Healing Tools for Sexual and Ritual Abuse Survivors
Lynette Danylchuk, Ph.D.
Never underestimate the power of the human spirit to overcome loss, pain, physical, sexual, and ritualized abuse.
The psyche wants to heal. Spontaneously, people express themselves in an effort to be seen, in an effort to release, in an effort to become conscious and clear.
For people who have been abused, expression may be blocked or distorted, sabotaged and turned back on the self in destructive ways. Underlying beliefs and feelings of worthlessness and shame trap people in repeating cycles of violence and neglect.
The challenge is to find safe and effective ways to connect and free the spirit ensnared in the legacy of abuse. Healing tools are many and varied. They are best when they both match and challenge the survivor. Match in energy and accessibility, and challenge in moving the person out of defeating emotional patterns, opening him or her to new experiences of self and community. Survivors disconnect in many ways in order to survive, resulting in alienation from self and others.
Healing tools are an adjunct to therapy and continuing the discovery and processing of feelings and memories. They also facilitate the connection within the survivor, with parts of self, hidden emotions, and buried dreams. In working with survivors, it is important to match the tool with the person, and with the whole system if the person is dissociative.
Start with the obvious avenues of expression already familiar to the survivor—singing, writing, drawing, or movement. Most people are already using healing tools of some kind, even if not consciously. The psyche wants to heal, so look for ways that are already being utilized and expand on them. There's a wisdom in each person, and one of the goals of therapy is to tap into that innate knowledge, identify it, and help the survivor claim and follow it.
Survivors of sexual and ritual abuse have a particularly difficult time recovering. They have been assaulted at all levels—physical, emotional, and spiritual. But still, they heal, and it's a miracle to watch that process. Something inside the person never rests, always seeking safety, support, and freedom. The process of healing is long and often feels like too much. Nevertheless, people succeed. Out of the ashes rise the phoenixes, people who have experienced the worst and have chosen the best.
They are a testimony to the human spirit, and I honor them.
(From Part 4, “Therapies and Healing Tools,” Your Strength to Heal by Kim Kubal)