“I was deeply moved by the anguish they [women survivors of child sexual abuse] had endured. And I was equally impressed by their integrity , their ability to love and create through such devastation. I wanted people to know about this, about their strength and their beauty.” (TCTH, p.13)
I was a victim of abuse, but I have survived. I am now a survivor, and I am working to thrive. In The Courage To Heal Workbook Introduction (page 3), Laura Davis writes about the importance of language and what we call ourselves. In my experience, a victim of child abuse often continues to feel like a victim long into adulthood, and to some extent or in various situations for the rest of their life. And it’s true that once you’ve been abused, you are more likely to be abused again in some way or another. Even so, it’s important, in fact essential, to recognize that that first abuse is no longer happening. As Laura writes, if you were abused as a child and are now an adult, you have survived, you are a survivor. To say you are a survivor doesn’t say much about where you are today in your healing process, but it says a great deal about you, a great deal about your spirit.
In my own case, I have come to realize that I have too often thought of myself as weak or powerless because as a victim that was a significant experience of my victimization, but the equally significant truth is that I am also extraordinarily strong and capable. My strength or power of the highest order is that I want to live, that I value my life, that I recognize my being as unique or distinct from others and it is right and good that I should favor my existence.
When a child or youth is abused in any way there is often a false-shame that comes with the abuse. This is because the child/youth isn’t able to recognize that the adult is responsible for their bad behavior and it is not the child/youth’s fault they have been abused. The shame is false because the child/youth is not responsible for their abuse, yet it is a powerfully debilitating component of the experience and it is a huge challenge to over-come it. Yet, hidden within that ugly lie of shame is a kernel of truth: the child/youth is experiencing somewhere within themselves how wrong it is that they should be experiencing the abuse — even though they think about in a wrong way.
Today I recognize that the shame I have felt from being abused is now an energy/perspective I can embrace and convert into tenderness for my younger self — I imagine my adult, motherly, self wrapping my arms around my child-self and saying “Yes, my dear, you are so right: that ugliness you experienced is ugly, but you didn’t create it; it didn’t come from you. Your innocence was taken advantage of, and you suffered abuse, and I am so sorry. But your beautiful spirit is still alive and vibrant. You, my dear, are beautiful. You are truly amazing. You are courageous. You survived with so much original-goodness still intact. And you can heal. You will become whole.”
Because I am a Christian, because I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, my healing process naturally involves the companionship and healing power of my Lord’s Presence. So I will often end these reflections with a verse from Scripture or a prayer that expresses my experience of the Lord’s healing work in my life. But if you are someone who is not a Christian, I invite you to seek and find deep within yourself the God-space we each have in our Being. I’m not trying to be “new-agey” or “tolerant” or “politically correct” or what have you. I simply recognize that every human-being has within them a Sacred Self. I believe our Sacred Self is the Image of God, our Loving Creator. If you currently have a different belief system about this reality, fine, I respect it. The reason I can is because my faith in Christ reveals to me that everyone, Everyone, has access to the path to God.
So, for today’s conclusion, I simply invite you to find that space within yourself where you cherish your being. Let your adult self sit with your child self and love her/him, thank your child self for surviving, and embrace her with the grace of recognizing her goodness.