Last week’s blog: ‘Don’t Turn a Blind Eye to Child Sexual Abuse‘ generated a lot of questions and rightly so!
I’ve decided for this blog to focus mainly on one of the key questions I received, that is:
“I’ve met a few others that have been through something similar and to this day, they find it difficult to cope. Some have broken their silence and others, I suspect went through similar trauma when they were younger. How can we go about healing from this trauma and what support is out there particularly for Black men who were abused when they were younger.”
Questions surrounding healing from sexual abuse trauma is vital but common. In answering this question, I’ll explain why trauma healing can be so challenging, then I’ll provide some of my tops tips for self-healing and where to get support.
A victim’s Initial Response to Trauma
They say when faced in traumatic circumstances, we do one of three things:
- FIGHT: Some people have the natural tendency to fight the hell out of any situation they’re in. Their adrenaline kicks in and they don’t stop until they’re out!
- FLIGHT: Others will run away when they’re terrified. They can’t face the pain. They believe their only chance of survival is to escape. Their mind is set on getting out at any means necessary!
- FREEZE: Others freeze in the moment of terror – waiting for the pain to be over. They tune out. They block out. Their minds leave their bodies behind. Or in some cases – like myself – our senses get heightened but we’re stuck in our bodies with no means of escape. Unable to react. All hope gone. Frozen!
Whilst the Fight or Flight response to trauma is about some hope of survival, the Freeze response is more likely to kick in when we believe all hope is lost. Although the conscious mind has no control in the moment over whether it “fight, flight or freeze”, it doesn’t stop the conscious mind from feeling shocked, shamed, fault, blame, disgust or even guilt about these responses.
We feel ashamed and judge ourselves for the initial and normal response we take to an abnormal situation. And each day that goes by, that we don’t say or do anything to release these thoughts and emotions, the more trapped we feel in the situation.
Experienced predators prey upon our initial responses or lack of it. They know this and will say and do things that play on these emotions to ensure our silence. They’ll say things like:
“If you tell no one will believe you”, “it’s your fault“, or “they’ll be so ashamed of you they’ll send you away and won’t want anything to do with you”.
Believing you’re the only one in this situation, you remain silent! It’s even more so if you’re from a culture or community with huge stigma associated to abuse and don’t encourage speaking out.
But you’re not alone. 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abuse before their 18th birthday – growing up to be adults with unresolved issues. The United Nation estimates that around 150 million girls and 73 million boys are victims of sexual abuse. That’s 223 million people with similar experiences like you and me!!
It’s wrong that it happened to you too. It’s wrong that it can affect the rest of your life. This includes the relationship you have with yourself and other people such as your children, partner and other friends and family. It’s wrong that it can stop you from living the life you’ve dreamed including building successful businesses or climbing the career ladder. It’s just so wrong all over!
Whilst the past maybe full of bad memories, hurt and pain, the good news is your future doesn’t have the be that way. Healing from the trauma of the abuse can lead so complete freedom and happiness inside which creates a healthier platform for you to figure out and do the things that makes you happy.
Healing from the trauma
It’s fair to say that healing from the trauma can be a very challenging process and will not occur overnight. So we must love ourselves and be patient during the process. It helps if those around us understand this so they can can’t be patient with us.
Yes – recovery can be a slow and painful journey that seems to last forever. I know for me, it definitely got worse before it got better. The fact is we’ve been through something really horrific so we can’t rush through the healing.
Healing takes time. It’s a process. One where we may take 1 step forward and 10 steps backward. This means we may cry often and have really low moods and some days it will be very difficult to cope – that’s normal! We may even develop mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Be patient with yourself. Be loving and care for yourself whilst you practise my three top tips below.
1. Find a safe space to describe and express your thoughts, feelings and emotions.
Professional trauma counsellors are highly recommended because of the neutral space and their expertise to help us work through and understand what’s going on inside and around us.
Support groups are also great places to get help. Women or Men’s support groups where people share similar experiences can help us to feel comfortable to release our pain. I find it particularly useful if I know others in the room have had similar experiences. I try to learn from them and I don’t feel judged when I share any parts of my experiences. Instead I feel appreciated as we grow togather. Women are known to talk much more than men so support groups can be particularly powerful for men who have been abuse – to hear other men talking about their pain. Support groups can work really well alongside counselling. But if you’re not ready for counselling or can’t access it at the moment, I’d definitely recommend joining a local support group.
