How Do I Overcome Past Sexual Abuse?
How can I heal from the sexual abuse I experienced in the past? Hardly anyone knows that I was a victim of sexual abuse during my childhood and adolescent years—not once, but several times. Now I’m married with children of my own, and to most outsiders I appear to have it all together. But I’m still plagued by depression, self-doubt and painful memories of what happened to me as a child. Is there any way I can free myself from this negative pattern and get on with my life?
Absolutely. We can say this with certainty because we believe that Christ suffered, died and was raised from death in order that you might be healed of your wounds and released from the shackles of your painful past.
If you’re familiar with the words of Luke 4:18, you already know that Jesus came to proclaim good news to the afflicted, joy to the brokenhearted, liberty to the captives, and comfort to those who are crushed and bruised. As your first step toward redemption and release you need to lay hold of this promise and make it your own. Memorize it. Hide it in your heart. Pray over it day and night. It is the Word of God, but its power won’t be fully unleashed in your life until you’ve drunk deeply from the well of its truth and allowed the Holy Spirit to weave it into the very fabric of your heart and mind.
The second step is to realize that you’re not alone. Whether we realize it or not, most of us are surrounded by women who are struggling with the pain of past sexual abuse. Because you have experienced the hurt firsthand, you can empathize with others who have been similarly victimized. When you’ve laid hold of the astonishing truth that there is no spot or stain that cannot be washed away by the blood of Christ, you will be in a unique position to share this life-giving message with a desperate and dying world. This in itself can become a powerful source of renewal and healing in your life, and provide you with a sense of purpose and personal destiny within the circle of God’s sovereign plan. Our prayer is that the Lord will increase your awareness of His cleansing grace as you reach out and minister to those who have shared your sufferings.
Third, you need to tell yourself over and over again that the abuse you endured as a child was not your fault. It’s common for victims to blame themselves, whether consciously or subconsciously, but such guilt is false. You were only a defenseless child when your abusers robbed you of something precious and irreplaceable, and they are entirely responsible for your pain. Your assignment at this point in your life is to find some way to shake this experience off and leave it in the past. At a certain level, of course, you will always carry the memory of what happened to you, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t find freedom from feelings of guilt and pain. It’s all a matter of separating the memory from the healing process.
This sounds simple, but it can be difficult to accomplish. As a matter of fact, it would be fair to say that you can’t possibly achieve it on your own. That’s why we want to urge you to seek out the help of a trained Christian therapist. When children are violated, their sense of trust is damaged. As a result, thorough restoration can only take place within the context of healthy relationships. Your marriage can be an important part of this process, especially if your husband is loving and patient. But the task is too big for him to tackle alone. Even with the help of friends, however kind and understanding they may be, he won’t be able to supply you with the deep emotional and psychological guidance you need. This is a job for a skilled and gifted professional.