From Victim to Survivor – The Healing Journey
Last week’s blog: ‘Don’t Turn a Blind Eye to Child Sexual Abuse‘ generated a lot of questions and rightly so!
I’ve decided for this blog to focus mainly on one of the key questions I received, that is:
“I’ve met a few others that have been through something similar and to this day, they find it difficult to cope. Some have broken their silence and others, I suspect went through similar trauma when they were younger. How can we go about healing from this trauma and what support is out there particularly for Black men who were abused when they were younger.”
Questions surrounding healing from sexual abuse trauma is vital but common. In answering this question, I’ll explain why trauma healing can be so challenging, then I’ll provide some of my tops tips for self-healing and where to get support.
A victim’s Initial Response to Trauma
FIGHT: Some people have the natural tendency to fight the hell out of any situation they’re in. Their adrenaline kicks in and they don’t stop until they’re out!
FLIGHT: Others will run away when they’re terrified. They can’t face the pain. They believe their only chance of survival is to escape. Their mind is set on getting out at any means necessary!
FREEZE: Others freeze in the moment of terror – waiting for the pain to be over. They tune out. They block out. Their minds leave their bodies behind. Or in some cases – like myself – our senses get heightened but we’re stuck in our bodies with no means of escape. Unable to react. All hope gone. Frozen!
“if you tell no one will believe you”, “it’s your fault“, or “they’ll be so ashamed of you they’ll send you away and won’t want anything to do with you”.
Healing from the trauma
It’s fair to say that healing from the trauma can be a very challenging process and will not occur overnight. So we must love ourselves and be patient during the process. It helps if those around us understand this so they can can’t be patient with us.
Yes – recovery can be a slow and painful journey that seems to last forever. I know for me, it definitely got worse before it got better. The fact is we’ve been through something really horrific so we can’t rush through the healing.
Healing takes time. It’s a process. One where we may take 1 step forward and 10 steps backward. This means we may cry often and have really low moods and some days it will be very difficult to cope – that’s normal! We may even develop mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Be patient with yourself. Be loving and care for yourself whilst you practise my three top tips below.
1. Find a safe space to describe and express your thoughts, feelings and emotions.
- Professional trauma counsellors are highly recommended because of the neutral space and their expertise to help us work through and understand what’s going on inside and around us.
- Support groups are also great places to get help. Women or Men’s support groups where people share similar experiences can help us to feel comfortable to release our pain. I find it particularly useful if I know others in the room have had similar experiences. I try to learn from them and I don’t feel judged when I share any parts of my experiences. Instead I feel appreciated as we grow togather. Women are known to talk much more than men so support groups can be particularly powerful for men who have been abuse – to hear other men talking about their pain. Support groups can work really well alongside counselling. But if you’re not ready for counselling or can’t access it at the moment, I’d definitely recommend joining a local support group.
- If you can’t access counselling or a support group, but you know someone you can talk to, such as a close friend or family you trust or even a stranger, it’s best to talk to them as they maybe able to offer a listening hear and/or refer you to someone that can help. However it must be noted that individuals without some training or experience in the healing process of abuse may not be the best suited to give advice on what to do. They may have your best interest at heart, but with their emotions involve and lack of tools to deal with what you’re telling them happened to you, they may not be able to guide you appropriately like a counsellor maybe able to. Whilst you may find it better/easier to talk to someone you know, be aware they may not be able to give you the help you need. They also may have unresolved pain which they could deflect on you. So weary of their potential “limited” help. But do consider this option if you feel it’s best for you at this time.
2. Practice self-care and self-love activities
3. Future Plan of Action
- your continued healing
- setting and enforcing boundaries with the people in your circle
- building a better life and doing things you enjoy ie setting up your own business or career development.
At first it may seem tiresome doing things so structured and focused, however we have to be open to doing things differently in order to figure out what works for us. And what works for me may not work for someone else – meditation is a good example of this!
Creating a Healthy Lifestyle
Some people may say many things about us that may hurt – but it doesn’t define who we are. In fact we’re redefining who we are through our healing process. We can change any part of our lives that we’re not happy with. But it probably won’t be done overnight, so don’t be dishearten, all we need is a plan that can enable us to.
Something for our men who has been abused
Who knew that men and boys are sexually abused too? Yes they are – maybe not on the same scale as women and young girls but many men in our community have unresolved issues due to child sexual abuse. Don’t worry if you’re surprise to hear this as I remember being so shocked when I first came upon this fact during my research.
I believe men in our community who’ve been abused – have additional layers of pain and trauma – affecting their identity and making it even more challenging for them to overcome their abuse.
Identity Issues without the abuse
- Considering the impact of Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome (PTSS) and the fact that most of our young men today are been brought up by their mothers in singe-parenting homes – they have little or no role model of their true identity or how to be a ‘black man’. Where are the fathers? In prisons, mental institution and other places – apart from being the in home where their children are. As hard-working and determine as our women can be, they can never grow up boys to become men (especially if they (the mothers) been abused by men in their past), which maybe the case).
- Generally, our men are not taught to how to embrace emotions and express their truth. Talking is commonly seen as a “feminine thing” and although all of us were born with the masculine and feminine energy, most boys weren’t brought up to embrace their feminine side.
Identity Issues after the abuse
Combine identify issues with the additional pain from the abuse, our men completely loose themselves – with no hope of ever breaking their silence. They rely on what they’ve been taught to get them through the pain by supressing their emotions and not talking about it.
Our men are not properly equipped to handle emotions, moreover the kind that comes along with trauma of abuse. The process of #BreakingTheSilence can be even more overwhelming for them, especially in a society that’s dominated by the “macho” or “real” men’s characteristics. I once heard two men talking to themselves saying “real men don’t get raped!” So even if our men knew how to allow themselves to be vulnerable enough to ask for help, society basically deny their pain and tell them how to feel. Whilst this part of the journey can be similar for men and women, it seems to affect men more, potentially because of their pride and ego.
Healing from the abused
Key factors for anyone overcoming abuse is to identify and master their emotions, feelings and thoughts associated to the trauma – not supress them!
So I believe the healing process is quite similar for both our men and women.
I think therapeutic counselling and support groups are two of the best forms of healing available to our men and women who have suffered abuse or any other type of trauma. These support network have the potential of providing a safe an open space to explore, reflect and release internal hurt and pain.
- Whilst I’m aware of many support groups for women, I think there could be more available to our men. Many of our men would definitely benefit from hearing and seeing other men – just like them – speaking out about what they’ve been through. I think this could help many more men #BreakTheirSilence and get the help they need. However correct safeguarding is a must as these men need to feel safe and trusting for it to work.
- Counselling is one to one and provides a more private, confidential and therapeutic space. Counsellors are also equipped with many tools that can help a victim heal through their trauma.
Whilst men needs more support and encouragement throughout the process, tit’s important that hey realise they need the support and be willing and open to receiving it.
Where to go for support
Women living in London: I run a number of healing and support services for women and young girls survivors of sexual abuse. Click here to find out more.
Support for Black men:
- TMITM: WWW.TMITM-PROJECT.COM
- Mankind Counselling www.mkcharity.org
- Survivors UK: http://www.survivorsuk.org/
- RASASC: http://www.rasasc.org.uk
There are other well established organisations that can offer support to both men and women victims of sexual abuse. They include:
- MIND – https://www.mind.org.uk
- Victim Support: https://www.victimsupport.org.uk
- The Survivor’s Trust: http://thesurvivorstrust.org/survivors-and-supporters/
- Help for Adult victims of Child Abuse: https://www.havoca.org/