If you can’t access counselling or a support group, but you know someone you can talk to, such as a close friend or family you trust or even a stranger, it’s best to talk to them as they maybe able to offer a listening hear and/or refer you to someone that can help. However it must be noted that individuals without some training or experience in the healing process of abuse may not be the best suited to give advice on what to do. They may have your best interest at heart, but with their emotions involve and lack of tools to deal with what you’re telling them happened to you, they may not be able to guide you appropriately like a counsellor maybe able to. Whilst you may find it better/easier to talk to someone you know, be aware they may not be able to give you the help you need. They also may have unresolved pain which they could deflect on you. So weary of their potential “limited” help. But do consider this option if you feel it’s best for you at this time.
2. Practice self-care and self-love activities
As stated above, the healing journey itself can be so traumatising in it’s own way. If we’re not careful, we may want to go back pretending like the abuse never happened. But we find that we can’t because other people now know and some may even started to judge and treat us differently. So now we feel even worse within ourselves (if that’s even possible)! Wanting to get away but can’t. Our freight or flight responses may kick in over and over again as our pain keeps getting triggered. Without a way out, some people often commit suicide. My suggestion to getting around being so overwhelmed in our emotions is to practice daily self-love activities such as writing a love letter to yourself, pampering treats or spending time meditating so your thoughts can be still.
3. Future Plan of Action
Create a daily plan of action that includes:
- Your continued healing
- Setting and enforcing boundaries with the people in your circle
- Building a better life and doing things you enjoy ie setting up your own business or career development.
At first it may seem tiresome doing things so structured and focused, however we have to be open to doing things differently in order to figure out what works for us. And what works for me may not work for someone else – meditation is a good example of this!
4. Creating a Healthy Lifestyle
If we’re able to choose who we want in our lives, it can enable us to live in a less toxic and more supportive environment.
It’s also essential to create boundaries with everyone in our lives and be willing to enforce them if these boundaries are not adhered to. Be mindful that, not because we want someone in our life, doesn’t mean they want to be or that they are good for us.
Some people may say many things about us that may hurt – but it doesn’t define who we are. In fact we’re redefining who we are through our healing process. We can change any part of our lives that we’re not happy with. But it probably won’t be done overnight, so don’t be dishearten, all we need is a plan that can enable us to.
To ensure our healing is sustainable, we need purpose in our lives – something to feel great about and to get us through daily challenges! Once we figure out our purpose/goals – or something of the sort – we can break it down into smaller tasks to focus on each day.
Every day is precious. The way we start our day can have a huge impact on how we cope or thrive through the rest of the day.
I start my day each morning with a specific routine that include mediation, breathing exercises, gratitude, mindset empowerment and setting specific intentions for the day ahead. I also practice mindfulness throughout the day. Why? Because I find these tactics work for me – they help me to stay positive and empowered. I find that by practicing these daily activities, I’m better equipped to achieving exactly what I want. My morning routine also help my mind and energy to remain focus on my commitments to myself.
Even if I get distracted, it’s easier for me to get back on track. If I get tired, I’m aware of how my body responds to tiredness so I’ll take it easy and have some time out.
What we do each day should feed back into our bigger picture/goals and don’t forget to celebrate your wins. Achieving feels awesome – no matter how small – especially when we’re being our true selves!
It’s ok if you need help drafting our figuring out your ‘Plan of Action’. There are many coaches and mentors that can help with prices ranging from FREE to ££££££££££ssssssssssssssssssssss I’m always here to help with what I can and if I can’t, I can try to refer you to someone else that maybe able to. So feel free to drop me a message if you need help. Click here to email me.
As a female survivor, my work is best impacted on women and young girl survivors, however we have to be mindful that our men have been abused, violated and neglected too. This means they have similar scars and unresolved issues in their adult lives and deflecting their hurt and pain on the people around them. In order to #BreakTheCycle on these forms of abuse it’s important we consider our men too and see what if anything we can do to support them in their journey.
Something for our men who has been abused
Who knew that men and boys are sexually abused too? Yes they are – maybe not on the same scale as women and young girls but many men in our community have unresolved issues due to child sexual abuse. Don’t worry if you’re surprise to hear this as I remember being so shocked when I first came upon this fact during my research.
I believe men in our community who’ve been abused – have additional layers of pain and trauma – affecting their identity and making it even more challenging for them to overcome their abuse.
