerable and assist in putting you back in control of your life.
If you are in a situation where the abuse may happen again, you need to seek out the help of those who can protect you. There are shelters that are designed for this purpose and they have people that have shared your trauma and know what you are going through. If you are unsure, you can find a local sexual abuse hotline such as RAINN in the US or SurvivorsUK, and in contacting them, they can walk you through some of your choices as well as connect you with those that you need to talk to.
For those that have experienced sexual abuse, there is often a feeling of great loss and hopelessness. A major part of the journey involves knowing what to do to move your life forward. You should not try to heal alone, try to forget that it happened or ignore the emotions and feelings that you have.
A HelpGuide.org site hits the topic straight on in their statement:
“The impact of sexual violence goes far beyond any physical injuries. When you’ve been raped, the world doesn’t feel like a safe place anymore. You no longer trust others. You don’t even trust yourself. You may question your judgement, your self-worth, and even your sanity. You may blame yourself for what happened or believe you’re “dirty” or “damaged goods.” Relationships feel dangerous, intimacy impossible. And on top of that, you may—like many rape survivors—struggle with PTSD, anxiety, and depression.
It’s important to remember that what you’re experiencing is a normal reaction to trauma. Your feelings of helplessness, shame, defectiveness, and self-blame are symptoms, not reality. Dispelling the toxic victim-blaming myths about sexual violence can help you start healing.”
The process of healing involves dealing with what happened to you and this includes talking about it as well as understanding the “myths” that surround sexual abuse. The latter is a great undertaking as there are so many wrongs that involve sexual abuse myths. You need to try to take the view that speaking about the incident is part of the healing process. It will also help you as you go through the flashbacks and upsetting memories. Learning how to deal with them means not dealing with them alone.
The goal for those that have gone through sexual abuse includes recognition of the key elements that they need in dealing with and moving forward:
- Reach out to someone that you trust, even when it’s scary.
- Challenge your sense of isolation and helplessness by regaining control of your coping skills and strengths.
- Assign the responsibility where it belongs: the abuser.
Each of these elements may seem like a long part of the journey but when you establish yourself in a support group, counselling and other safe havens that can let you express your anger, grief, anguish and outrage. This type of support environment will also help to let you recognise potential “triggers” and teach you how to deal with them.
There are more organisations and professionals today that specialise in knowing and understanding sexual abuse. You can empower yourself on the long journey, but you need the help of others so that you can move forward with your life in a positive way.
Dr Ava Brown – Author, entrepreneur and life coach, Dr Ava Brown, has written this raw, honest piece about her own personal experiences, and why days such as RAINN Day are so important to survivors of sexual abuse. Her book, The Mango Girl (Filament Publishing, £14.99, June 2017) is a uniquely heart-wrenching and heart-warming story of her life in Jamaica, where she experienced rape, abuse and incest, and how she came to live in the UK where she now raises two children as a single mother against all the odds.
If you have any questions for Dr Ava Brown, please feel free to email us and we will try to include them in our interview with her.
There are lots of organisations out there that can offer you help, we have listed a few below in case you have been affected by today’s topic and are in need of help.
If you are in danger right now, do not hesitate, ring 999.