Sexual Abuse/Victim Treatment . . .
"I have learned that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours."
- Henry David Thoreau
There are many forms of sexual abuse. These include: childhood sexual abuse by an adult, sexual assault/rape, date rape, being manipulated into sex, sibling sexual abuse, etc. Sexual abuse can occur in a “hands off” way as well. “Hands off” abuse can include being shown pornography at a very young age, a person exposing themselves to you, or a person “peeping” in on you when you did not want them to. “Hands on” abuse includes contact where the abuser made direct sexual contact with you or forced you to have contact with another person. Regardless of the kind of abuse you experienced, the effects can be traumatizing and create life long patterns of “victim like” behavior for the victim.
The effects of sexual abuse can vary from person to person. We have worked with many people who have been sexually abused as children, who state that they were not traumatized. They may even say they did they want the offender to be incarcerated. This does not mean the sexual abuse did not affect them; it did, just not in a traumatic way. The abuse may have affected their boundaries, sexual interests and behaviors, trust, and sexual orientation; however, it did not traumatize them.
For many victims, a very high degree of psychological damage can occur if the offender makes the victim feel physical pleasure during the offense(s). This can produce a level of guilt and shame that is very powerful and incredibly difficult to overcome. Moreover, the victim is less likely to disclose the abuse, and if he or she does, they are very likely to minimize it. This would be because the victim may feel partly to blame for the abuse because they experienced pleasure (this is a grooming technique).
Victims of child sexual abuse can go on to lead normal, healthy lives. They can learn to let go of the pain, and to increase their self-awareness of how the abuse affected them. Sometimes it takes the right therapist, support group or program to facilitate the journey of healing.
The program at AZ Center for Change is designed to heal the 5 areas that are most affected by the abuse. The areas include:
Psychological: Many victims experience psychological problems in the way of mental health disorders or other symptoms. Our program will assist you in identifying if any mental health issues exist and we will collaborate with psychiatric professionals to help in relieving acute symptoms.
Emotional: Sexual abuse can have significant effects on a person’s ability to experience and regulate emotions. Some victims are very detached from emotions while others experience emotions in a very deep and overly sensitive manner. Our treatment program has an entire section that deals specific with emotional identification as well as functional and healthy expression of emotion.
Cognitive: Sexual abuse can impair a person’s ability to interpret the world around them. In order to cope with the trauma from the abuse, “distortions” and mistaken beliefs are adopted in order to make sense of it. These distortions and mistaken beliefs are carried into adulthood and life. An example of such a distortion is “If I didn’t say no, I must have liked what was going on.” An example of a mistake belief is “the only purpose I serve in this world is to be a sex object for men.” Our program has a strong cognitive recovery component to help identify these distortions and mistaken beliefs and interventions to change them.
Sexual: Sexual impairment is a common effect of sexual abuse no matter what kind of sexual it was. Victims can experience flashbacks during sex with consensual partner. They can experience dissociative experiences, where they feel like they are “checked out” during sex or they simply cannot or will not engage in certain sexual behaviors that trigger them. Our program will help with identifying these issues and assist you with developing a journey of sexual healing.
Spirituality: Many victims become very detached from spirituality or a relationship with “a God.” They feel they have been let down by God or they are mad at God. Whereas our program is not “religious” based, it does include spiritual components that explore the role of forgiveness in recovery and seeks to repair spiritual connections.
It is important to know that the sexual abuse treatment program at AZ Center for Change is very intensive. It requires a level of commitment and endurance that we ask that you evaluate your readiness to participate in the program. Some things that might help you decide are the following:
Time and Space (both Physical and Emotional):
Because this program will be bringing up emotionally painful issues, it will be important that you create the time and space to work on the program and be able to feel whatever comes up with no distractions. Some survivors have told me that they have actually had to devote an entire room or corner of their house for this work. As far as the emotional space and time goes, this is not work that you want to rush. So, when you sit down to do your work, it should be a time that is not interrupted.
It is not uncommon for many victims to begin the journey of recovery and then stop because it becomes too uncomfortable. It is extremely important that you make a commitment to stick with the program until the end. You and your therapist should decide together when it is a good time for you to end your treatment. If after you have begun your journey and then find yourself avoiding coming to sessions or not wanting to do work in the workbook, this is called “avoidance” and is a very common behavior for victims. Think about what kind of commitment you can make right now to this process and discuss that with someone you trust to see if this a good time for you to continue. It typically takes people about a year to a year and half to complete the entire program.
We strongly encourage you to identify a “wheel of support.” You should begin talking to people in your support system and telling them of your decision to begin your journey of recovery. This will be helpful because there might be a time down the road that you will need to call on them for something related to your treatment. Informing them beforehand will help tremendously.
There may be times during your recovery when you become frustrated with yourself and the process because it is not moving as fast as you would like. During these times it is important to remember that your spirit will only allow you go as fast as it is ready to go. Patience is extremely necessary in this process.
In an ideal world we would have your abuser pay every cent for your treatment. However, realistically, that rarely happens. If you happen to be so lucky that your treatment is being subsidized by a funding source or your abuser, that is great! If not, it is very important you be able to make a financial commitment to your recovery. We do this avoid any interruptions in the process. You and your therapist can work out the costs to help you decide upon a direction.
Emotional Risk Taking:
Our program includes both group and individual therapy. You will need to take some emotional risks. Most people feel uncomfortable talking about their abuse and sharing feelings with others. This is a very important part of the process.
If you would like to begin your journey of recovery, click here for information on contacting us to schedule your appointment.