Sexual Abuse denotes any form of non-consensual and harmful sexual contact. Usually, this undesired sexual behavior that involves one person forcing themselves upon another, often falls short of being termed as sexual assault. It can happen to men and women of any age. First and foremost, victims of sexual abuse need to acknowledge what has happened to them regardless of their mental and emotional needs. This is the first step in the recovery process and their quest to be whole again (Friberg and Laaser, 23). Speaking out is one of the most terrifying and liberating things that survivors of sexual abuse can do.
It not only helps to heal the victim, but also lifts the shroud of secrecy and silence that thousands hide behind having lived through such a devastating experience. Talking about one’s own sexual abuse can help others to come forward with their own stories and begin to release the difficult and confusing emotions that are involved. Naturally, sexual abuse victims may have an especially difficult time talking about their trauma. According to Orange (81), telling your story can be extremely healing and empowering for those who have suffered sexual abuse.
Victims feel anxious of telling others this abuse believing that they are protecting their secret but by sharing the pain with others, it helps lessen the pain. In cases of incestuous abuse, the victim believes that by breaking the secret, they become disloyal to their family and it leaves them exposed. A victim, for example, can defend her father by minimizing, rationalizing and taking blame on herself. Speaking out prevents the abuse from happening again thus breaking this cycle. The victim gets to understand that she was abused rather than loved by her father and she can set out to seek only healthy and loving relationships in future.
Recovery from sexual abuse is a long, slow process that can be excruciatingly painful for the survivor and to begin with, talking about the experience can be more than enough. Initially, verbalizing the trauma is very difficult and the victims can become terrified as they narrate their ordeal. Speaking out is a therapeutic process that helps the survivor to express various emotions that have been suppressed for a long time (Elliott, 54). The mourning process that victims undergo helps them grieve the many losses that have occurred to their bodies, conscience etc.
Feelings of anger, sadness and fear that have been held for many years are alleviated by sharing experiences. Advocates and counselors encourage speaking out against sexual abuse, going further to state that it is crucial in the healing process and enabling the victims to get on with their lives. By talking about the abuse, victims understand that what happened was not their fault and it helps to get rid of shame and guilt. At times, sexual abuse victims can uncover and address psychological problems which they never knew existed (Norment, 154).
Sexual abuse victims should also have a supportive network of family and friends. In the past, victims were afraid to talk of their abuse because they were often criticized and made to feel as if it was their fault. Since survivors of abuse, as they are sometimes referred, often feel that they should have handled the situation differently, loved ones ought to listen to them and emphasize that it was not their fault. By speaking out, victims of sexual abuse bring to light the silence that surrounds this heinous act.
It ends the purported shame that is carried by survivors. This can help inspire others to come out and do the same. Previously, men felt very isolated as sexual abuse mostly happened to women and children but by speaking out, others realize that they are not alone. This can encourage them to seek help knowing that they can heal. Sexual abuse victims speak in the belief that they are doing so for a cause that is larger than them. The knowledge that one survivor is doing something worthwhile for countless others who are voiceless is yet another powerful motivation.
Victims of abuse who speak about it have also been known to be at the forefront of agitating for legal change and therapeutic approach for victims. This powerfully undermines social myths that have led to the acceptance of this vice. Finally, talking about sexual abuse helps the victim to actively get involved in destroying the harmful forces that have contributed to his/her predicament. It is essentially fighting back against those inclined to silencing the victims. The victim gets to categorically state that despite the abuse, his/her head is held up high and he can use his voice to fight for the rights of others.
In conclusion, it is important that society in general be made aware of the severity and pervasiveness of sexual abuse. Churches, schools and other institutions that make up the community should educate men, women and children on this vice and how to prevent it. Support systems for victims should be set up to prevent repeat occurrences by misinformed law enforcement and medical personnel. Counseling should also be made available to victims in addition to dispelling myths on sexual abuse. Men and women ought to be made aware of what is acceptable when it comes to sexual behavior.