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Child Sexual Abuse; Moving Beyond the Pain

Child Sexual Abuse; Moving Beyond the Pain of Your Past

Child sexual abuse is the most common form of abuse ever! Yet, it’s the least reported and least discussed. Startling statistics show that as many as 1 in 3 females and 1 in 5 males are sexually abused as children and that 90% of abuse cases occur at the hands of a family member, close family friend, or trusted leader.

Studies also reveal that the effects of sexual abuse extend far beyond the years in which it actually takes place. Drug and alcohol abuse, criminal behavior, low self-esteem, sexual promiscuity, excessive spending habits, problems forming and maintaining relationships, weight and health issues, and teenage pregnancy are just some of the results of sexual abuse. What really happens once the victims transition into teenage and adulthood?

As a sexual abuse survivor, I know what it’s like to endure years of violation at the hands of those you love and trust. I was sexually abused for over seven years, beginning at age five. Although I may have never made a verbal promise to anyone who abused me, within my heart I vowed to keep quiet. I promised to never tell a soul.

Like most sexual abuse victims, I remained silent about the ordeal, suffering emotionally, mentally, and spiritually for over 24 years. The problem was that I didn’t even realize that something was wrong with me. For as long as I could remember I knew that I wasn’t happy, but I considered it to be just another part of life’s ups and downs. I definitely didn’t connect my unhappiness, bad relationships, and other issues that I was dealing with to something that happened to me at five and six years old! I hardly ever thought about the abuse. For the most part, it was as if it never happened.

Then something else happened to me; I was introduced to the love and grace of God, a relationship that required that I give all or nothing. I chose to give all, including the hurt, pain, and shame of my past. The first area of my life that God worked on was my soul (mind, will, and emotions). “Stephanie, above all things I want your soul to prosper (3 John 2).” That was His personal message spoken to me in September 2004. But in order for my soul to prosper, He first had to show to me what was wrong with me in the first place.

Through prayer and spending time with God, I learned how the many years of sexual abuse I suffered as a child affected my teenage and young adult life. He showed me how so many of the unpleasant situations that I once found myself in was a direct result of the abuse and not my personal choice. God showed me that it was not my fault. Although my flesh may have grown accustomed to the way it made me feel and I never told anyone about it, it still was not my fault! Most importantly, He showed me how to heal from it!

Step 1) Pray! As with everything in life, seeking God in prayer is most important. Ask Him for strength. Ask Him to reveal your weaknesses and how you’re still being affected by it. While there are some common side effects that seem to exist amongst all sexual abuse victims, they do not share all of the same issues. Someone may have a lot of hate inside of them toward their offender, while another victim may struggle with substance abuse, intimacy problems, or low self-esteem.

Step 2) Stop running from it! Unfortunately, most sexual abuse victims never tell anyone about what happened to them. According to Childhelp, a leading organization on child abuse, only 15% of sexual abuse cases are ever revealed or reported. Keeping silent doesn’t solve the problem and it doesn’t make it go away. Every person needs to address what happened to them at some point in their lives, and sooner is much better than later.

Step 3) Talk to someone! The secret of sexual abuse is such a heavy burden to bear, especially alone. I strongly encourage victims to find someone to talk to. Releasing the hurt, anger, or whatever feelings are being harbored inside is an important step in the healing process. Be very wise in selecting who you choose to confide in, because you want it to be someone who will be non-judgmental toward you and those who offended you.

Step 4) Forgive the person who offended you! Forgiveness is a decision. It is something that a person purposes in their heart to do. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you must have a relationship with the person, sometimes one must walk away from the relationship in order to move on. It doesn’t mean that what the person did to offend you gets a pass, but it does mean letting go of what happened in your heart, not holding on to the anger, and letting go of the resentment. You can’t replay what happened over and over in your mind or wish any ill-will toward the person who hurt you.

Chances are there may be other steps that any one particular person may need to take, but facing the fact that it happened, prayer, talking about it, and forgiveness is a great place to start! Some people need the additional help of a professional counselor or minister. Others need to make certain lifestyle adjustments, such as changing their environment, spending and eating habits, or ending certain relationships. It really depends on the person. But one thing is for sure; every person must trust and know that God can heal them from the pain of their past. They can’t keep running from it. Whether 10, 20, or 50 years goes by, it will continue to manifest some way in their lives, unless they deal with it once and for all.

Stephanie L. Jones, author of The Enemy Between My Legs, is a highly sought after speaker for schools, organizations, and churches. A sexual abuse survivor, she knows and understands the effects that it has on a victim’s life. She is committed to helping others, especially teenage girls and young women, find healing from the pain of their past.

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