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Information and Lists For Survivors of Abuse and Their Partners

Sexual Assault Pamphlets
Date Rape Drugs Pamphlets
Sex and Relationships Pamphlets

The following lists came from a book called Triumph Over Darkness: Understanding and Healing the Trauma of Childhood Sexual Abuse
by Wendy Ann Wood. Forward by Marilyn Van Derbur

Publisher's note: Triumph Over Darkness is a collection of prose and therapeutic insights that create a powerful commentary on incest, rape, abuse, and the recovery process. Women and men share their personal experiences of childhood abuse and walk with the reader along the path toward wellness. They reflect each stage of healing with a clarity that, while often painful, is also hopeful. Addressing various aspects of abuse, including ritualistic abuse, multiple personality disorder, and partnering as well as providing a therapists's insights on the stages of healing, Trumph Over Darkness helps readers to understand recovery as predictable process and see that healing is possible.

For Supporting Recovery Partners

1. Please do not push me for more information than I can comfortably give you at one time.

2. Let me go at my own pace. I know the best speed for my recovery process. Please honor that.

3. I need a lot of understanding and support from you, although it may not always be fair to expect it.

4. If something happens to trigger memories or flashbacks, I need to be accomodated, although I may not always know what I need because I don't have a lot of control over my emotions.

5. I don't want to feel shame or judgment from others. Please believe me when I tell you things. Please accept me. If you do not believe me, at least tell me so-- it is a lot easier than having someone lie to me.

6. Please realize that recovery is long and involved and requires a lot of hard work. There are no "quick fixes" and no magic wands.

7. It helps me if you realize that my memories are deep, painful, and slow to be processed.

8. Please don't say to me, "It couldn't have really been all that bad." It was! Discounting or minimizing my abuse experience fosters my own denial and hinders my recovery.

9. Know that it takes a lot of energy to do this work.

10. Learn the warning signs of self-abuse, and when you see them in me, remind me of the coping methods I can use to keep myself safe.

11. Realize that you can not "fix it," but you can be there for me.

12. Encourage me to seek professional help as needed, because sometimes I lose sight of reality.

13. When I am flooded with memories of abuse, I appreciate having someone available who can protect me from my terrifying thoughts and emotions. However, I usually can't accept being touched. If my impulse control and judgment are impaired, I may need you to help me stay safe.

14. Please tell me if you are unable or unwilling to give me support when I ask for it. Saying you are there for me when you are not is a recapitulation of my abuse.

Bill of Rights For Partners of Survivors

1. The right to a definition of what you see as the rules for our relationship.

2. The right not to be defined as an abuser.

3. The right to my own feelings and the need to express them.

4. The right to take care of myself.

5. The right to fail occasionally as a supporter in your recovery.

6. The right to trust and be trusted.

7. The right to be angry.

8. The right to take some time out.

9. The right to care about you.

10. The right to see myself as an indirect victim of the abuse you suffered.

11. The right to share in the healing process.

12. The right to be angry at the offender(s).

13. The right to be confused by the new boundaries in our relationship.

14. The right to explore and set my own personal boundaries.

15. The right for us, as a couple, to experience peace in our lives.


Adult Survivors of Sexual Abuse...What We Would Like You to Know About Us

1. We grew up feeling very isolated and vulnerable, a feeling that continues into our adult lives.

2. Our early development has been interrupted by abuse, which either holds us back or pushes us ahead developmentally.

3. Sexual abuse has influenced all parts of our lives. Not dealing with it is like ignoring an open wound. Our communication style, our self-confidence and our trust levels are affected.

4. Putting thoughts and feeling related to our abuse "on the back burner" does not make them go away. The only way out is to go through these emotions and process them.

5. Our interest in sexual activity will usually decline while we are dealing with this trauma. This is because:

* We are working on separating the past from the present.
* Pleasure and pain can sometimes be experienced simultaneously.
* It is important for us to be in control, since control is what we lacked as children.

Sometimes we need a lot of space. Pressuring us to have sex will only increase our tension.

6. We often experience physical discomforts, pains and disorders that are related to our emotions.

7. We often appear to be very strong while we are falling apart inside.

8. There is nothing wrong with us as survivors-- something wrong was DONE to us.

9. Sometimes others get impatient with us for not "getting past it" sooner. Remember, we are feeling overwhelmed, and what we need is your patience and support.

