4. Help the victim to live again
The victim must stop listening to the voices inside her head which maintain her feelings of guilt and shame and start listening to the voice of truth, the voice that will liberate her.
She should also abandon the dead-end solutions that well-intentioned but untrained people (« little helped » help!) suggest: deny the abuse, minimize it, forget, forgive the guilty person even if he hasn’t seriously shown remorse, turn the page, stop complaining, etc.
The path leading to getting better has two steps: facing reality and deciding to live again.
A. Look at the blatant reality
Little by little, memories of the abuse will come back to the person; she will admit the damage and start to feel the appropriate feelings.
1. Dig up memories of the abuse
The victim often prefers to forget, because the memories disgust or terrify her so much. Or perhaps she tells her story coldly, as if it happened to someone else. But this denial is an obstacle to healing. The abuse should not be erased but faced.
With great tact, encourage her to dig into her past, sometimes very far back, because only a burst abscess can heal.
The return of buried memories will be progressive during the psychotherapy sessions. The person’s subconscious actively collaborates through dreams or images that come back.
Sometimes, certain events also bring back the forgotten trauma, for example: running into the abuser, a pregnancy, menopause, another aggression, the fact that one of her children is reaching the age she was when she was abused, the fact of finding herself in the place where the aggressions took place, or the death of the abuser.
2. Admit the harm
This painful return into the past will allow the victim to admit the following brutal truths:
I was the victim of one or several sexual aggressions. It is a crime against my body and against my soul.
Being a victim, I am in no way responsible for this crime, no matter what I felt.
As a result of this abuse, I suffer from feelings of helplessness, betrayal and ambivalence.
My suffering is intense, but healing is possible, if I admit there is a wound.
This healing process will take time.
I shouldn’t cover my past with a veil of secrecy or shame; but I don’t have to discuss it with just anyone.
3. Feel appropriate feelings
Guilt (which is a very frequent racket feeling here), shame, disgust, helplessness, hate, despair, should little by little become replaced by more appropriate feelings such as anger against the abuser and his accomplices and sadness over the damage suffered. This sadness should not lead to death, to despair, but to life, that is to say to faith, hope and renewed love.
The counselor will prefer the expression of these two feelings, in a real or symbolic manner, but always in complete security, meaning in the protected environment of therapy sessions.
B. Decide to live again
Why should the victim of sexual abuse decide to live again after everything she has suffered and still suffers? Very simply because it is better to choose life over death.
For the victim, choosing to live again means:
1. Refusing to be dead
The victim finds it normal to live with a dead body and soul; paradoxically, this allows the victim to survive, by no longer risking feeling joy or pain.
2. Refusing to distrust
The victim is wary of everyone. A raped woman in particular sees all « men » as « bad ». The victim needs to learn to transform her wariness toward men into vigilance, something quite different.
3. No longer fear pleasure and passion
These two elements bring her back to the drama she has suffered, so she flees. In doing this, she deprives herself of these two gifts.
4. Having been the victim of desire (deviant, but still desire) of someone
She « cuts off her nose to spite her face », meaning that in rejecting the abuse she suffered, she also rejects all desire, including her own.
5. She needs to realize that it’s not because someone had a deviant desire for her that she should abandon her own desire forever.
6. Dare to love again
She should progressively abandon her self-protecting attitude and rise from her withdrawal to once again experience the joy of loving others and to create safe and warm relationships.
She will leave her shell to find her warm heart once again, capable of taking the risk of loving those she meets. She will abandon her defenses, but that doesn’t mean that she will not surround herself with protection. A protection is not a defense.
She will then discover that even if one or several people betrayed her, the vast majority of others are trustworthy.