Healing Sexual Abuse



I was one of those people who just couldn’t imagine that sexual abuse was
so pre-
valent. I was raised in a family which, though it had its problems, was free of
alcoholism and sexual abuse. Incest was never mentioned as I grew up, nor was
it discussed in my two years of postgraduate training in psychiatric social
work at the UW from l974-76. Part of my job as an emergency room social worker
at Harborview was to receive and comfort sexual assault victims, document the
sordid details of the rape, and assist in a pelvic exam to gather legal
evidence. The subject of incest came up infrequently in the case of neglected
or abused children in conjunction with Children’s Protective Services.
Otherwise, even in the progressive and open social work atmosphere at
Harborview, it was still a relatively undiscovered subject. I began to get an
inkling of the impact of sexual abuse during a Steven Levine seminar on
relationships four years ago when about 25% of the women attending admitted to
having experienced it personally. I was still in disbelief.

It has been only in the past three years in working intensively with women
that my eyes have been opened to the stark reality of sexual abuse. I have
heard woman after woman pour out her heart to me about the pain and suffering
they have experienced around being sexually threatened, molested, or violated.
Since it essential for me as a homeopathic doctor and counselor to throughly
understand each of my patients, I have elicited many shocking stories from my
patients. My continual response is one of sadness and amazement that such
gentle, loving women have had, for whatever reason, to experience such pain,
violence, disillusionment, and emotional suffering sometimes lasting a
lifetime.

I remember starting to cry when a particularly sensitive and gentle woman
told
me how her father would crawl into bed with her several times a week, fondle
her
breasts, and force her to have intercourse with him. He was drunk and
threatened to
hurt her even more if she ever told anyone about it. She was only four at the
beginning, had absolutely no idea what he was doing, whether it was wrong, or
how she was supposed to respond. So, she withdrew, turned herself on
“automatic” and left her body every time she was incested. It provided an
escape for six years but turning herself off sexually no longer worked now that
she was married and very much in love with her husband.

Another woman I saw recently was also forced to stroke her father’s penis
repeatedly from the time she was ll to l7. She describes herself as rather
naive and emotionally immature. When she was l9 she went to work for a medical
doctor who, before he started seeing his patients, would tell her to get up on
the table every morning for “an exam”. As unlikely as it seems, she did so for
a year. Because of her long history of incest, she still had no concept of
healthy sex. She now has a tremendous aversion to making love with her
partner.

I was recently invited to Winthrop, Washington and spoke to about 30 women
on PMS and menopause. One of the women who approached me after the talk to
make an appointment looked at me teary-eyed, said she couldn’t really tell me
at that time what was going on, but thought at counseling appointment was what
she needed. When I saw her individually, she immediately started crying and
recounted to me her story of sexual abuse by her brother. She had a very happy
l0-year marriage and two children but never had the courage to tell her husband
about the incest because he and her brother were very close and she feared
their friendship would be destroyed once he knew what her brother had done. I
was the first person she had ever really told about it and she was greatly
relieved when I suggested that she did share it all with her husband. She had
wanted to tell him desperately and just needed some encouragement to do so.

The repercussions of such abuse are many. Underlying anger is often
repressed
and is expressed instead in the form of shame (“I must have deserved it.”),
fear (“How
can I ever trust a man sexually?), or depression (“If this is what life is all
about, forget it!”). Sometimes the anger does come out as rage, child abuse, or
self-destructive behavior. Self-abuse can show itself in such guises as
compulsive eating, anorexia, continual relationships with partners who are
physically, sexually, or verbally abusive or in more subtle ways such as never
really allowing oneself to succeed or be really happy. Physical symptoms often
occur as a result of sexual abuse, sometimes years later. Those which I have
seen most often are bladder or kidney problems, skin eruptions such as eczema,
headaches, or any kind of menstrual or reproductive problem, including abnormal
Pap smears and inability to conceive.

