Is Overcoming Sexual Abuse Really Possible?

Jul 31st, 2011 | By | Category: All Posts, Christina's Blog

by Christina Enevoldsen

I hate blood and gore, but I love watching medical shows. When they show mangled flesh, I have to cover my eyes. It’s hard to imagine all the pain the person is suffering and even if they can be saved, the struggle that recovery requires. Sometimes I think it would be easier to let the person die because I don’t understand how someone could possibly recover and have a real life after having their body so torn. But the doctors don’t think like that; they understand the healing process and they’ve seen what their skillful work plus the restorative abilities of the human body can accomplish.

When I was a teenager, a classmate of mine was severely injured in a motorcycle accident. Paul wasn’t expected to live, but somehow he survived the first days and weeks. When I first saw him, he had already come out of his coma but he could only make moaning sounds when he tried to talk. He looked and sounded like something out of a horror film. He needed to be cared for like an infant and there wasn’t much hope he would ever change. But slowly, over the next few years, Paul repaired. He learned to feed himself, to talk, to walk and resume his life. The last time I saw him, he was a normal teenage boy.

I was one of those people who was mangled—not physically, but emotionally. Sexual abuse at the hands—and other body parts—of my father and the emotional abuse and neglect of my mother left my soul and my life a wreck. There were some who saw me and looked away in disgust. There were people who observed my woundedness and judged me to be beyond recovery.

I don’t know what made me think I could heal.  Maybe it’s because shortly after I remembered my sexual abuse, I heard a courageous woman speak about her childhood incest. She was someone who I admired and it gave me hope to see another survivor who wasn’t a wreck. I didn’t know how to fix me, but I knew it could be done.

I didn’t know that I could do my own healing work. I didn’t realize that I have within me the ability to heal my inner being just like my body has the ability to heal and, in fact, is designed to heal. I didn’t see any doctors rushing to fix me, so I took up the task.

I didn’t know that I could do my own healing work. I didn’t realize that I have within me the ability to heal my inner being just like my body has the ability to heal and, in fact, is designed to heal. I didn’t see any doctors rushing to fix me, so I took up the task. 

Over the next twenty years, I found solutions from a variety of sources that helped me recover. I’ve taken long breaks, but I’ve never quit. The past few years of my healing have been the most productive.

I’ve gone from being used and abused in relationships to being surrounded by people who love and respect me; I used to be intimidated by anyone abusive, but now I stand up for myself; I used to only live day-to-day, glad to just get through it and now I have dreams and goals and am actively pursuing and fulfilling them; I used to get overwhelmed with any obstacle and now I face them confidently; I used to hate myself and constantly fight critical inner voices and now I love myself and I’m my own best friend and fan.

There are those who say that it’s impossible to truly overcome something so horrific as sexual abuse. They say that to make that claim is wrong because it sets the bar too high. I find that insulting now but when I was in the abusive system, I believed things like that. My abusers convinced me that I wasn’t capable of anything on my own and that I needed them for survival. They undermined me and caused me to second-guess myself so they could control me. So why is that bar too high for me? Am I too dumb or too weak? I’m not sure what’s worse, telling me to just “get over it” or that I’ll never get over it.

Maybe those people who think “overcoming” is out of reach believe that to say you can overcome somehow minimizes the damage or invalidates the pain. I don’t think it does that at all. My soul was mutilated. I was unrecognizable as the person I was meant to be. I don’t know how I survived. But I not only survived, I overcame. I’m so happy I didn’t pronounce myself too damaged to live. I’m so glad that even though others turned away in disgust, I didn’t lose hope in myself. I don’t know what else to call it. I was a half-dead person and now I’m fully alive, living with purpose and enthusiasm. I call that overcoming.

I may not ever be finished with my healing, but I’ll be overcoming until my last breath. Thank God that all those years ago, I heard a voice of encouragement and hope instead of someone claiming I was doomed by abuse.

Thank you to Patty Hite, the courageous woman who inspired me and gave me hope so many years ago. It’s a joy and an honor to be spreading hope and healing side-by-side with you, my friend!

