Tag Archives: recovery from abuse

Healing from Abuse

Child abuse – whether physical, emotional, or sexual abuse or neglect – is likely to have permanent consequences. The wounds of abuse are grievous, inflicted when we are most vulnerable.

The extent to which we heal varies from one victim to the next, as does the rate at which healing takes place. This makes perfect sense. Victims are violated at various ages, for varying lengths of time, in countless evil ways. They have unique internal resources, and varying degrees of external support (sometimes none).

All these are factors in recovery. We must not, therefore, gauge our progress by that of others.

The “Inner Child”

Experts often refer to the wounded “inner child”. This is not to suggest that victims develop multiple personalities, though some may. It is an abbreviated means of saying we remain sensitive to issues relating to abuse, and – at an emotional level, at least – retain a strong recollection of the trauma inflicted on us.

Misplaced “Coping” Strategies

Unable to defend themselves against abuse, some children adopt desperate strategies in the effort to cope with it. These childhood strategies may continue into adulthood, becoming a hindrance where they once served a legitimate purpose.

Dissociation is one such strategy. The child, in effect, imagines himself or herself elsewhere while the abuse is taking place. This is the “out of body” experience. Dissociation may later be triggered by events which recall (or mimic) the abuse. Though meant to be protective in nature, dissociation can produce serious gaps in a victim’s memory. Continue reading


Filed under Child Abuse, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse

Surviving the Fire

Read the blogs of child abuse victims and those concerned for them.  Somewhere along the line, you will find mention of what the abuse damaged or destroyed outright.

Our innocence.  Our childhood.  Our peace of mind.  Our self-confidence.  Our self-esteem.  Our ability to trust.  Our capacity to select loving partners, and sustain healthy relationships.  Our faith.  Our voice.

And from far too many, the abuse took their very lives.

For many of us, what the abuse left behind was isolation, grief, anxiety, depression, rage, and a permanent sense of violation.

Unfortunately, that we will never be the women (or men) we might have been is not helpful information.  We are who we are…marked by these scars.

In some sense, the scars are our badges – if not of honor exactly, then certainly not of shame.  We were the ones sinned against, not the ones sinning, no matter how we were made to feel about the torture inflicted upon us.

As with the veteran who has lost a limb to war or the woman who has lost a breast to cancer, this is simply our reality now. Continue reading


Filed under Child Abuse, Emotional Abuse, Justice, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Prostitution, Religion, Sexual Abuse

View from the Crater

Satellite view of Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, Author NASA (PD)

Beneath the foliage of the Yucatan peninsula and the waters of the Gulf of Mexico lies an ancient impact crater. Scientists believe this is the site where a meteor the size of Mt. Everest struck the earth, resulting in extinction of the dinosaurs.  Sixty-five million years later, geologic evidence for that impact is still present.

It is not uncommon for abuse victims to view abuse as the central event in their lives, and to define themselves with reference to it.

As with the Chicxulub crater, evidence of the abuse is still present years later.  Forever after, that destructive event (or series of events) will be the dividing line in victims’ lives: pre-abuse and post-abuse, the difference between innocence and innocence lost.

All too many women and children will die, as a result of abuse – some at the hands of a loved one, some by their own hand, years after the abuse has technically “ended”. Those who survive the trauma are likely to suffer from permanent physical and psychological symptoms, impacting all aspects of their lives.

There is nothing positive to be said about abuse.  Because of its very magnitude, however, survivors may find that abuse serves as a kind of standard against which other events can be measured.  What are office politics, by comparison? What are parking tickets, canceled flights, lost luggage, even stolen vehicles (so long as they do not generate more abuse)?

In a sense, we can draw strength from our bitter experience.  The abuse provides a unique perspective which puts many lesser things in their place. We have lived through a meteor strike.  What are mere hurricanes to us?



Filed under Child Abuse, Child Molestation, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Sexual Abuse


The supply of child abuse cases seems endless. Here are just a few examples, from recent headlines:

• In September of this year, Fr. Jeffrey Paulish, was caught in the act of molesting a 15 year old boy in a vehicle on the campus of Penn State University. Paulish first attempted to say the undressed boy had sought counseling from him. The abuser met the teen through the “casual encounters” section on Craigslist.

• In October, one of Fr. Robert Brennan’s victims died of an overdose. Brennan, age 75, is alleged to have molested more than 20 children during the 15 years he was transferred from parish to parish, when complaints of abuse were made to Catholic Church officials.

• The same month, a Pennsylvania school bus driver acknowledged having repeatedly molested an 8 year old boy from 2002 – 2004. The driver had passed a criminal check prior to being hired. Only a small percentage of predators ever fail criminal background checks.

• In November, Leon Watson, a Philadelphia youth football coach was charged with having raped two boys.  Neighbors were stunned.

Some abuse survivors will feel re-victimized on hearing such reports. The past rises up like a spectre, and we feel the familiar shame wash over us. Taste again the bile in our throats. Other abuse survivors will respond with anger that this depravity should persist.

The majority of us will instinctively pity the victims, even if reminded of our own pain. Chances are that those who remain unmoved are still so close to their trauma that identifying with other abuse victims poses too great a “threat” to their emotional stability. Distance feels safer.

A small number of abuse survivors will feel contempt for other victims, viewing them as “weak” and blaming them for the abuse inflicted. Rather than being an accurate assessment of other victims, this criticism betrays the feelings of helplessness the critics, themselves, experienced and are now desperate to deny.

There are few hard and fast rules for recovery from abuse. There is no timetable. We move forward a little, then fall back. Some lessons have to be re-learned, over and over, particularly those about the right of self-defense.

However far along we may (or may not) be toward healing, let us strive to keep faith with one another, and to bear witness to the truth of our ordeal.



Filed under Child Abuse, Justice, Sexual Abuse