Victims: Can They Find Closure?
By Arny Alberts
You decide to seek professional help regarding a past
relationship that has troubled you for some time. The process to
find a therapist is not easy, but you eventually select one through
an internet search. As you schedule the initial appointment, an
uneasy feeling rises in your stomach when they ask for the reason of
your visit. You are not prepared for the inquiry and begin to doubt
if psychological counseling is what you need. The date is set, but
you remain skeptical whether or not you can actually discuss this
problem with another person.
In your first session, the therapist starts by asking you a
very direct question. Why you have come to see them? For the first
time in your life, you talk about an inappropriate relationship that
happened many years ago. A brief assessment by the therapist
generates a difficult question for you to understand or answer. Was
the relationship, from beginning to end, consensual? From a
different viewpoint, the relationship is now defined from a position
of control. As your therapist introduces the concept of sexual
abuse, feelings and emotions overcome you. Knowing that a person you
trusted, someone in a position of authority, betrayed and abused you
is not easy to deal with. What is the best way for you to handle
this recent awareness? How do you come to terms with what happened
and find closure?
Listed are some steps toward closure:
relationship – victims of inappropriate relationships are often
unaware they have been abused because of age or comprehension.
Several years, even decades, may pass before victims come to
terms with what happened in their past. At some point, they need
to understand who the victim is in a sexual abuse situation. In
order to find closure, they need to know another individual took
advantage of them.
Removal of self
blame – victims typically blame themselves for all or some part
of the sexual abuse that occurred. A damaging effect of these
relationships leaves victims believing the abuse was somehow
their fault. In some way, they feel their involvement became a
significant factor leading to the abuse. Victims, no doubt, are
victims. Their abusers started, maintained and pursued the
abusive relationship from its conception until its ending.
Acceptance – a
hard, but necessary step towards closure is accepting what
happened. Accepting the fact that you are, and always will be, a
victim of sexual abuse is a necessary stage. Frequently, these
individuals don’t want to admit they were violated and suppress
the memories. In confrontational situations, victims have been
known to defend their abusers instead of admitting and
acknowledging the relationship. When a victim does not truly
accept their traumatic past, it may seem impossible to reach
another step in the healing process.
with life – you can never change what happened in the past. The
memories from a sexually abusive relationship could leave you
feeling emotional numb or stagnant. Some days, you may not feel
like engaging with the world around you. But, you need to deal
with this current reality and start to live the rest of your
life. Be patient. When you feel ready, take small steps each day
to reach out to family and friends. Maintaining some hope for
your future will bring a sense of normalcy back to your life.
sexual abuse victims suffer from a wide range of emotions that
complicate their recovery. A hard concept for victims to
understand is that their abusers are human. No doubt, they have
made serious judgment errors in your previous relationship and
could also have suffered from abuse at some point in their life.
Retribution, instead of compassion, tends to be a common
reaction of a victim’s feelings about their abuser. But,
forgiveness is the only way. The most challenging stage in the
healing process produces strong, constructive effects.
– at first, you may not be comfortable talking to a therapist
about your sexual abuse experience, let alone family or friends.
It is not a topic most people are comfortable talking about.
Every time you talk about the past abuse, the less power and
strength it has over you. Eventually, a family member or friend
will ask a hard, direct question about what happened. When you
discuss some part, or all of the sexual abuse experience, you
will find therapeutic relief. Your discussion will build a
strong, rich friendship as your courage to open up will develop
your own character.
Help Others –
you may think helping someone else impossible while your life
appears to be a disaster. Your emotions may be somewhat unstable
and helping another person may not be a priority in your life.
But, with access to the internet, you can anonymously share your
experience with numerous support groups. Your story could give
another victim the courage and strength to make it through one
more day. You could help someone who struggles in their own life
and finds future hope through your words.
Can closure be attained? Unfortunately, the answer is no. The
past can’t be erased, fading memories still remain and the replay of
sexual abuse continues to plague your mind. After victims accept the
past, they attempt to courageously move forward with life. Time,
therapy and support groups can help a sexual abuse victim deal with
their emotions and feelings associated with the trauma they
experienced. In the end, any effort put forth will enrich their
current life, not resolve the past. Death alone will bring full
closure to these horrific experiences.
Sexual abuse is becoming a highly visible topic in our world
today. Each day new cases are reported through local television
stations and in newspaper articles. Doctors, therapists, well- known
and first time authors write books about their individual sexual
abuse experiences throughout our country. It is disheartening to see
how widespread this problem stretches. So many families across the
United States are affected by sexual abuse in one way or another.
Not only are the victims struggling to deal with the effects of
sexual abuse, so are their families and friends. A victim of sexual
abuse assumes that nobody wants to talk them. It may be difficult to
create a suitable environment to discuss items of this nature. If
you can reach out in some way, they will know you are approachable
when they are ready to talk.
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