* Right now it is very important to concentrate on the past. We are trying to reorganize our whole outlook on the world; this won't happen overnight.

10. Your support is extremely important to us. Remember, we have been trained to hold things in.

* We have been trained not to tell about our abuses. We did not tell sooner for a variety of reasons: We were fearful about how you would react, what might happen, etc.

* We have been threatened verbally and/or nonverbally to keep us quiet, and we live with that fear.

11. Feeling sorry for us does not really help because we add your pain to our own.

12. There are many different kinds of people who are offenders. It does not matter if they are charming or attractive or wealthy. Anybody-- from any social class or ethnic background, with any level of education-- may be an offender. Sexual abuse is repetitive, so be aware of offenders with whom you have contact. Do not let them continue the cycle of abuse with the next generation of children.

13. We might not want or be able to talk with you about our therapy.

14. We are afraid we might push you away with all our emotional reactions.

You can help by:

* Listening
* Reassuring us that you are not leaving
* Not pressuring us
* Touching (with permission) in a nonsexual way

15. Our therapy does not break up relationships-- it sometimes causes them to change as we change. Therapy often brings issues to the surface that were already present.

16. Grieving is part of our healing process as we say goodbye to parts of ourselves.

For Intimate Recovery Partners

1. My sexual abuse has greatly affected my ability to trust my intimate partner.

2. I often feel unlovable and unworthy of your care and support.

3. I need you to be motivated to work on your own issues, to grow and change individually, as well as on our "couple" issues.

4. I have trouble intregrating emotional and physical intimacy. My history of abuse makes these issues mutually exclusive.

5. I want you to be involved in a therapy group (professional or self-help) that will teach you about being the partner of a sexual abuse survivor. I do not have the energy to do my own recovery work and teach you at the same time. You also need your own support system that you can turn to in your own time of need.

6. While in the early stages of sexual abuse healing, my interest in our sexual relationship is likely to change. Please be patient. If you want to discuss your concerns about our sexual relationship, please ask me, but respect my opinion not to talk about it at that moment.

7. Please ask for permission for hugs and kisses. Unexpected affection can put me into a flashback or body memory.

8. Your willingness to read material about my recovery process is a sign that you care about me.

9. There are time when therapy may have been so difficult or painful that I may not want, or be able to, talk about it.

10. Abandonment is my greatest fear when it comes to our relationship. Please tell me, only if you mean it, that you will be with me through this painful time in my life.

11. I need to be reassured of the feelings you have for me.

12. I need you to be willing to discuss and negotiate around sexual needs.

13. Please understand that I often have limited energy and time during some of the stages of my recovery process.

14. There are times when I need more physical space than other people. Often when I say, "Don't touch me!" I am not really talking to you. Do not take it personally, but please honor my request.

Effects of Sexual Abuse

The following is a list of SOME of the effects survivors experience as a result of sexual abuse. When using this list, check the items that apply to you and add your own. The effects of abuse are not the same for everyone. They depend on a variety of factors including frequency and length of abuse, severity and type of abuse, age at which the abuse began, the relationship between the offender and survivor, and the response of others if the survivor reported the abuse. Use this list to help you realize that you are not alone in your struggle.

* Isolation due to the inability to form healthy, satisfying relationships.
* Loneliness
* Self-hatred
* Shame
* Obsessive or compulsive guilt
* Inability to trust
* Fear of having a family
* Difficulty identifying feelings
* Avoidance of people who are the same sex as the offender.
* Loss of self-confidence
* Poor self-esteem
* Difficulty with normal sexual responses
* Addiction to drugs, alcohol, food, etc.
* Self-mutilation
* Self-destructive behaviors
* Repetition of cycles of sexual abuse, physical abuse, addiction and other forms of self-harm
* Fear of relationships
* Constant searching for the love and acceptance from others that should have been prvided by your family.
* Childlike feelings
* Dissociation and detachment
* Attacks of panic
* Low expectations or fatalistic life view
* Debilitating fear
* Anger towards authority and those in positions of power (as the offender was)
* Poor body image
* Difficulty with personal boundaries
* Identity crisis
* Feeling incomplete due to the separation between your emotional and physical selves.
* Nightmares
* Physical illness for which there is no apparent cause
* Unconscious self-sabotage
* Rageaholic tendancies


Effects of Sexual Abuse on an Intimate And/Or Committed Relationship

Below is a list of some of the effects incest and sexual abuse can have on a committed relationship. Obviously, the effects are not the same for every couple, and they depend upon a variety of factors, including duration and frequency of abuse, severity and type of abuse, age at which abuse began, the relationship between the offender and survivor, and the response of others if the survivor reported the abuse.
When using this list, identify those that apply to you and realize that you are not alone in your struggle.

