Making love to your beloved partner is one of the most beautiful activities for the mind, soul and the body. Yet this divine union can be turned into a nightmare if it’s forced.

Victims of rape and molestation feel out of control, violated, disrespected, constantly threatened and disgusted with their own bodies. The spark in their eyes is put out and they struggle to redefine themselves and their purpose in life.

They feel ashamed, embarrassed, damaged goods. They are scared to tell their parents and friends for fear they will be blamed for what happened to them. Sexual abuse gives the victims mixed feelings about their own body. They often feel disgusted about their body and try to disconnect from it emotionally. They are likely to neglect their bodies. They will not groom their bodies daily or have a shower; especially maintaining hygiene for their private parts. They will avoid tactile contact with their bodies. Putting on a body lotion or attending to a wound, may feel like a challenging task.

Females are likely to avoid expressing their feminine side, dressing in more masculine clothes and avoiding makeup or anything that could make them more attractive to potential abusers. They are ambivalent about their femininity as it is possibly responsible for what happened to them. Males on the other hand are left doubting their masculinity even when they are happily married. They will either constantly try to get reassurance of their masculinity from females or attempt to attract male attention and use this as evidence of their questionable masculinity.

In some cases, victims will disconnect even on a physiological level from their bodies and will not have bodily sensation. They can be bleeding or have an injury which they are not aware of. They don’t feel pain in their bodies. When we disengage from our bodies, we stop being aware of the physiological processes. Therefore, we will not be aware of our hunger, fatigue, injuries, aches and pains. It feels like we are living in an empty shell which leads to feelings of being lost, not knowing which direction to take in life.

Small tasks like selecting which clothes to wear to school or work or identifying which restaurant to go to or which dish to order, become sources of anxiety and desperation. The root of this is the disconnect from our body and soul. High levels of dissociation from our soul and body will result in the inability to experience pleasure, pain, excitement, sense of direction and dreaming about the future. Hence, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, apathy, anhedonia are likely to take over.

In some rare cases, victims of sexual abuse will suffer from selective amnesia. Their minds and souls cannot deal with the abuse and they will forget the incident even if it is recurrent. Selective amnesia is more likely to arise if a family member is the abuser. The subconscious mind is struggling to accept the fact that the father, uncle, grandfather or brother would inflict such emotional and physical pain on them and they choose to lock this painful information away.

However, the body still has memory and emotions will be surfacing which the victim cannot explain. For example, feeling sick when the abuser is showing kindness to her/him or when the abuser is hugging them in public or defends them. Unexplainable, unrooted emotions will be arising for years, leaving the victim feeling disoriented and disillusioned. Strong emotional outbursts can accompany sexual contact with a chosen partner. This will give rise to confusion as the victim had no recollection of the abusive previous sexual encounters. Thus, the intense negative reaction or aversion to sex, cannot be understood. Partners and friends are also perplexed with the behaviour of the victim which frequently results in the victim being blamed and shamed once more.

Individuals who have been abused, feel isolated, different from everybody else and envision their lives being a constant struggle. They feel threatened and vulnerable. In order to feel stronger physically and powerful enough to fight any potential future predator, they unconsciously put on a lot of weight. The layers of fat around their body will give them the strength to physically fight a strong well built abuser. There is a second beneficial factor to having the extra layers of fat around one’s body; the fat will make the individual unattractive and hopefully avoid rape or molestation in the future.

Victims may adopt a significantly dysfunctional relationship with food. They will often binge eat in an attempt to sweeten their pain through food or feel at least the pain in the stomach from excessive food as they can’t feel any emotions. Anorexia nervosa is also an emotional response of victims of sexual abuse. They feel out of control and they try to regain control in their lives by controlling what they eat. It also serves the secondary gain of being unattractive to the potential predator.

There is an element of sexual abuse which makes psychological recovery challenging. That factor is sexual pleasure. Especially in cases of recurrent sexual abuse incidents, sexual pleasure will emerge. The victim will have mixed feelings of guilt and pleasure. The antithesis in this combination is torturing for the individual as they cannot forgive themselves for experiencing the pleasure and feel responsible for the abuse. They will often perceive themselves as being actively involved. The sexual pleasure hinders them from feeling angry towards the abuser. They are getting pleasure out of the abuse and they can’t reconcile being angry with the abuser while getting pleasure at the same time.

Moreover, the abuser will offer them some form of reward. It may be candy or toys for young kids, money or special treatment for teenagers. The young victims will experience a sense of entrapment in the abusive relationship. They feel obliged to offer something back for all the gifts or special treatment they are receiving. This is true especially for children who have been conditioned to a form of transactional love from their parents or caregivers. An example of transactional love is: “I will give you a chocolate if you help me tidy up the house”.

Sexual abuse is a pervasive traumatic experience. It affects our relationship with our bodies, minds, souls, social interactions and intimate relationships. The percentage of individuals having experienced some form of sexual abuse is high. One in three individuals from our general population has experienced some form of sexual abuse. The actual percentage is suspected to be higher as people prefer not to talk about such painful incidents.

Victims of sexual abuse would benefit tremendously from psychotherapy and hypnotherapy treatment. Professional support and guidance from therapists who specialise in this field can help them work though their pain and redefine themselves and their lives.

In the event that psychotherapy and hypnotherapy is not an option, I will provide you with a few steps to take in order to alleviate the emotional distress.

  1. It is not your fault. Regardless of the gifts, the attention you received or the way you were dressed or behaved, you did not consent to the abuse; you did not invite the abuse.
  2. Stop blaming yourself for experiencing sexual pleasure. Certain physiological activities will create an involuntary physiological response. In sexual abuse the involuntary bodily reaction is pleasure or orgasm.
  3. Forgive yourself as you have done nothing wrong.
  4. Reconnect with your body and soul. Engage in activities where you will physically touch or be in contact with your body. Caress your body, treat it with respect, massage your body, apply nourishing body lotions or oils. Make this a daily activity. Talk to your body in a respectful, loving manner. Change the relationship you have with your body. Your body is missing you and is craving to reconnect with you.
  5. If you are suffering from eating disorders, close your eyes before you eat, put your hand on your tummy and ask your body what it is hungry for and how much your body needs to eat. Give your body exactly the food and the quantities it has requested for. With time the quality and quantities of food will change. Be patient with your body the same way you would be patient with a 2 year old child.
  6. Write a letter to your abuser. A letter that you may want to send, or keep or burn later on. Take your anger, pain, frustration out of your system. You may need to write numerous letters until you feel at peace.
  7. You can always make a police report against the abuser regardless of the years from the time of the abuse. I suggest you check with a lawyer about the laws and legal consequences in your country. Make sure that you feel strong enough to go through this process.
  8. Talk to your family members about your experience if you feel they will and can support you.
  9. Choose carefully which friends you can talk to about your abuse. Not everyone can deal with such disturbing information or has the knowledge to do so. Protect yourself from more emotional abuse or shame.
  10. The ultimate goal is to forgive the abuser, not the act nor what they did. Forgiving is beneficial for your soul. Carrying the pain, anger and desolation is poisonous to you. Take your time until you reach forgiveness. It may take years. Be gentle and loving with yourself in the process.

You are a survivor and you deserve the best life has to offer.