The aftermath of childhood sexual abuse can be traumatic and longstanding. Having helped both men and women who had suffered in silence during their childhood, it is clear to me that the recovery process for victims of sexual trauma is wildly varied and never a cookie-cutter approach.
Just as we all tackle our struggles and pains in life differently, there certainly is no one way to handle the aftermath of being groomed, manipulated, taken advantage of and sexually exploited in our youth. This type of abuse is not something that is easily digested in the minds of young people and is just as difficult to process in adulthood.
While many never confront their abuser, “Jamie” -- the now 28-year-old woman who claimed she was sexually abused repeatedly by a teacher from age 12 to age 20 -- chose to record her confrontation and post it on YouTube recently. I can only imagine that for her, this was in some way therapeutic, but I would caution anyone who’s suffered through similar circumstances not to do the same thing.
Once you’ve accepted what’s happened to you (no matter what the trauma might have been), it’s quite a process to heal from that trauma. Some may go through extensive therapy and self-work, while others turn to less conventional ways to ease the pain and aftermath of the abuse.
True healing from childhood sexual abuse comes when you have the ability to separate yourself from what your abuser has done to you. Knowing that what’s happened to you is not your fault and understanding that if your abuser was an adult, in a position of authority, a guardian, etc., it was his or her responsibility (not yours) to know better, to care for you appropriately and to keep you away from any harm.
Too often (and Jamie’s case was allegedly no different), the abuser tends to put the responsibility of the sexual relationship on the underage victim. Perhaps the perpetrator tells his or her victim that he or she is the only one who understands them, or that if they disclose the abuse, others will be harmed.
Because many perpetrators refuse to accept their part in the harm and aftermath of what they inflict upon their victims, it’s far easier to convince a young, unsuspecting and highly suggestive child or teen to take on that responsibility. They grow up thinking that they, in some way, brought on and are responsible for the abuse.
Jamie’s confrontation was her way of taking back her life and putting the responsibility of the abuse back onto the alleged abuser. And while I admire her ability to do so, her method may not be for everybody.
Because her alleged abuser engaged in the conversation and admitted to her part in the repeated sexual abuse, it may have offered Jamie a sense of closure. It’s important to note that not everyone in this situation would admit to their wrongdoing. And if what you’re seeking is an admission of guilt, you have to be OK with the fact that you may never receive it.
Sometimes self-acceptance and alleviating your own sense of guilt over what has happened is all you need to recover, but most need a bit more insight and support to pummel through what they’ve had to endure. Give yourself the time and space to do whatever you have to in order to reclaim your life, knowing that whatever path you choose for healing from sexual trauma is your own.