* Difficulty with intimacy
* Lack of satisfying relations
* Periods of unexplained rage
* Emotional detachment
* Hypersensitivity to touch
* Flashbacks or "spacing" during sex
* Avoidance of sexual feelings
* Withdrawal from social or sexual interaction
* Sabotage of healthy relationships
* Indescriminate choice of partners
* Low sexual desire
* Inability to trust the partner/relationship
* Inability to allow closeness
* Feeling trapped in the relationship
* Painful intercourse
* Sporadic sexual satisfaction
* Sexual misinformation
* Lack of good, clear communication
* Feeling obligated to engage in sex
* Lack of emotional bonding
* Feelings of sexual exploitation
* Guilt feelings about sex
* Avoidance of addressing sexual concerns
* Hypervigilance and alertness
* Overreaction to "minor" life events
* Irrational guilt
* Feelings of isolation and neediness
* Denial, avoidance, repression
* Low stress/anxiety tolerance
* Feeling helpless and hopeless
* Nightmares and insomnia
* Viewing sex as "bad" or "evil"
* Childlike interactions
* Self-hatred
* Limited knowledge of sexual or personal boundaries
* Projecting feelings of hostility, etc., toward the offender onto the partner
* Inability to distinguish loving, nurturing sex from exploitative sex
* Enjoying sexual contact only after penetration has occurred
* Avoidance of sexual acts experienced during abuse


A Commitment to Recovery Ceremony

When you are ready to make your commitment, plan a ceremony. Use candles, music, and/or gifts; invite special people in your life to be present with you. These are people who will be there through the good times and the hard times. If you don't have any one like that in your life right now, have the ceremony by yourself. Incorporate the following vows into your ceremony:

For Survivors:

I, _________________ (survivor's name), do hereby make a commitment to myself and to _________________ (add the name of your partner and/or support people) to begin (or continue) my childhood sexual abuse recovery, this the __________ day of _________________, 20___. I promise myself to continue working through the effects of my abuse until I reach recovery. I have made the choice to recover because I want to improve the quality of my life, and I realize that the only alternative is to continue in pain and suffering. I create this document as a symbol of my dedication to recovery.

For Partners:

I, _____________________ (add the name of partner or support people), do hearby make a commitment to myself and to ______________________ (survivor's name) to assist him/her in her/his childhood sexual abuse recovery, this the __________ day of _________________, 20___. I promise you, ____________________ (survivor's name), that I will stand by you as you continue to work through the effects of abuse in your life. I have made the choice to assist in your recovery because I care about you and want you to improve the quality of your life. I promise to explore my own issues, take care of myself during this process, and work on improving myself. I create this document as a dedication to your recovery.

Helping to Heal
by Elise Ritter, L.C.S.W.

Healing from the effects of sexual abuse can be difficult, but not impossible. Adult survivors of sexual abuse during childhood have reported that participating in these activities helped them deal with their trauma:

*Entering into a very trusting relationship with another person.
"Telling someone about their abuse experience, whether it be a friend or a therapist,
is a key to beginning the healing process," said one survivor.

*Solid, supportive therapy, to help build up self-esteem and individual empowerment.

*Writing: journaling or poetry.

*Reading: Daily meditations and/or the stories of other survivors.

*Drawing or painting.

*Helping other people: "If having worked through my own pain makes me
better able to help another person in the recovery process,
then my pain had meaning," said one survivor.

*Joining organizations, or Web-based communities, of other survivors.

*Developing a spiritual life.

*Finding comfort in religion.

*Physical activities such as exercise, dancing, yoga, tai chi, karate.

*Listening to soothing music.