Is It Possible to Heal From Abuse Without Therapy?

Dec 16th, 2011 | By | Category: All Posts, Sharing Hope

by Patty Hite, Jennifer Stuck & Christina Enevoldsen

Patty: Thirty years ago, when I started to heal from sexual, physical, and verbal abuse, there were no support groups for survivors. No one talked openly about abuse, especially not about sexual abuse. I tried to talk to my friends. Although they felt compassion for me, they thought the best solution was to forget about it and try to move on with my life.

I lived in a very small farming town of 750 people so seeing a therapist or doctor who understood the effects of abuse was not an option. The internet wasn’t available at that time, so my only “friends” were the ones who shared their stories in the library books I read. I remember how deeply their stories of abuse and their courage impacted my life. Reading about their abuse confirmed that I was not alone. As they shared their steps toward healing and talked about the masks they wore in order to survive, I cried and laughed, all at the same time. They felt the same way I did and they weren’t afraid to talk about it. I felt like someone finally understood.

I never felt that I needed therapy because all the answers were in these books. I learned very early in healing that I needed to do what was right for me. I can’t tell you how many books I’ve thrown across the room because they were too overwhelming and how many times I’ve had to take a break from everything. I couldn’t see myself on a schedule, especially not forced or coerced into healing on someone else’s schedule. I was used to doing what others told me to do so I needed to be in control of my own healing.

I’m not saying I think there’s anything wrong with therapy. I’m saying it was wrong for me. And that is important in healing—finding what is right and what is not, what works and what doesn’t. Doing it my way and on my schedule is what I’ve needed.

Christina: When I started to heal from sexual abuse, I never considered seeing a therapist. I was still married to my abusive husband and there was no way he would have agreed to pay for anything that wouldn’t serve him and his plans for me. Even if he would have agreed to pay for therapy, I didn’t think I was worth the money. I often had trouble justifying just paying for a haircut.

I don’t think money was the real issue, though. I’d had two very bad experiences with professionals. The first time was when I was in grade five and the school district psychologist pulled me out of class to find out what was wrong with me. I couldn’t tell her the things my dad was doing to me, so I struggled to give her some reason for whatever she thought was wrong. I told her I didn’t have any friends, which wasn’t true. Over the next several months, she worked with me on how to make friends. I had the feeling that she didn’t like me and that she was annoyed with me most of the time. I’m glad I didn’t tell her about my abuse because she never felt like a safe person anyway.

The second time I saw a counselor was when I had an affair. I went to a Christian counselor for a few weeks (my husband was all for getting me “help” this time) and the counselor determined that my problem was that I had a demon of seduction. That didn’t help me at all, but that concluded my “help”.

In addition to my unfruitful experiences with mental health professionals, I was suspicious of people who were “experts” or authority figures. Those are the people who hurt me in the first place and I saw them as sources of harm, not help.

Jennifer: The truth is I would have loved to go to therapy and talk to someone when I was younger, but I never really felt like getting help was an option. I went to a small high school with fewer than 100 students, so there was no counselor to talk to, and I never felt like I could go to my family. I was the support person in my home and my family made it quite clear they weren’t strong enough to be bothered with my problems.

I opened up to one friendly teacher, but I never felt like she had the time or ability to help me. I truly wanted to face my past but I didn’t know how to do that. Since I had so little support, I shoved everything back down inside me. It was too painful to want the help I couldn’t get.

Like you, Christina, I never felt like I had the money to invest in therapy as an adult. It wasn’t until I discovered the world of self-help that I started opening up about my abuse again and was finally able to start healing.

I started reading every book about sexual abuse I could find at the local used book store, I joined Facebook and connected with other abuse survivors. I cut contact from the abusive people in my life and the people I knew wouldn’t support my healing, and really started looking at how my abuse had affected my life.

Christina: Books have been my primary tool for healing, too. I felt safe being able to pick them up and put them down when I wanted to. I wasn’t afraid of the book judging me or interrupting me.

I used to need to control my interactions with people and my memories felt too raw to share until I sorted them all out. Books gave me clues about the things I needed to look at. Each time I figured out some issue and faced it privately, I felt less vulnerable sharing it with close friends. There’s something about processing it that makes it seem more manageable and less threatening.

Earlier in my healing, I don’t know if I would have ever have the guts to say aloud what happened to me, so talking with another person seemed out of the question. Now, even though I’m comfortable sharing things I haven’t dissected yet, I still process things on my own and then share them with people I trust. Many times while I’m sharing, more truths come out and I can face another layer or another aspect that I missed.

Jennifer: That’s what I do a lot too, Christina. I usually work through a memory on my own by writing it out and making any connections I can between my abuse and how it’s affected my current life. But then I’m usually so excited about my breakthroughs that I have to tell my friends, and while talking I’ll realize even more! It’s great to have healing buddies, but I have to do the work of healing myself. Nobody can do that for me.

Patty: I learned that I had to do the work myself too. There were two important things that I grabbed a hold of. One was that I had to get it out. Writing was an easy way for me to do that and I still do a lot of writing. When I revisit my abuse, writing helps me to see more details. When I’m sad, happy or angry, I can express it so much better on paper. I’ve written angry letters to my abusers (I didn’t mail them) and I’ve written compassionate letters to myself.