Related Posts:
Seeds of Hope for Healing
My Fight for Life is Fueled by Hope
Six Million Dollar Healing: Completely Invested in the Process

Christina Enevoldsen is cofounder of Overcoming Sexual Abuse, an online resource for male and female abuse survivors looking for practical answers and tools for healing. Christina’s passions are writing and speaking about her own journey of healing from abuse and inspiring people toward wholeness. She and her husband live in Los Angeles and share three children and four grandchildren.

[read Christina’s story here]

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18 comments
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  1. Christina, I heard a critical comment about the title of “Overcoming Sexual Abuse” once. The person said, “you can’t overcome sexual abuse , ever.” I bristled but did not argue because I know it is possible. Keep on dishing out that hope because I am so tired of the fatalistic ideas of being ‘irrepairably damaged” and such. I don’t want anyone to try to talk me out of this great life I have now and I hate the idea that they can do that to others. I have only one word to say and I’m sorry it is a 4-letter word. That word is HOPE. Thanks for this gem of hope. :)

  2. Linda,
    LOL! I like your four letter word! I don’t know where I would be without hope. It makes me really mad that there are leaders of “support” groups telling survivors that all they can hope for is to learn to cope with the effects. If they haven’t found solutions to their own issues, that’s one thing, but to say there are no solutions is destructive to those who believe that. While they’re busy saying it can’t be done, we’re busy do it! Thanks for being a part of spreading that hope!
    Hugs, Christina

  3. Christina,

    What a wonderful blog of hope and encouragement. Who would have thought that when I shared my story about my sexual abuse, that we would be joining our hearts and souls together, over 20 years later, to bring hope to others?

    I too agree that there is hope to overcome the effects of our abuse. All abuse. I have seen the results in my life. There are many things that I have overcome and because of it, I am happy and emotionally healthy. No more coping, no more trying to get over it, but honestly and wholly “over it.” There are many areas that I am working on and there will be many areas that I will need to work on, but I have hope to continue on in my healing.

    I remember when my daughter had cancer, and there was a doctor who didn’t have hope for her recovery. I chased him out of the hospital room. If he didn’t have hope that she would live, I didn’t want to hear from him. That is how I feel about healing. If there is no hope, there is no reason to try. Trying is all that is required of me. When I try and it’s fueled by hope, there are results.

    Thank you again, dear friend, for spreading hope, and caring about all of us. ((hug))

  4. Patty,
    It’s amazing to think of where we were way back then and where we are now. AMAZING!!! I wonder if OSA would exist if not for hearing your words of hope at the beginning of my journey. Hope sure is a fuel! Thanks for sharing yours with me! I love you, my dear friend!
    Christina

  5. Hi Christina,
    YAY for overcoming. This is a wonderful inspirational post. When I was in my early 40’s, struggling to stay off antidepressants, struggling to keep ANY shred of hope of ever having a full live as a fully functional and emotionally healthy woman, finding renewed HOPE was the biggest and best key I could have found. Hope that I could overcome, kept me going. Hope that I could have a full life without dissociation and the depressions that manifested themselves because of ABUSE and mistreatment, helped me to persist on the journey. Hope is one of my favorite keys and it is the key that I most love to share.
    Your post shares that same hope! Your post and your life PROVES that there IS hope! You are someone who has overcome against the “nay sayers” opinions and that means that HOPE is alive! That to me is the best “thing” we have to share!
    Hugs, Darlene

  6. i agree you can recover but it is hard work on the individuals part, it hard to undo years of wrongly believing you were to blame and it was always your fault. it easier to heal physically from abuse than mentally, because when it emotional or mental the brain puts its own slant on things and can keep a surivior in victim mode long than they need to be. i know my own coping skll of rationalisation has and keeps holding me in that loop of non change, but i will get there and i have made massiveinroads thanks to here at OSA and EFB in the last year as you gave me other things to look at and different perspectives on healing and how it works
    many thanks and hugs

  7. Darlene,
    I agree that hope is the best thing we can share. Once you have hope, you can find a way through. But all the solutions in the world won’t do one bit of good unless there is hope. Thank you for your message of hope through YOUR life and recovery!
    Hugs, Christina

    Carol,
    It sure IS hard work! That’s why hope is so important because who wants to perservere through all we have to face if it doesn’t pay off? I agree that’s it’s easier to heal the body than the emotions or mind. But seeing how our entire being was created to heal was inspiring for me to realize. I was just reading one of your FB comments today and thinking back on when we first “met”. You’ve come SO far. It’s obvious how much work you’ve been doing. Yay for all of us who know we can overcome! I hope all of our lives show others they can have the same thing.
    Hugs, Christina

  8. Yes. I think that is all that needs to be said.

    Yes.

