“For many people, they’ve tried to enter the story, but they have not done so in the presence of kindness.”
Counselor Dan Allender does extensive work with victims of sexual abuse. As a former victim himself, he understands the danger of opening your story in a careless way. Exploring your past abuse in unhealthy ways can bring up shame, anger, and self-contempt. Sorting through the account takes patience, safety, and grace for yourself.
“The more you remember in a way that brings more judgment, you’re actually reinvigorating, recharging, the contempt and the harm. There has to be the presence of growing grief and kindness as you enter more deeply into the details of the harm. Without that kindness, re-victimization is an almost certainty.”
Dan describes some of the effects of abuse which can stay in your body for years after the fact. Your body is ramped up with some of the same biochemicals associated with rage. The result is agitation, a low level of self-contempt, a racing mind, and shallow interactions with others.
What are first steps for the person who needs to be delivered from that self-loathing? Dan suggests brutal honesty with yourself.
• We cannot change what we don’t name.
• Admit that you have been sexually abused.
• Be clear in your mind about what happened, when, where, and how it affected you.
• Take the time to honor the story by looking at it piece by piece.
• Give yourself grace, not condemnation.
Abusers are intentional about how they manipulate you. Dan emphasises that it was not your fault.
“Often abusers are brilliant at reading what you lack in the home that you come from, and where you lack delight. So when they read you, you feel chosen and pursued. It’s the very thing you were most made to know in relationship with your parents and with God.”
Remember these details can be painful and cause resentment and fear to resurface. The healing will be a long, difficult journey. But when you’re surrounded by those who can help you, who are safe to walk with you, you can begin to sort through what happened in a way that honors you and allows healing to come.
“To the degree that you refuse to remember you allowed the vestiges of that harm to remain.”
You can read more in Dan’s book, Healing the Wounded Heart.