In our day we have done a much better job of trying to ensure that no one hurts in silence. There are more programs in many of our churches for those who are facing the aftermath of divorce or who are struggling through an addiction. More and more seminars are being provided for marital enrichment or emotional struggles like anxiety, depression, grief, anger, bitterness, or guilt.
Yet there are still relatively few resources for those who live with the effects of having been sexually abused. Most of these people were silenced during and after their abuse (by threats of harm, intense feelings of shame, or the thought that no one would believe them). They lost their voice. Unfortunately now, because there is no place for them to speak of their abuse, they still have no voice. This magnifies their pain and reinforces their fears.
No 3-hour seminar is going to give someone their voice back after years of isolated silence. Neither will a brief seminar bring healing where significant damage has been done. But I do hope that this seminar can do two things:
- Help people feel less alone with a struggle that is isolating in many ways. It is natural to feel hopeless when you do not think anyone understands. Hearing the nature and origin of your struggle put into words that make sense (when it has only been random and/or violent up to this point) is a first step in the direction of hope.
- Create a map of a struggle that is complex enough to make you feel crazy. A map and journey are two different things, but a map sure helps with most journeys. More than compassion alone, this seminar also hopes to offer direction and resources to assist you on your journey towards hope and restoration.
I hope in our time together we can answer (or at least begin to answer) questions like:
- How does facing sexual trauma a child affect the process of developing as a person, emotionally, and relationally?
- How are traumatic memories stored differently from “normal” memories? How does this affect flashbacks, nightmares, panic attacks, and other disturbing fear experiences?
- Why is it so hard to trust again? Why do I often choose such bad people to trust and go “all in” when I do?
- Why don’t my emotions work like everyone else’s? I feel numb at odds times. Other times emotions come on too intensely.
- Why do I feel like I am always on guard? I can’t turn my mind off or quit waiting/looking for something to happen. Will I ever know what “normal-normal” is?
- How do I change beliefs that are rooted in fear more than logic? If they were rooted in logic I could reason with them, but they’re not, so I feel powerless to change them.
- Why does it alternate between feeling like everything matters and that nothing matters?
- Why do some people who have been sexually abused take pleasure in hurting themselves (i.e., cutting, or other self-destructive behaviors) or hurting/abusing others?
- If I know I am safe now, why doesn’t this all just go away?