What Factors Determine Whether You Heal From Childhood Abuse?

Dear Neil:  Your column about incest and rape brought up a question I hope you can address.  I am survivor of long-term (9 years) childhood incest, and I was later raped as a teenager.  I have attended support groups for survivors, and 12-step programs for co-dependency.  I have been in and out of counseling, and have read just about everything I can find about sexual abuse.  Can you tell me what factors enable some victims  to recover while others do not?

Trying Hard

Dear Trying Hard:  Here are several factors for you to consider:

  • How long did the abuse occur?  How severe was it?
  • How well can you distinguish between the past and the present?  Are you frequently projecting your past into the present?
  • Can you trust men?  How well?
  • Has the abuser(s) been confronted?  Has your abuser made an attempt to apologize and make some form of amend or restitution to you?
  • How well have you been able to let go of or forgive your abusers, your past, yourself?
  • Do you have clearly defined goals for your future?  Do such goals include a trusting relationship with a man you can be close to and believe in?
  • What have you done to increase your self-esteem?  What have you done to love, approve of and believe in yourself?
  • How are you better, wiser, richer, and healthier because of  what happened to you in your past?  How well have you grown and learned from your adversity?
  • What are you doing to be happy?  What are you doing to have the best life you possibly can?

You gain empowerment over your life to the extent that you can believe in yourself and trust other people. (Not everyone, mind you.  We all have to be discriminating and careful.  But can you trust men who are basically healthy and honorable?)  You will be healed from your past to the extent that you no longer see yourself as a victim in the present.  Victimhood was then.  What are you doing to have the best life you can now?

Dear Neil:  Answer this one question:  Are there any emotionally healthy African-American men out there?

Diamond

Dear Diamond:  Of course, there are.  If you’re not meeting them, get inventive and find new or different places to look.  Go to places where you think men that interest you would hang out.  Spend time at your local college or university, volunteer for a sports franchise nearby, take dance classes, join a political party (or other organizations that interest you) and attend their functions.  Can you think of other ideas that I didn’t?

Dear Neil:  I enjoyed your recent article on how to be more romantic—especially the recommendation to replace the light bulbs in the bedroom with candles.  But I found it rather difficult to keep the candle in the ceiling light fixture.  It kept falling out. On the last try, it fell on the bed and started a small fire!  I guess you could call it a real hot time.  Oh well, anything for love.  I’m just not sure how the insurance adjuster will view it.

On Fire in Denver

Dear Aflame: Oops.  Romance is not supposed to be that hot.  Perhaps you should consider a dimmer-switch instead.

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