And the other one was instilling boundaries into my life. I had to stop any further abuse. I always thought it was my fault, but by learning about boundaries, I was able to learn how to trust my judgment of people and have the ability to walk away from bad situations. Trusting myself to make decisions about people helped me to listen to the warning signs of abuse. That was a weak area in my life and I know that had a lot to do with feeling like I was an easy mark for abusers.

Christina: Writing is one of the tools I use, too. It helps me to sort things out and to express them. I used to have trouble crying, but by writing the words, “I feel so hurt and alone”, I was still able to get it out in some way.

I process an abuse memory by examining the memory in detail. What was done to me? What was said? If there was more than one person involved, what did the other person’s reaction tell me? What messages did I come to believe from the actions and words? What did those things tell me about myself and about what I could expect from the world? How did I adapt to the lies I believed? What is the truth? How should I have been treated? (When I don’t know, I think about how I would expect another child to be treated). Seeing the truth is freeing and healing.

Jennifer: I don’t have to have other people to heal, but having people I trust has made a big difference for me. A huge part of my abuse was feeling unlovable. I’ve had to face the things that made me believe that, but having loving people around during my healing sure makes that easier.

Patty: I would have welcomed a support group like Overcoming Sexual Abuse. It’s like opening a book at the library, only the survivors here are able to answer me back. Having the ability to hear so many stories of hope and healing is very empowering to me. This is real life and these are real people and I feel honored to be a part of their lives.

Christina: I used to feel that all the growth I’ve accomplished through my healing was somehow less legitimate because I didn’t see a therapist. Through healing, I’m excited to wake up everyday, my relationships are healthy, I’m finally able to love myself and feel great about myself, but I discounted all of that since it wasn’t validated by a “professional”. As I compared my process to other survivors who had therapy, though, I didn’t see inferior results. I noticed that no matter with a therapist or without, no matter with a support group or without, no matter what tools we use or what help we get, it’s up to each survivor to do the work and that’s where the rewards of healing come from.

Abuse teaches us that we aren’t enough in ourselves so many survivors falsely assume that we can’t do it on our own. The truth is that most survivors of abuse are capable of a lot more than we give ourselves credit for.

There are plenty of people who benefit from therapy and those who might not ever have the courage to face the past without a therapist, so I’m thankful they have a place to go. But since that wasn’t an option for me, I’m thankful that I found my own way to heal.

Patty: Yes, I’m glad that I don’t have to depend on anyone else to heal. For me, it’s been a personal reward—my work, my changes, my accomplishments. I can do this!!!

Does this resonate with you? Please join in by leaving your thoughts and feelings about this topic and don’t forget to subscribe to the comments.

Related Posts:
Is Overcoming Sexual Abuse Really Possible?
My Healing Journey: Stumbling and Getting Back Up
My Support System is Led By Me
Stand-in or Star: Taking Center Stage in Your Healing
Microwave Healing: I Want to Feel Better NOW

As a survivor of emotional, physical and sexual abuse, Patty Hite has been tenaciously pursuing her healing for over thirty years.  She dedicates her life to inspiring emotional wholeness in others. As a former victim of spousal abuse, she’s delighted to have found the meaning of true love, a respectful relationship, and support with her late husband, Lonnie. She’s blessed with four children and five grandchildren.

Jennifer Stuck is whole heartedly pursuing physical and emotional health and is determined to heal the wounds of her childhood sexual abuse. She loves to write, especially poetry. She has an open, accepting personality, and is always ready to crack a joke. She is currently studying for a career in Physical Therapy. When she isn’t in school Jennifer is at home spending time with her two beautiful daughters.

Christina Enevoldsen

I’m Christina Enevoldsen and I’m the cofounder of Overcoming Sexual Abuse and the author of The Rescued Soul: The Writing Journey for the Healing of Incest and Family Betrayal. My passion is exploring new ways to express my empowered new life. I’ve recently discovered the joy of waterslides, the delightful scented lotion from Bath & Body Works, “Dark Kiss” and hosting princess tea parties for my granddaughters. My husband and I live in Scottsdale, Arizona and share three children and six grandchildren.

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  1. I’ve been in therapy maybe 14-15 years. I just started to get “somewhere” with it in the past two years. Coincidentally the most progress has been done with the support I find with OSA in the last 15 months or so. . I thank you all for sharing so openly and giving me the courage to find my own voice. I can find and make progress on my own now but when I need help I have my therapist too. I’m just happy and scared to finally be healing. Wonder where I’ll be in a year from now? Thank you Patty, Christina and Jennifer.

  2. Genesis, it’s so fabulous that you’re finding your own voice! I love seeing the progress you’ve been making. You deserve to be very proud. Hugs, Christina

  3. Genesis, that makes me so happy that you’ve found OSA helpful in your healing. I know its been a huge help to me as well to have so much information and support at my fingertips. And yay to us for taking advantage of those tools! I think whether we heal alone, or with the help of a therapist, having a good attitude and being willing to do the work involved in healing makes all the difference. Thanks for commenting!

