I have found going through the journey of childhood sexual abuse a very lonely and isolating experience. I first recognized this at nine years old when the abuse first started. I remember feeling quite different and odd. I felt something was wrong with me. I had no one to talk to and thought I was the cause of my abuse. My Dad told me if I ever told anyone what he was doing I would become deaf and dumb. This caused me to further isolate myself especially when I was around my siblings. I managed to speak out at thirteen years old when Childline came to my secondary school. I was taken into care and I faced physical loneliness too. Because I spoke out about my sexual abuse I was ostracised and rejected from my family.
I had no one I felt I could connect with and I isolated myself from people as I trusted no one. I spent a lot of time in tears and I was insecure and fearful. Growing up in care during my teen years made it easy for me to not form meaningful relationships with people, as I was moved around different placements I found it hard to settle down let alone emotionally connect with staff and peers. I suffered from depression and in order to cope with the overwhelming feelings that I struggled to understand, I smoked weed, drank too much alcohol, self-harmed and engaged in other self-destructive behaviors. I was stuck in a vicious cycle.
The start of the turning point for me was when I was given a book by a lady called Joyce Meyer. Joyce, herself a survivor of childhood sexual abuse talked about her experience and journey to healing. It was so empowering to read her book. I never heard anyone talk openly about sexual abuse before and she voiced things that I could never articulate. Another pivotal moment for me was when I found faith by becoming a born again Christian. Having a personal relationship with Jesus helped me to finally face my abuse. But it was not until a few years later at twenty-two years old that I started to address my abuse for the first time. Joyce’s’ story made me realise that I was not alone. To have someone that has been through similar things as you share their story is so powerful. This to me is a wonderful example of peer empowerment. That is why for nearly a decade I have used my voice to empower others. If you are struggling with loneliness and isolation I want to share with you 3 things that may help you.
Reading books by others who have been through abuse
There is a saying- pass it forward. I firmly believe reading books by others that have similar experiences can help you find my hope and encouragement in the challenges that you are facing. I have had survivors contact me after reading my books (I will leave links at the end of the blog) to say that it helped them to find their voice. Depending on what you are looking for there are a few books on the market that not only tell a story but also provide helpful tips as well.
Find specialist help
Speaking to a counselor who specializes in childhood trauma can also help. An important part of the process is finding the person and that can take time. Do some background check on the counselor that you are interested in. Have they worked with survivors or CSA? Do they have an undertaking of the challenges? A good counselor will not mind you asking questions and even arranging a telephone conversation with them. Some survivors will not work with a counselor because of previous bad experiences but there are other options such as helplines that give you the option of confidentiality and provide initial support. At the core of why many survivors struggle with relationships is because their trust was betrayed in being sexually abused. These options can provide a way of starting to build trust again.
Join a support group
Peer empowerment is powerful and can be given in different ways. For the last five years I have been a support group facilitator at Daughter Arise. I can honestly say it has helped many women on their journey to healing. I also did a TEDx talk on the importance of listening and peer empowerment. You may not be ready for a face-to-face support group. There are some on Facebook and also online community thread boards. If you type in on google some are bound to come up. Check out our support group here.
It is possible to get the support you need. You don’t have to be alone.
DAUGHTER ARISE – MY STORY –
CHOOSE LIFE – PRACTICAL EMPOWERMENT AND AWARENESS WORKBOOK FOR SURVIVORS
DAUGHTER ARISE SUPPORT GROUP
MY TEDx TALK- HOW WE CAN EMPOWER SURVIVORS