I’m not a man so I can’t explain this for definite. However, based on the recent conversations I had on my Facebook page, it seems the main difference for our men is the extreme lack of talking about their experiences, and how it’s affected them. I suspect this is mainly because of what they believe about their identify.
Identity Issues without the abuse
- Considering the impact of Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome (PTSS) and the fact that most of our young men today are been brought up by their mothers in singe-parenting homes – they have little or no role model of their true identity or how to be a ‘black man’. Where are the fathers? In prisons, mental institution and other places – apart from being the in home where their children are. As hard-working and determine as our women can be, they can never grow up boys to become men (especially if they (the mothers) been abused by men in their past), which maybe the case).
- Generally, our men are not taught to how to embrace emotions and express their truth. Talking is commonly seen as a “feminine thing” and although all of us were born with the masculine and feminine energy, most boys weren’t brought up to embrace their feminine side.
For example, if a little boy and a little girl fall down and hurt themselves, it’s likely the little girl will get hugs and kisses from her parents to “soften the blow” of any hurt they suffered. The boy maybe told to “be quiet” or “man don’t cry, man up!“. This attitude demonstrates to the boy that he’s not allowed to feel or express his hurt and pain. He’s taught to supress it inside and that’s what makes him a man.
Identity Issues after the abuse
Combine identify issues with the additional pain from the abuse, our men completely loose themselves – with no hope of ever breaking their silence. They rely on what they’ve been taught to get them through the pain by supressing their emotions and not talking about it.
Our men are not properly equipped to handle emotions, moreover the kind that comes along with trauma of abuse. The process of #BreakingTheSilence can be even more overwhelming for them, especially in a society that’s dominated by the “macho” or “real” men’s characteristics. I once heard two men talking to themselves saying “real men don’t get raped!” So even if our men knew how to allow themselves to be vulnerable enough to ask for help, society basically deny their pain and tell them how to feel. Whilst this part of the journey can be similar for men and women, it seems to affect men more, potentially because of their pride and ego.
Sadly though, the healing process begins after the silence is broken, so we (women) need to love, nurture and encourage our men to talk more – after all they came from and are apart of us.
Healing from the abused
Key factors for anyone overcoming abuse is to identify and master their emotions, feelings and thoughts associated to the trauma – not supress them!
So I believe the healing process is quite similar for both our men and women.
I think therapeutic counselling and support groups are two of the best forms of healing available to our men and women who have suffered abuse or any other type of trauma. These support network have the potential of providing a safe an open space to explore, reflect and release internal hurt and pain.
- Whilst I’m aware of many support groups for women, I think there could be more available to our men. Many of our men would definitely benefit from hearing and seeing other men – just like them – speaking out about what they’ve been through. I think this could help many more men #BreakTheirSilence and get the help they need. However correct safeguarding is a must as these men need to feel safe and trusting for it to work.
- Counselling is one to one and provides a more private, confidential and therapeutic space. Counsellors are also equipped with many tools that can help a victim heal through their trauma.
Whilst men needs more support and encouragement throughout the process, tit’s important that hey realise they need the support and be willing and open to receiving it.
Where to go for support
Women living in London: I run a number of healing and support services for women and young girls survivors of sexual abuse. Click here to find out more.
Support for Black men:
- TMITM: www.tmitm-project.com
- Mankind Counselling: www.mkcharity.org
- Survivors UK: www.survivorsuk.org
- RASASC: www.rasasc.org.uk
There are other well established organisations that can offer support to both men and women victims of sexual abuse. They include:
- MIND – www.mind.org.uk
- Victim Support: www.victimsupport.org.uk
- The Survivor’s Trust: www.thesurvivorstrust.org/survivors-and-supporters/
- Help for Adult victims of Child Abuse: www.havoca.org
- Aurora Foundation for People Abused in Childhood: www.aurorafoundation.org.uk
- Haven: www.havennetwork.org.uk
- Into The Light, London: www.intothelight.org.uk
- London Centre for Personal Safety (LCPS): www.londoncentreforpersonalsafety.org.uk
- NAPAC (National Association for People Abused in Childhood): www.napac.org.uk
- One in Four London: www.oneinfour.org.uk
- Respond London: www.respond.org.uk
- Survivors Together (London): www.survivorstogether.co.uk
- Survivors UK (London & National): www.survivorsuk.org
- Survivors of Sexual Abuse Anon (SoSAA): www.sosaa.org.uk
Finally, don’t forget to keep looking after yourself so you can help to look after others too.
Until next time, your loving and peaceful SiStar✸