  4. Ladies, thank you for sharing your stories about your healing journey. My abuse occurred in the late 1960s and mid-70s so like some of you, there were no resources available for support to victims. Even though I told my mom, she tried to protect me but he couldn’t be everywhere. I was 8 years old hen it began and 17 when it finally stopped and my mom was able to leave him. I told several of my friends and they wanted to help but didn’t know how. I was very active in my church because my family was Christian. So I told youth pastors but they did not have any answers either. I finally went to my high school counselor when I was 17 and told him. His answer was “in some cultures it is perfectly appropriate for fathers to teach their daughters about sex.”. I was appalled and said, “Not in my culture it isn’t.” and picked up my things and walked out. My mom even talked to an attorney about it and he told her that it would be my word against his and I would have to tell details on the stand, and it would be very difficult for me. I was unable to recall details of the actual rape at age 12 and the attorney said that would be detrimental to our case. My mom felt that it would not be good for me to be so scrutinized on the stand for something I couldn’t remember.

    I married my first husband about a year later and found out I was pregnant. My relationship with him was difficult to say the least and sex was horrible. But, I was committed and tried to hang in there. Committed that is until he threatened to hit me. I was done and began making preparations to leave. He filed for divorce before I could and my daughter and I moved back home with my mom. I went back to school and to work and met my second husband. We married about a year after we met. I felt it was important that both of my husbands knew about the abuse I suffered. I believe that my first husband would have eventually used the abuse against me to say I was crazy and then he would have control and custody of my daughter. I was not wrong and was so thankful he decided to leave. My second husband, who I have been married to for 33 years has been very kind and supportive and I am also very thankful for that.

    After Rick and I had been married for a couple of years, I began hearing about sexual abuse and reading about it in magazines. It occurred to me for the first time that I was a sexual abuse victim. I had not gotten that and it was a shock for me to recognize the impact of it. I began to read everything I could get my hands on and I did that from the time I was about 22 until ibeas in my 40s. I received much help from the self-help materials and I would not be where I am on my healing journey without them. I was a member of a support group but I was not ready to deal with all the emotions associated with abuse and it scared me. I visited with a couple of people who had counseled abuse victims and eventually saw a local psychologist. I have had a pastor tell me that I didn’t need counseling, but I quickly recognized that he was a manipulator and controller just as my abuser and I moves away from that church as soon as possible. The next church we went to in 2003 had one of their pastors and wife who were licensed family therapists. I began seeing the wife when I needed help. Even through all the books, tapes, magazines, and meeting with others, there were still flashbacks and nightmares I could not work through.

    While seeing my pastor’s wife I had ta stark revelation that I had no way of escape when I was 12 and there was no one to help me. After all those years, it had never occurred to me that my step dad had set up a situation where I could not get any help to stop it. Needless to say, I was devastated and the depression and anxiety I had battled all my life came in with a vengeance. My pastor’s wide recognized the trauma I was dealing with and referred me to a Christian psychologist, who was also a sexual abuse survivor. There was an immediate connection because we had both dealt with sexual abuse and she was able to assist me in ways I might not have ever figured out on my own, or it would have taken me twice as long to get to that place. My husband Rick has been nothing but supportive through all these years and when it came down to paying $95 a visit then waiting on insurance to reimburse, there was no hesitation. He said “This is something you need and we’ll do whatever we have to so you can get the help and healing you need.”

    She has pulled together all of my efforts to get healing and helped me understand that God was directing my every step and that none of my efforts had been wasted. But now, he was directing the journey to a place where my story can be of help to someone else who is struggling with the effects of sexual abuse. I will graduate in Aug. 2012 with my bachelors in psychological studies and will begin the Master’s in Counseling in Oct. 2012. I do not believe I could have made it through school, work, family issues, and my issues with sexual abuse without meeting and working with her.

    Not to discredit all your efforts at all. Please do not misunderstand. We all have to find the journey that works for us individually. But for me, while I started out just as you, reading and digesting all that had happened to me and working through, I needed a bit more assistance and I am very thankful for it. I am also thankful for each of you and your respective stories. You will never know how many people will be touched and helped by the things you share on OSA. I find much strength and confirmation of my own journey when I read your posts. I am honored to be a friend of OSA and wish each of you much joy and continues healing. Thanks for letting me share my story and for letting me post to others on OSA. Blessings to each of you.

  5. Enjoyed reading your reasons for avoiding therapy and how you took your respective roads to recovery! I’ve dealt with different issues that stunted my ability to be free and whole. Things like personal reading and and writing have greatly helped to speak over myself new words in place of berating ones. Also, when your find good people that you can be yourself around, without having to perform in order to be invited back again, they are The (true) Salt of the Earth and make your see the best of yourself, and only the best!

  6. I chose to go to therapy, and I’m glad I did, because I was suffering serious physical symptoms related to anxiety; I had no idea the physical issues could BE related to anxiety, and I didn’t “feel anxious.” After a slew of specialists all said the same thing about my health, I decided to consult a psychologist who specialized in anxiety disorders so I could learn more about it. It took me over a year to really begin to understand the physiological changes that take place during the stress of living in an abusive relationship, and how those finally began to affect my health. This therapist has helped me learn how to recognize triggers and control my responses, which has helped immensely. I may suffer some of these issues for the rest of my life, but at least I have a lot more control, thanks to having a really good therapist work with me on this.