  9. Bravo Christina!
    Healing is hard work but can be done – with hope and faith! I join you and others in sharing our journeys to surviving and thriving.
    Thank you for helping set the record straight – we can and will overcome!

  10. Yes healing is very hard work, and I’m only really discovering the truth of that statement, hope is what keeps me going, without hope I would have been dead a long time ago. Thanks for adding more hope to my hope stock!!

  11. There are so many questions and needs… I have health problems. Everyone in my family has died. I am alone and after years of teaching, serving my church and being a “friend”… I have no friends…. they are just too busy.

    How to HOPE in my old age….. to know how desperately I NEED a “hug” and to know that I will never EVER receive one…. I could live 30 minutes or 30 years but I will never know love or intimacy!

    That makes me sad!

  12. Kimberly,
    That’s really heartbreaking that you’re alone after years of serving others. I’m so sorry that you’ve been treated that way! You deserve better. ((((HUG))))
    Christina

  13. I still wonder if I will ever be whole – like a normal, not messed with person. I first started treatment at age 19, when I knew I’d been physically hurt, but didn’t know about the sexual abuse. I mean I hadn’t recalled it yet. For about 7 years of on and off therapy, I thought I would be cured. Like I would do this “for now” and then I would just be “OK”. At some point, I accepted that there was no miracle flash cure and that I would have to work this treatment for a long time. Or forever.
    Partly I still wish for that miracle cure. Mostly when I’m too weary emotionally to try. It gives me hope to know I’m not the only one struggling and that I’m not the only one who is ok to talk with others about it. Thank you for all who are sharing here. I just stumbled on this site and I’m glad I did.

  14. Yes I am done with being near dead, half dead,numb and frozen. I told family they are the only ones who have made me feel rattled and unsure of myself to the degree that they have. That visits home felt more like a horror show then anything pleasant. You waited for it because you knew ignonarance and nastiness was sure to come out of their mouths. Last and final visit for Mom’s burial I walked into the room and my brother who is known for his off base comments said straight out, your next! Meaning the next to die. I was stunned as his comments are meant to do, they unhinge you. Then my sister followed me around my son’s home and towering over me and pouncing at every thing I said. When I asked when she was coming out my way she said WTF would I do there? She was the one who tried to make herself look like kind and sisterly to impress Mom when she was alive, but I saw through her manipulations and evil. I left soon as I could to get back home. I went and honored my Mom and there was no need to stay after. I wrote a NC letter and am starting to feel good, it was the right decision. I can say no to cruelty and indifference and surround myself with real people.

  15. Sara,
    I’m glad you know you’re not alone. I don’t know any abuse survivors who don’t wish for an instant cure. The thing that encourages me to keep going is to look back at the way I used to be before I started healing. I may not ever be “finished”, but I’m a lot better off than I ever was before. Welcome to OSA.
    Christina

  16. Mary,
    It’s so sad that family can be so cruel, especially in already painful circumstances. I’m sorry they treated you that way. I’m glad that you’re saying no to it. You deserve to be treated better.
    Christina

  17. Christina,
    I am starting out on the road to recovery, and yes want to heal now not tommorrow! Although the first flashback was nearly 3 years ago, and I have been having therapy i dont feel any progress is being made. My husband has always vocalised his support but this year his demands, emotionally and sexually are overwelming to the point I feel abused by him. It felt like rape the other night………… I cant leave with 2 small children and a teenager in exam year, no money, nowhere to go.
    Wanting to take my life in my hands but feel trapped by circumstances…..

  18. Tammy,
    That sounds SO frustrating to be in therapy for so long and not feel you’ve made any progress and then to be abused by someone so close to you! What does your therapist say about your husband’s abuse? What type of therapy are you doing? If it’s not working for you, have you considered another method or a different therapist?

    Christina

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