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Triumph over Darkness by Wendy Ann Wood, M.A.


Adult Survivors of Sexual Abuse:
What We Would Like You to Know About Us.

1. We grew up feeling very isolated and vulnerable, a
    feeling that continues into our adult lives.

2. Our early development has been interrupted by abuse,
    which either holds us back or pushes us ahead
    developmentally.

3. Sexual abuse has influenced all parts of our lives.
    Not dealing with it is like ignoring an open wound.
    Our communication style, our self-confidence, and
    our trust levels are affected.

4. Putting thoughts and feelings related to our abuse
    "on the back burner" does not make them go away.
    The only way out is to go through these emotions
    and process them.

5. Our interest in sexual activity will usually decline
    while we are dealing with this early trauma. This is
    because: we are working on separating the past from
    the present. Pleasure and pain can sometimes be
    experienced simultaneously. It is important for us
    to be in control, since control is what we lacked
    as children. Sometimes we need a lot of space.
    Pressuring us to have sex will only increase our
    tension.

6. We often experience physical discomforts, pains, and
    disorders that are related to our emotions.

7. We often appear to be extremely strong while we are
    falling apart inside.

8. There is nothing wrong with us as survivors -- something
    wrong was DONE to us.

9. Sometimes others get impatient with us for not
    "getting past it" sooner. Remember, we are feeling
    overwhelmed, and what we need is your patience and
    support. Right now, it is very important for us to
    concentrate on the past. We are trying to reorganize
    our whole outlook on the world; this won't happen
    overnight.

10. Your support is extremely important to us. Remember;
     we have been trained to hold things in. We have been
     trained NOT to tell about the abuse. We did not tell
     sooner for a variety of reasons: we were fearful
     about how you would react, what might happen, etc.
     We have been threatened verbally and/or nonverbally
     to keep us quiet, and we live with that fear.

11. Feeling sorry for us does not really help because we
     add your pain to our own.

12. There are many different kinds of people who are
     offenders. It does not matter that they are charming
     or attractive or wealthy. Anybody -- from any social
     class or ethnic background, with any level of
     education-- may be an offender. Sexual abuse is
     repetitive, so be aware of offenders with whom you
     have contact. Do not let them continue the cycle of
     abuse with the next generation of children.

13. We might not want or be able to talk with you about
     our therapy.

14. We are afraid we might push you away with all our
     emotional reactions. You can help by: listening,
     reassuring us that you are not leaving, not pressuring
     us, touching (WITH PERMISSION) in a nonsexual way.

15. Our therapy does not break up relationships - it
     sometimes causes them to change as we change. Therapy
     often brings issues to the surface that were already
     present.

16. Grieving is a part of our healing process as we say
     goodbye to parts of ourselves.

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