  7. i feel wird, reading and posting on this site, as i haven’t done any “serious” healing work in years! over the past 30-something years, i have dealt with a lot of my issues; but, now, due to finances, i live with my dad, who was my primary sexual abuser.
    he seems so weak and frail! but… sometimes, when i look at him, i see the charming, abusive *&^%$ he used to be, and it worries me.

  8. Hi Ladies. Thank you for sharing your experience. When I was 16 i was sexually assaulted by some one outside my family and I couldnt handle this one. I went to 2 school therapist one of which kept telling me Jesus loved me and have faith in God which was not helping me at all. I went to a Rape Crisis Centre for Crisis counselling and the therapist there said to me “Oh look you are always smiling, so everything must be fine”. I never went back because my smile is a defense and i didnt know how to get rid of it and she didnt want to help. My mam also was embarrassed and ashamed of me for going to the centre so it made me extra guilty. In Spetember 2010 i ended up in a crisis centre for suicidal people and self harmers, I didnt know what was wrong with me but my self harm was out of control and I wanted to die. I had pushed back my childhood sexual abuse by my father and two otehr individual assaults but in this therapy in the crisis centre they gave me space to find words to what was wrong with me. It took months but she never was impatient and let me move at my own pace. I finished therapy there in March 2011 and but that time I had reported my abuse and all thanks to the help from my therapist. I am back in therapy now because its very hard to break the cycle of self harm and i need to go just so i can get words out and speak about my abuse instead of bleeding it out. I am studying now counselling and psychotherapy and I want to be a tehrapist in that centre that helped me so much and I am a volunteer there at the moment. My life is completely changed it gave me a voice and the more I spoke in therapy the more i felt safe speaking outside of therapy 🙂 It has been an amazing experience but it has been the most difficult to. But i can now safe i am safely outside the circle of abuse. I am no longer a victim, I AM A SURVIVOR xxxxx This site helped immensely also when i was goin tru tough parts in therapy, reading other peoples stories made me feel a bit more normal. I love you all xxx

  9. One of my best friends came to know the Lord, and through her struggles, she always shared she said she would pray and pray, and then God would put it right there in front of her. She always said, “ahh I get it, alright..” shaking her head and then following with, “right on.. :)” I’m having one of her moments I think.
    I am one who has felt I needed therapy too, for the soul purpose of I need to be heard. I have friends whom I trust, but the magnitude of what I am facing, and going through is too much. I feel ashamed to tell them things, I feel ashamed to burden them with how I am feeling or with sharing my break through’s because they are very intense.
    I am one who experiences the night terrors. I have since I was a little girl. Most of the dreams are re-occurring, I remember them in detail after I have them, because I have to understand them. Lately, I’ve had some big break through’s like when I’m attacked in my dreams I fight (not to hurt the person) but to break away, and then I run. This is big, because my abusers were violent, and my dreams usually are violent, and self defense was beginning to turn into a stranger grabbed me, I got scared, and instead of trying to communicate with him, I ended his life and ran. I other dreams like, me hiding at the zoo, I never understood why I did it, and was always hiding scared in a field, scared someone would find me, and then the sprinklers would turn on 🙂 but the images of the man that might catch me were so vivid I felt paralyzed by fear, and I would wake up. I had the same dream the other night –and for some reason, I didn’t feel like I was running alone,this feeling scares me- and instead of staying there because I was scared, I went further than I ever had. I climbed through a doggy door, and hid in the control room and in the bathroom, until they found me, as scared as I felt hiding, when I saw them, I felt courage and my fears were gone. I wasn’t going to let them hurt me, and we (whoever we are) were not going to go back. They the people whom I feared so much, were kind to me, instead of yelling at me and me getting in trouble, they talked to me with compassion, asking me why. In my dream, I had peace, I knew that everything was now going to be okay. And then I woke up. My other dream recently is a little too much too share, but I’m realizing I am learning. And much like you Patty, I don’t feel like I could handle someone else’s schedule. I hate to be controlled. I’m still in a bad situation. I’m fearful. I’m scared. I feel alone. I feel like no one understands. My abusers, they aren’t going to address their issues, and the law isn’t going to do anything about it. No one has my back, no one cares. I feel alone. Isolated. And, I know that I am not alone, but I’m very lonely all the same. And no one understands me. I feel like I’m toxic in relationships. People want to flee from me.

  10. Today was my second therapy session this go round. I’ve gone a couple different times over the years. I am right back at a place in my life where my mind is just so muddeled and I need to talk to someone to help sort my feeelings out. I really don’t have the money to pay for it since my insurance doesn’t cover it til I meet my deductible, but trying to bounce thoughts and ideas off someone I hope will help again. I have such a hard time getting my thoughts and emotions in order, and sometimes my fiance thinks the more reading I do the more I get confused. Plus, it’s hard when I have SO MUCH to say and only an hour a week to talk…. But I’m working on it 🙂

  11. Janet, have you tried journaling, at all? i know iy has helped me, over the years – 3v3n when there are no words, because when i can’t find the words, i draw stick figures–or even just scribble!
    it is very inexpensive, and could help you greatly, between therapy sessions.

