How to Heal and Recover from Sexual Abuse

This post is a part of our guide series to support anyone who may have been sexually abused or has questions around the topic:

What is Sexual Abuse? Definitions & Meanings
Who Commits Sexual Abuse & Why?
What are Signs & Symptoms of Sexual Abuse?
Handling & Dealing with Sexual Abuse
How to Heal and Recover from Sexual Abuse
What Impact Does Sexual Abuse Have on Victims, Families & Friends?
How to Report Sexual Abuse (and Who to Report it to)
How is Sexual Abuse Proven in Court?
Punishment & Sentencing for Sexual Abuse
How can Sexual Abuse be Prevented?
Sexual Abuse Data & Statistics
Sexual Abuse Helplines, Support & Further Reading

Recognising that you did experience abuse is an important step toward recovery, no one has the right to abuse you.

This guide aims to help survivors of sexual abuse understand how to heal and recover from their experiences. Know that there is support out there to help channel your experience into a positive transformation, one in which you are a priority, safe and free from harm.

Can I heal from Sexual Abuse?

Physically freeing yourself from the abuse is a step towards recovery, however mentally freeing yourself can take time, but with the right support, you can heal from this experience. Reach out to friends and family and learn to discover yourself and things that interest you and make you feel happy. You may feel you need professional help such as counselling, there are plenty of organisations that provide this service free of charge. Alternatively, you may wish to arrange this with your GP.

How long does it take to recover from Sexual Abuse?

It’s very important to bear in mind that every survivor’s journey to healing is different, no matter if the abuse lasted for a few months or decades, it’s not an overnight process. Abuse can have a lifelong impact but the severity of its effects can be lessened by getting help.

What should I do to help recover immediately after escaping Sexual Abuse?

It is important to connect with people who can offer you love and support after going through this ordeal. They will be able to help you to reconnect with positive thoughts, your talents, strengths skills and abilities. You may even set new goals for yourself, turning your negative experience into positive ones. If however, you feel the grief of the abuse is overwhelming and affects your day-to-day living, you may want to consider consulting with a health professional.

What should I do to help heal longer term?

You may find it helpful to speak to someone independent such as a counsellor or psychotherapist. These people are trained in helping you to understand what you have been through and can offer further support and guidance. Be kind to yourself and know that it was not your fault. Remember there are plenty of people and organisations out there that are willing to help and support you through this.

How do I explain to family and friends I was sexually abused?

Speaking to friends and family about the abuse will be difficult but it will be part of the healing process. You need to understand that the pain and trauma of the abuse will become difficult to bear by yourself, when you tell someone you will not feel so alone. Take your time and decide how you want to do this, you may prefer face-to-face contact or to put it in writing, the method needs to be comfortable for you. You will find that by sharing your experience, friends and family are able to help you obtain additional support, this may be professional help like counselling or therapy.

What should I do if I’m still attached to my abuser or miss them?

It can be difficult to let go of someone you are attached to, however you need to remind yourself of your reasons for leaving in the first place. You must not forget the pain and suffering you have been through as part of this relationship. There is a strong likelihood that the abuser will abuse you again. You need to understand you cannot change the abuser, you can however change and direct your own path and protect yourself from further harm.

What should I do to if I have a trauma reaction to something I see/think/feel/experience?

Give yourself and your needs priority, eat well, get enough sleep and engage in some exercise activities that help release endorphins in your brain. Endorphins are responsible for regulating your mood, often making you feel happier and more relaxed.

Reaching out and talking to someone is really important. If you find you are unable to speak to friends and family because you fear them being judgemental, then consider someone independent, this may be a counsellor or psychotherapist. Some therapies teach you desensitisation techniques making it easier to navigate the trauma.

What should I do to help with PTSD and flashbacks caused by Sexual Abuse?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can cause long-term mental health problems if it is left untreated. Trying to contain your distressing feelings is not healthy, now is the time to share these with trained professionals so you can try to recover from this experience. Remember these professionals are there to help, not to judge you. Treatment plans often involve cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) which can help you manage the trauma of your experience, however, treatments may vary depending on the circumstances.

How can I enjoy intimate of sexual relationships with people I love after sexual abuse?

It’s important to allow yourself time to heal from your experience, it may help to talk with your partner about how you feel. People who genuinely care and love you will always understand and not want to push you to do anything you’re uncomfortable with. However, you may find it better to speak to someone independent such as a counsellor or psychotherapist. These people are trained in helping you to understand what you have been through and can offer further support and guidance.

Remember there are plenty of people and organisations out there that are willing to help and support you through this.

Should I forgive my abuser?

Forgiveness can be difficult but it’s more important to focus on how you are feeling and what you need for yourself, be loving and supportive to yourself. Choosing not to think of the abuser any further is one of the most powerful things you can do. Use your energy and time to re-invest in yourself and people who genuinely care for you, this will help you regain some of your self-esteem and self-worth. If you find the abusive relationship has left you with feelings that you are unable to cope with, please contact a health professional

How can I help & support a partner, family member or friend who has been a victim of sexual abuse?

The right help and support from people they trust is invaluable for the victim of sexual abuse. Sometimes it can be difficult to understand what the victim has experienced, however, be careful not to say anything that would damage the victim’s confidence any further, it is important that you listen without judging or criticising. By talking to the victim in an encouraging and supporting tone, you will help build the victim’s confidence and make them feel stronger.

When you are trying to help a victim of sexual abuse, you may find they could benefit from professional support. This could mean accompanying them to visit their GP or you may want to help the victim contact organisations who are able to provide counselling services. These professionals are trained in helping the victim to understand what they have been through and can offer further support and guidance.

We understand how difficult it is to see someone you know or love experiencing abuse, sometimes trying to help a victim is not easy. It’s important to remember that you are not alone and the first step that you should take is to talk to someone. No one should have to deal with abuse alone.

Here at the Criminal Injuries Helpline, we help victims of violent crime and abuse recover compensation. You may want to help the victim gain some justice, get in touch with us today to see if the victim would qualify.

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