Many cases of sexual abuse are familial and many are not. Incest is much
more complicated because the healthy mother-father-sibling relationship has
been perverted and our relationship with our parentscan effect all of our other
relationships. Once a woman has remembered the sexual abuse, then she is faced
with the decision of what to do about it. She may have recalled the abuse
through therapy or hypnosis and may not be sure whether or not to trust the
subconscious information. Confronting a parent or sibling years later can be
extremely traumatizing for all members of the family. One doesn’t know whether
one will be faced with denial, remorse, accusations, or whether a divorce
between parents or long-term separation between her and her parents may be the
result. There is probably no more difficult decision for a mother than whether
or not to stay with her husband who she has discovered is committing or has
committed incest with her child. Often other siblings have been involved as
well and may not remember or wish to be reminded of their own past traumas.
They may be adults, have their own relationships and children, and simply not
want to get involved. There is often the issue of their own small children who
may not be safe around the past offender. Alcoholism, of course, may still be a
major dynamic in the family, perhaps openly, perhaps covertly.

If you have experienced sexual abuse in any form, you may find the
following recommenda- tions of help. l) Realize that your own situation is
unique. Use your intuition every step of the way to check out what is right in
your healing process. Follow your inner guidance and time frame. Assure
yourself that healing is possible. 2) In most cases, it is helpful to work with
an experienced psychotherapist. Find someone with whom you are really
comfortable because uncovering issues of sexual abuse is intimate and makes you
very vulnerable. I have found that healing issues of sexual abuse is not
necessarily a long, drawn-out process. If you are really ready for
transformation, your therapy may only take months rather than years. If you do
not have recall of the abuse but your therapist suggests it, be sure that his
or her hunch is accurate before assuming that you have actually been abused.
You may find that family therapy is necessary as well. Your therapist can help
you with such decisions as when and how to confront the offender, tell the rest
of the family, etc. 3) I have found hypnosis to be extremely effective in
healing sexual abuse. In the first place, there are specific hypnotic
techniques which access past recall in ways that are not overwhelmingly
frightening. When a traumatic even such as sexual violation occurs, especially
in childhood, it is no wonder that the conscious mind often “forgets” the
experience as a protective mechanism. Under hypnosis, it is possible, gently,
to bring to light again those subconscious memories. It is also possible
through the hynotic process, to relive the experience, to bring your current
knowledge and intelligence back to the you who was in such need of it back
then, and also to rewrite history, so to speak. Hypnosis also allows for the
creation of a protective shield for the present, past, and future. It may also
be helpful to do past life regression in order to understand why you may have
chosen the abuse experience before you incarnated this time in order to
learnand/or teach a particular lesson.

Viewing your relationship with the person who abused you throughout various
lifetimes may offer a unique perspective and speed up your healing process. The
more you can understand the spiritual significance of your suffering and how it
fits into your overall life purpose, the more deeply you can heal. 4) I have
found constitutional homeopathic treatment to be immensely helpful to remove
the layer of grief and shame caused by the abuse as well as any physical
symptoms you may be experiencing. Homeopathy can balance you on an energy level
from the inside out so that you are empowered to heal much faster and can
shorten the length of psychotherapy considerably. 5) I believe that forgiveness
is the ultimate step in the healing process. This may take a long time, and may
need to happen again and again. First, forgive yourself. Have the same
compassion for yourself as you would for someone else in the same position.
Release any blame and see yourself deserving of healing, fully and completely.
It is very understandable that you may not now be in any space to forgive the
person who has abused you…but you may be at a later time. In my counseling
and hypnosis work, I guide the woman to tell her abuser, face to face, what she
wishes she could have said at the time. It is as easy to call forth an
individual who has died as one who is still alive. In the end it is important
to realize that none of us really wants to create suffering for another. It is
illness, perversion, and lack of love that allows one to abuse another. The
abuser needs just as much compassion as you do. 6) Do whatever you need to free
you current and future intimate relationships from the influence of the past
abuse. Share openly with your sexual partner your past experiences and
feelings. Allow this relationship to be different from any negative experiences
of the past. Give yourself permission to attract to you the wonderful
relationship which you fully deserve.

Drs. Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman is a naturopathic and homeopathic physicians
and cofounders of the Northwest Center for Homeopathic Medicine in Edmonds, WA.
She is coauthor of
The Patient’s Guide to Homeopathic Medicine and
Beyond Ritalin: Homeopathic Treatment of ADD and Other Behavioral and
Learning Problems. She can be reached at (206) 774-5599.

© 1996 Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman, N.D., M.S.W. and Robert Ullman, N.D.

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Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman ND MSW Written by Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman ND MSW

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