  12. Renee,

    I’m so glad that you were able to find what you needed to help you. I’m always happy to hear of positive results in which ever way we heal. Thank you for sharing! Patty

  13. Jono,

    Thank you for sharing! i enjoy reading and especially writing. It has been so beneficial to me in expressing my feelings and finding the keys to a lot of unanswered questions. I agree that having good and kind people in our lives can make such a difference for us. My quest has been to make sure that I surround myself with quality people who love me in spite of where I have been and where I am going. patty

  14. Ven,

    That’s wonderful that you were able to find someone to help you understand the battles you were having. It’s always so uplifting to hear good results. The important thing is that we heal, and I’m so glad that you are.

    Thanks for sharing! Patty

  15. Janet,

    I”m so sorry that you are in that situation and I can only hope that you will be able to continue your healing and gain strength to find a way to live in peace. I personally can’t imagine living in such conditions, and I’m sorry that you feel that is the only avenue available for you at this time. (( hug)) Patty

  16. Mairiad,

    I felt so inspired by reading your story. It speaks so much of your strength and courage to continue to find help even tho you were showed examples from people who didn’t know how to help you. That is awesome and I’m so glad that you were able to find a safe haven and are now in the process of wanting help others. We need survivors in the position of helping other survivors. As you know, there is more about us, then what people see and it takes understanding to see beyond our coping mechanisms. Good for you.

    Thanks so much sharing, Patty

  17. Esther,

    There are many who understand what you are going thru and I hope that what ever help you need, you will find. I can understand how it’s hard to share every detail of your abuse and feeling like you don’t want to take up your friends time. It was important for me to get it out of my head and that is why I wrote so much. Some were letters to myself, some were letters to my abusers and some were lists dividing up healthy and unhealthy patterns I had developed over the years. I would like to encourage you to continue on with your healing and to find what avenue you feel you need in order to do it. The good news is that there are more and more of us speaking up which means there are more and more of us who understand. We are not alone. You are not alone. ((hug)) Patty

  18. I started the “healing” process when I was 37 years old. I always struggled with the abuse I endured, but, I thought of protecting everyone else and not myself. It look me years to get the strength to speak up. I went to a therapist that was abused herself. She helped me so much. She once stopped the session and let me know how I was viewing things was not right. She said that I was responding in the way only an abused person would. She understood me and was able to help change me and my unhealthy thoughts and ways of dealing with situations. I went to at least 5 different therapists before I found “the one.” For me, it’s really important to see someone who has experienced similar circumstances. They understand and can truly help.

  19. Hi Its Clare manley
    I was just getting over my abuse when I had a nasty shock of finding out that my abuser is back on the seen where I was getting my first flat so then the police got in volved so it fell through. but looked at another flat where im living at the moment so fingers cross I can start over again.

    From Clare

  20. I came under the radar of local mental health services after I told the police about the abuse and went into melt down. I’d tried to handle it alone for over 25 years and reached the point where I realised I couldn’t carry on alone and that I had to speak out about the abuse. That was only the beginning.

    During the past year I’ve worked with several different mental health professionals to stabilise me and have just begun therapy with a specialist sexual abuse therapist. I’ve been seeing a counsellor privately since June and the work I’ve done with her has been phenomenal. I’ve begun to view my childhood and what happened from a different perspective which has made a huge difference to me.

    I had to move into therapy because I realised I wasn’t getting anywhere on my own. I’ve read books down the years but really needed some solid professional intervention. It’s made a huge difference to me too coming across OSA and Emerging from Broken. I’ve needed a variety to approaches to begin to heal. I wouldn’t have got to where I am today without each and every bit of support I have.

    Therapy isn’t for everyone, but it’s contributed so much to all the changes that have occurred in my life during the past year. I’m thankful to have worked with some amazingly compassionate professionals who are very good at what they do.

  21. Patty, Jennifer and Christina…I love to read everything that you share about your experiences. In of it’s self, it’s healing to know that others have gone through sexual abuse. You all are giving other survivors a safe way to open up and talk about being abused. As you know, that is one of the hardest things to do!

    My point is, is that reading your experiences was my red flag to get help. Can I afford it? Nope! But I am lucky enough to have free counseling via the Betty Griffin House. I needed the therapy. Is it possible to heal without help? Depends on the person. For me, I needed it. I needed someone to talk to that was not biased. I needed someone to validate the fact I wasn’t crazy. As victims…we need therapy! Please, do not advocate to others that it’s possible to heal without it. It may have worked for you, but it may not work for others.

    Happy Holidays to all of you and thank you for all that you do for victims.

  22. Ruth,
    I’m glad you’re getting the help you need–and even better that’s it’s free.

    I disagree with your statement, “As victims…we need therapy”. I was a victim and I didn’t need therapy. I don’t know if I would have benefitted from therapy, but I didn’t require it to heal. Patty, Jennifer and I aren’t the only survivors who are thriving without professional help. The truth is that it’s not really as necessary as it’s assumed to be. We’d never tell survivors not to seek therapy, but we do think it’s important to talk about other options.

    Happy Holidays to you too! Thanks for sharing your perspective.

  23. Fi,
    It’s so great that you’ve persevered to find what works for you. I’m so glad for all the progress you’ve made with all the variety of resources you’ve found. That’s what really matters.

  24. Kristen,
    I agree that it’s so beneficial to be able to share with someone who understands. I’m glad you found someone like that!

