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19 December, 2012

Five Steps to Post-Sexual Abuse/Assault Self-Forgiveness by Malachi Stewart

With much focus being given to how, why, and when abuse victims should forgive their abusers, little attention is often given to their need to forgive themselves. Commonly, victims of abuse blame themselves for their abuse and feel that it was something innate in them that caused them to be isolated and chosen for the horrific experience inflicted upon them. Some victims, myself included, also experience sexual pleasure from their abuse or at the very least enjoy the attention being given to them. Whatever the rationale for owning complete or partial blame, every victim needs to not  only realize that it is not their fault, but also embrace self-forgiveness. Long after the abuse ends and usually after the abuser has come and gone, the victim is still holding the one person who was innocent in the matter accountable - themselves. However, I know that everyone has the power and inner-strength required to begin what proved to be one of the greatest tasks of my life - self-forgiveness.

Here are five steps that have helped me in that process:

1. Facing the Denial:  It is important to face the denial associated with your particular experience. Whether there is denial about the reality of your abuse or denial about the effects that it had on you, staying in a place of denial is unhealthy. Before you can move on, you must have a clear perception about your experience. It is important that you see your abuse as a non-consensual act in which you were a VICTIMMinimizing the abuse will cause you to maximize the blame you place on yourself. Once you are able to see the abuse for what it was, and understand that your innocence was taken advantage of and there was nothing you could have done or not done to prevent it, you are one step closer to accepting the truth.

2. Accepting the Truth:  The truth is that it was NOT your fault! For a long time, I was in utter and complete denial about what happened to me and would often refer to my abuse as my first sexual experience. I remember boasting about how I had my first experience at such a young age. It was easier to romanticize my experience than to a face the grim realities of my victimization, because once I had accepted the realities, I had to accept the truth about what happened to me. There is a popular saying, which is “to thine own self be true.” I had to be honest with myself about what happened. I even had to accept that I blamed myself. I had to embrace how unfair it was for me to carry the burden of blame. Carrying the blame lead to very self-destructive thoughts and behaviors. I imprisoned myself with guilt, shame, and condemnation, and the most judgmental voice echoed in the confines of my mind. I interrogated myself with questions like, “Why didn’t you tell?” and accusations like, “Maybe you liked it!”. I had to not only embrace the denial I carried, but also accept the truth about the effects that denial had on my perception of self. Only then could I release myself of the blame.

3. Releasing the Blame: Sometimes it seems like for every one voice reassuring me that it was not my fault, there were one thousand more in my head reminding me that it was. I could barely discuss my abuse without hanging my head in shame. After accepting the truth and identifying the specific blame that I placed on myself, I needed to release that blame into eternity. The key to my inner-peace wasn't in taking all my blame and guilt, and placing it on my offender. Doing that would only cause me to continue to take all of the self-hatred I had and displace it on another. I didn't want to carry all of that bitterness around. In a society where someone has to be at fault, I decided that I wasn't going to be that someone. I took it another step and decided that I would not only hold myself accountable, but that I would try to hold the abuser accountable. Thankfully, there is a legal system and a sovereign God to bring justice to this matter.  Am I suggesting letting the abuser off freely? No. I am saying that seeking revenge and retribution is just as unhealthy as self-blame. It will cause you to become ‘mad’, trying to seek a return on something stolen that is too precious to be returned - your innocence. So release yourself from the blame, because you did not steal this from yourself. Release yourself from the need to protect and avenge yourself. No matter if your abuser faces jail time, goes free, apologizes, doesn't care, lies about the incident, or is completely honest, YOU free yourself and free your inner-child.

4. Freeing Your Inner Child: This is directed specifically to victims of CSA (childhood sexual abuse) because inside every CSA victim there is a child needing to be protected and yearning to be free. The abuser didn't just assault or molest this inner-child, but they also bind them hand and foot to all types of inner-demons, including low self-image, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and  sexual confusion. Close your eyes and imagine that little child before the day that the abuse began. Now see that same child fighting to re-gain innocence afterward. Find the strength to forgive and to heal by imagining that child. Your self-forgiveness frees that child from the burden of not telling or being too trusting. Your self-forgiveness says to that inner-child that what happened to them was not their fault and they will never again have to carry that weight. Whenever you choose not to blame yourself, you are telling your inner-child that what happened to them was not their fault. Your will to forgive lies in your will to free your inner-child and with determination, you can embrace the process of healing and wholeness.

5. Embracing the Process: Want to be free now? Of course you do! Everyone wants to live in total and complete freedom. Even more so because we live in a ‘microwave society’, everyone wants to have everything NOW and the quicker way seems to always be the best way. Unfortunately, the psyche does not always produce quick healing and fast recovery gimmicks. There are no twelve-step programs that, once completed, ensure healing. Some days you will finally reach step 4 or 5, just to return to step one. The healing process is progressive, so learn to trust the process and celebrate every milestone, both great and small. Progression is not a race and it’s benefits are not given to whomever can heal first, but those that endure the process to the very end with stamina and self-determination will indeed become the benefactors.  So abandon negative thoughts and determine that every day will bring you closer to completely forgiving the most deserving person in the world - yourself.

By no means do these steps suggest that they alone hold the key to wellness and healing. There is an abundance of resources that can help ensure a more healthy and whole you. Therapy is a very effective tool, both professionally and spiritually (I suggest employing both). Educating yourself by studying the effects, both long-term and short-term, of abuse is also helpful. This will help you understand the root to some of your issues and paradigms, and hopefully lead to a more positive perspective and approach. I believe sincerely that you are reading this because you can and will be free from the chains that have you bound and I am praying for a glorious recovery on your behalf. I declare you more than a survivor of abuse, but an over-comer of your past. Surely, time will prove this declaration true, and of that my life is truly living proof.
Malachi Jeremiah Stewart leads Prophetic Streams Ministries in Philadelphia, PA. Currently, he is pursuing a degree in Religion and Christian Counseling at Liberty University and seeks to work in full-time ministry, both locally and globally. He serves as a youth advisor & trainer for Dominion’s Prophetic & Apostolic Coalition Trans-Continental (D'PACT), Youth L.E.A.D, and Youth in Ministry (YIM), training high school and college students in the areas of evangelism, spiritual devotion, biblical instruction, and Papa prayer. He leads IGNITE! - a youth evangelistic outreach program in the capitol region. As a visionary leader and prophetic flame, he has a strong desire for souls to be saved, families to be restored, and for nations to be reconciled with Christ.

His book, Journey to Malachi, is currently traveling around the web on an exciting virtual book tour. Click HERE or on the banner below for more information about the book, the tour, and to see where Journey to Malachi will visit next. And, as always, read to tell about it!


Burt Morgret said...

Thank you for hosting today:)

Malachi said...

Thanks for hosting!!!

Rebecca Graf said...

Another great post!