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  • Writer's pictureElijah Ugoh

How to Overcome the Stigmas Associated with Sexual Abuse

The aftermath of sexual abuse can be a lonely and isolating experience, further burdened by the weight of societal stigma. On top of that, there's often this unspoken shame and judgment, making it even harder to open up and heal. This article offers practical steps and resources to help you overcome these harmful stigmas and feel empowered again.

Stigmas Associated with Sexual Abuse

Stigmas surrounding sexual abuse can perpetuate harmful beliefs and hinder survivors from seeking help or reporting their experiences. Here are some common stigmas:

1. Victim Blaming

This is the idea that the survivor somehow brought the abuse on themselves, maybe by their clothing, behavior, or being in a certain place. It's important to remember sexual abuse is about abuse of power and lack of self-control, not about what the victim was wearing or doing.

2. Denial of Abuse

Some people might minimize the seriousness of the abuse or even deny it ever happened. This can be especially hurtful to survivors who are trying to heal.

3. Stereotypes about Survivors

There are misconceptions that survivors will look or act a certain way. Sexual abuse can happen to anyone, regardless of age, gender, race, or sexual orientation.

4. Shame and Secrecy

The shame and shock associated with sexual abuse can make it difficult for survivors to speak up. This stigma can also prevent them from seeking help.

5. Secondary Victimization

In some cases, survivors encounter insensitive behavior from law enforcement, medical professionals, or mental healthcare providers. This can manifest in doubting the survivor's story, asking insensitive questions, or attributing blame for the abuse to the survivor's actions or appearance.

How You Can Overcome the Stigmas

Overcoming the stigmas associated with sexual abuse can be a challenging and deeply personal journey, but here are important steps you can take to start healing:

1. Seek Support

Surround yourself with individuals who believe you, validate your experience, and support your healing journey without judgment. They could be friends or family members who can provide a safe space for you to express your feelings and experiences. But, also consider seeking professional help. A therapist specializing in trauma can provide valuable guidance and support on your healing path.

2. Educate Yourself

Learn about sexual abuse and its effects. The more you understand the dynamics of sexual abuse, the better equipped you are to combat misconceptions and self-blame. Read books and articles written by survivors. Hearing the stories of others who have overcome similar experiences can be incredibly empowering.

3. Challenge Negative Thoughts

When negative thoughts arise, challenge them with facts. Remind yourself that sexual abuse is never the survivor's fault. It's a crime committed by the abuser. Acknowledge the trauma you've experienced but don't let it define you. Instead of seeing yourself as a victim, view yourself as a survivor. You've endured a terrible experience and are bravely choosing to heal.

4. Connect with Others

Joining support groups or online communities of survivors can provide a sense of belonging and solidarity, which can help you feel less isolated in your experiences. You could share your experiences (if you feel comfortable) or learn from the experiences of others. This is what the Mission Haven is about. We provide a safe space for survivors of domestic minor sex abuse to heal and regain their confidence.

5. Prioritize Self-Care

Engage in activities that promote your overall well-being, such as exercise, meditation, art therapy, or spending time in nature. Taking care of yourself physically and emotionally helps you regain a sense of control over your body and well-being. As you feel better about yourself, you're less likely to internalize negative messages associated with sexual abuse.

6. Consider Sharing Your Story

Sharing your story can be empowering. It allows you to take back control of your narrative and challenge misconceptions. You may choose to start initially with people you trust and who will respond with empathy and support. While you consider this, remember to respect your own boundaries. You are not obligated to share your story with anyone who makes you feel uncomfortable. Only do so when you feel ready.

Find Support at The Mission Haven

Overcoming stigmas takes time and courage. The good news is that you’re not alone. The Mission Haven stands with you on this journey. We are a faith-based organization currently based in North Carolina, but we’re working on expanding across the other 49 states. 

Our focus is providing a safe space for survivors like you to share their stories, access comprehensive support services, gain vital life skills, and connect with a community of understanding individuals, some of whom have been through similar tough experiences. We encourage you to take the first step towards total healing today. Reach out to us today.

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