  25. i am a survivor of sexual and physical abuse. I am 38 today and i am only just beginning to cope with the horrible things i have had happen to me . thank god for a very special therapist at my local veterans hospital. i carried this abuse with me for over 25 years. i told no one! until i found a therapist that i felt i could trust and my wonderful fiancé who is standing by and helping me through this. i am at the beginning and i was told that these blogs might be a good place to start. it:s hard to find a support group for men that are looking for help

  26. Clare, that’s so disturbing to have your life invaded like that. I hope you can find a place where you feel safe from him.

  27. Hi Tim, I’m glad you were referred here! We are definitely a diverse group, open to men and women so I hope you feel at at home. That’s awesome you found someone who helped you open up. I think that’s one of the best use of a therapist. Having someone who helps you find your voice and find tools that will help you help yourself. That makes me so happy you found such a good support to start you journey!

  28. I can’t speak for everyone and each situation is different . For me I wouldn’t be where I am at now without therapy . My therapist saved my life. She has shown me ways to cope and without her I would probably be dead. I have had multiple suicide attempts, fought addiction. It too me a year to get it out and have the strength to face it but I have. My life has gotten better because of it. I have a lot of work ahead of me yet bet I am determined to get through it. With that being said I think it’s important to look for outside help.

  29. I do not have friends (so far) who have been sexually abused to talk with about healing from it.
    I don’t feel comfortable sharing on an ongoing basis with friends who haven’t; they couldn’t relate and I would feel like they might be thinking, “Shouldn’t you be discussing this with a therapist?”
    I will be in group therapy soon, so maybe I will find survivors there.

    BTW, any term that describes a crime with the word “sexual” as in “sexual abuse” offends me. It implies that the crime was a sexual one. Being molested was not a sexual experience for me.
    Rape and molestation are crimes of psychological and physical torture, not sexuality.

  30. I just read in one of the comments about writing a letter to the abuser. It wasn’t mentioned here, but I’ve read in many places that writing a letter “not to send” is cathartic.
    I wrote one and sent it. Why not?
    I found it more cathartic to mail it, and I followed it up with a phone call.
    I told him off and then hung up.
    I tried to sue him, but the SOLs blocked me.
    I wish I had called the police a long time ago, but was actually shamed by a therapist out of doing so (this was before therapists were required to report.)
    Still angry!!!

  31. Sandra,
    That’s awful that the therapist shamed you out of reporting. I’m glad you’re finding what works for you now.

    About the letters to abusers, that’s excellent that you had such a positive effect from confronting your abuser. Most of the time that I talk about writing letters to my abusers, I clarify that I didn’t send them because of the frequent assumption that the letters must be sent. I don’t think healing comes from the abusers so I don’t think it matters if they get my letters or not. When I was early in my recovery, I was still afraid of hurting their feelings, so if I thought the letters would be seen by my abusers, I wouldn’t have been able to write so freely. The letters were helpful to me simply because I could finally acknowledge and express the pain, injustice and anger I’d been afraid to face. Even though now I don’t care about protecting my abuser’s feelings, it wouldn’t benefit me to actually send the letters. I don’t care what my abusers think about what they did to me. They are sick people who don’t care about the harm they caused so they don’t have anything to contribute to my healing or to my life. I know other survivors have felt the desire to confront their abusers in person or to send the letters and some professionals even say that’s necessary for healing, but that wasn’t true for me.

    It’s great that we can all share the variety of tools that have worked for us so we it’s clear that there isn’t just one path to healing. We all have such unique journeys and we need to decide what works for us. Thanks for sharing from your experience.

  32. I agree, whatever works for each individual. I don’t feel any healing can come from the the people who abused me, either. I don’t feel I got any major healing effect from sending the letter, but I’m glad I did because it broke through the belief that I was the bad one a little bit.
    The phone call broke through that feeling more. I felt, as I sat with the phone before calling, that the police were going to break down my door and arrest ME. I was highly anxious, and I made the call anyway.
    Guess what? I wasn’t arrested.
    That experience helped me put a few holes in my lie that I’m the guilty party.
    Unfortunately, just a few. I still have that lie in my head.
    I had no interest in his reply which is why I hung up immediately afterwards.
    What would have helped the most would have been his arrest and conviction.
    Meanwhile, can you tell me where on this site you talk about dealing with the anger; mine is less but it’s still a lot.

  33. I love learning that there are women who have healed as much as the writers on this site have without therapy. I’ve had therapy (hurtful in some ways, minimally helpful in others) and have started again with a male therapist. That’s scary for me, but he’s very kind so I may learn it’s safe to have trust one day in relation to a man.
    I don’t plan on being in therapy for years, so I’m thrilled to discover how much is possible on one’s own.

  34. Sandra, I can see why mailing the letter could be helpful: it has a feeling of defiance about it – not needing to care about the feelings of your abuser! Way to go!!

  35. I was so relieved to hear that I am not the only one who had problems getting help from therapists. No one even talked about sexual abuse until Oprah brought it to television. I am 63 and spent years thinking that I was the only one…that something had to be wrong with me.

    One psychologist told me that there were others “who were worse off than me”. A psychiatrist said that “to err is human, to forgive divine” and that as soon as I forgave my parents and “healed” our family, I would feel better about myself? I don’t know what planet he came from.

    Another, the wife of a friend of my husband’s, immediately stereotyped me, saying that because I was overweight, she should have known I had been sexually abused as a child and was convinced that I had a substance abuse problem (because I said that I don’t drink and have never used drugs that I was just in denial).

    I began to think that all of the professionals were as crazy as I was. Strangely enough, the psychologist used cocaine and my husband’s friend’s wife lost her medical license because she wrote herself false prescriptions for narcotics.

    But it is people like all of you and websites such as this that have been the most help. Those and my husband of 40 years. He reads these blogs with me and the letters and often encourages me to write about my feelings.

    Thank you all so much for sharing…..

    Hugs and prayers,

  36. Well I guess there is good and bad in every profession . I am just really lucky that I found a great therapist through the VA. It took me 4 or 5 to find one that I could trust. She is amazing and has helped me finally find the strength to open up and I have yet to hear any of these things from her that i’m seeing on this board .Most times all she does is listen. I guess that’s what I need most right now it was literally killing me . I held in so much in the last 25-30 years. I owe my life to her.

  37. Tim,
    You are so blessed that you found a therapist to help you. I think that most of the ones I tried did more harm than good. Only one person outside of my home, a minister from my childhood, told me the truth when I was finally able to tell my husband and utltmately this very kind man. He said that he had suspected something was wrong with my family, but with no proof, he could do nothing. This was in the 60’s and no one talked about it.

    I had been raped and molested from the age of four by my father…something started by my mother. I was 36 before I was able to say it aloud. I did not block it out. I cannot forget it. I remember the first time as clearly as I do the last, at age 16. The good things of my childhood are what I cannot remember. And I was tied to that hell until I was 22 and married a man that I only knew for six weeks. Someone I am still married to and was sent by God to save me from utter destruction.

    My trust of most people is almost nonexistent because of the response I have gotten from almost everyone else besides these two good men. But these websites have been an outlet for me. I am 63 and will carry the pain of my childhood to my grave.

    But I thank God that some, like you, have been able to find someone to help and understand,

    Hugs and prayers,


  38. It has been comforting to actually read all of these posts and to find this website. I am 22 and had 2 separate experiences when I was young. When I was 11 I was molested by a 14-year-old boy. At 14 I was abused by my best friend’s uncle. Though the abuse stopped, one of the lasting consequences was a spiral into a 7 year addiction. I finally got control of my life at 19, was happy, and finishing college. I had told my parents of the incident when I was 11 as soon as it happened, and they handled it very well. They immediately went to the boy’s parents, who got him professional help (many would wonder why no legal action, but I have to come to truly believe that he did not intend me harm. We were very close friends, and I was very physically affectionate–cuddly and such. I don’t believe he realized that an 11 year old is not on the same hormonal page as a 14 year old boy and thought that what he was doing was something I would want. We have since made amends and though I struggle with the consequences, I can say I truly forgive him.)
    My parents had me meet with a religious leader just to make sure that I knew I had done nothing wrong and make sure I was OK. I don’t think I really understood though what the impact would be. I struggled with depression, extreme shyness/being closed off, and was never easily able to make friends. I never told my parents about my friend’s uncle for fear I would lose my friend, one of my few close friends.
    Just before I turned 21, my mom suddenly asked me if I ever thought about what happened when I was 11. I have 3 younger sisters who are all a little boy crazy and love to date. I have never had a boyfriend or dated someone. I go on a date or 2 here and there, but that is it. My mom asked me if that was the reason I didn’t date. It definitely had contributed. I knew I was very uncomfortable around men, I did not enjoy being touched, I hated car rides alone with a guy, etc. I told my mom that maybe I was a little uncomfortable but that it wasn’t a big deal, I was fine. I was and am still uncomfortable talking about it with my parents, or anyone. I often feel embarrassed by the stories and how much it has affected my life. My mom asked me if I thought I needed counseling to which I said a strong no. But she started to insist, so I made a deal that if she did everything, found the counselor, got an appointment set it up and all I had to do was walk in, that I’d go at least once. My mom is the type to forget these things or procrastinate. Well…she didn’t forget. And at the end of October (this conversation happened in February) I had a falling out with my closest friend after only being friends a short time, a pattern in my life. My mom came to me and told me she had been speaking with a counselor in Tucson and described to him my “symptoms” and he agreed with her that I would benefit from counseling. She had found a counselor, already called her and set everything up. 3 days later I was sitting in a session. And it was horrible.
    I felt invaded, being forced to discuss things I hadn’t discussed in 10 years. The counselor’s style didn’t fit me, I felt like she was always half asleep. She just wanted me to talk away without a whole lot of input. That’s not me. I progress when I can have a conversation with someone, not when I am asked to just talk and explain “where” I felt uncomfortable, and “how” I felt uncomfortable. I stuck with it because losing that particular friend was a huge emotional loss to me and I realized maybe I had some issues. I am a deeply religious person and believe strongly healing comes through Christ, but this was not discussed at all with my counselor. Our insurance isn’t very good and they did not cover any counselors of my faith so we were making do. Finally in the end December/beginning of January, I knew something had to change. I had made things terribly worse with this friend and what strangled pieces of our friendship was left were erased. I was deeply depressed, often sleeping 13-15 hours a night and only getting up for work, not exercising, eating very little.
    I talked to my parents (who were paying for everything) and asked them if I could switch to religious counseling and told them that I really felt it would better benefit me, and they readily agreed. I was paired up with another counselor, a male counselor, which scared me at first, but ended up being alright. This counselor did a good job, but his training and approach was focused on depression and relationships. It was what I needed at the time, and helped me realize I had some things to work on and gave me some great insights. But it has reached a point where it no longer is helping. His approach is a short-term, “get out there and get going” approach, which was perfect for helping me pull myself out of the depression, but not really tailored to my experiences with abuse.
    I am in the process of trying to see a new counselor, one who specializes in treating sexual abuse. And interestingly, treats abusers as well. I am interested to see her perspectives. She also has a “Safe Touch” program in which, if I agree, she is allowed to make small, “safe touches”–for example to reach over and squeeze a shoulder or a hand during a counseling session in an effort to help those (like me) who have disconnected from touch. I actually think that will help me, as I am stiff even giving hugs.
    I have questioned a lot if counseling is really what I need. Were my experiences really enough to make me feel the way I do? I feel like there is something wrong with me often. I feel isolated and unwanted. Even when I am told I am great by people, I feel I have a bland and undesirable personality, like I am not worth someone taking the time to get to know, like I am not worth someone’s time or worth sticking around for, and I stubble feeling abandoned. I have a great family who loves me so much, but I don’t live at home and outside of them, I don’t have many relationships/friendships that last.
    I have decided to continue with counseling and I see the benefits of it. For me, I have reached a point where I can’t bottle up any more inside. I just want to talk to somebody, just tell somebody how I feel. Unfortunately, I don’t ave any close or trusted friends. That is part of why I think counseling will be beneficial for me–I am 22, have no close friends to speak of, am not really interested in dating, don’t like being touched, and yet I crave so badly to have healthy, meaningful, human relationships. I am hoping that through counseling I can learn how to heal, to bring down the defensive walls, to learn how to reconnect with myself and to learn how to connect with people. I know a counselor can’t wave a magical wand and make all of those things happen, I know I will have to do the work. But with my experiences so far with counseling (even the bad ones), I have found that they can offer insight I haven’t seen. They can help me realize what thought patterns I need to change. And they can offer the support that I don’t have anywhere else.

  39. Rebekah,
    Welcome to OSA! I’m glad you found us and that you know you’re not alone. That’s wonderful that you’re making progress in your healing and figuring out what you need and making adjustments as you go. That’s vital for each of us, no matter the tools we use. Thanks for sharing.

  40. Today is a great day for victims of sexual abuse, especially male victims. I would have loved to see the man that abused me see the same fate as Sandusky . He will rot in prison and live the rest of his days in shame. My abuser unfortunately got to live out the rest of his days at home until he died many years ago. I have no problem living through these other victims and finding some type of closure for myself. I hope that this gives other victims the strength to step up and report their abuse to the proper authorities. Justice has been served and this animal’s reign of terror is over . No more children will be hurt by him!!

  41. Rebekah,
    Good for you that you have the will to seek out help and the kind you think you need. I think we should listen to our sixth sense more often.

    Welcome to this site. This site would have been so helpful to me when I was going to therapy, about 15 years ago. I so much wanted to know that I was no alone. My father was my abuser, my mother did no care.
    My self-esteem was in the gutter, like yours was.

    Therapy for me was life saving. I think the real shockaroo was when i started mentioning it others after in therapy for some time, I found there were many more who would come to me to talk. Now I can sense a survivor when I bring up the topic. I just let them know that there is help. Now I will have this website to refer them to.

    I still go to my therapist for tune-ups now and then. Keep going friend you are on the mend…

  42. Hi everybody,

    I am new and I hope someone reads this…I am blessed to find your wonderful website. I feel right at home reading all your stories and comments. I have struggled with the same abuse issues that you write about. I am trying to read all of this website and this thread really spoke to me. I also have tried therapy with several of these “so-called” therapists basically getting nowhere. A friend of mine agreed with me that many of these “therapists” can be very pushy and angry if you cannot do healing work fast enough according to their timetable. My experiences were that many of them were either cold and uncaring–(only caring about the money–LOL!) or totally clueless about my very real pain–(like a college textbook knowledge having no real world experience.) I would also be criticized for having a FOO background where I was an only child and my family lived in a large home in a nice upper class neighborhood–(my father had a high paying job but not wealthy.) Then these “therapists” would seem to imply that abuse was the “price” that I had to pay for living in a nicer neighborhood. Of course, I would then explain saying that is my past and now I am a single adult with a not very high paying job–(doing honest work)–living alone, and barely making ends meet! Plus, there were no other kids in the house to take any of the abuse.

    I have learned to heal my past in an eclectic manner through books and websites. Plus I found a few good friends through my spiritual groups who shared similar abuse issues and I did not feel so alone anymore. It took me a long to realize that it was not my fault and I could not have done anymore than I did to survive. I have more to share….thanks so much!


  43. hi, my name is ellie and i’m from nigeria. i just recently decided to stop running from my past and try to deal with it. i was abused as a child and i cant get over it. how do i face my past? can any1 help me?

  44. Is anyone still on here?

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