Beginning to Heal: A First Book for Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse

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9780061092466: Beginning to Heal: A First Book for Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse

The authors of The Courage to Heal provide hope, support, and guidance to help aid survivors of childhood sexual abuse in the healing process and show them how to thrive. Reprint.

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About the Author:

A pioneer in the field of healing from child sexual abuse, Ellen Bass currently teaches in the MFA program at Pacific University in Oregon. Her poetry books include Mules of Love and The Human Line.



Laura Davis is the author of The Courage to Heal Workbook, Allies in Healing, Becoming the Parent You Want to Be, and I Thought We'd Never Speak Again. She teaches writing and lives with her family in Santa Cruz, California.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Healing Is Possible

"There's nothing as wonderful as starting to heal, waking up in the morning and knowing that nobody can hurt you if you don't let them."

If you have been sexually abused, you are not alone. One out of three girls and one out of seven boys are abused by the time they reach eighteen. Sexually abused children come from every race, religion, and culture. They come from rich families and poor families. Abusers can be men or women, family members, friends, neighbors, teachers, counselors, priests, babysitters, and strangers.
If you were abused as a child, you are probably still dealing with the effects in your life today. You may be having trouble at school, on your job, with relationships and sex, or in your family. You may feel bad about yourself or think something is wrong with you. These problems, and many others, can be connected to the abuse you experienced while you were growing up.
The most important thing for you to know is that it is possible to heal from child sexual abuse. You don't have to live with the effects of abuse for the rest of your life. If you are willing to work hard and find good support, you can not only heal but thrive.
Was I Abused?
You've probably heard a lot about sexual abuse, but you may not be sure if your experience fits the definition.
Think back to when you were growing up. Did any of these things happen to you?

Were you ever touched unnecessarily in your private parts?
Were you forced to touch someone else's private parts?
Were you made to pose for sexual pictures?
Were you forced to have oral sex?
Were you raped or did you have things forced inside your vagina or anus?
Were you fondled or kissed in a way that felt bad to you?
Were you forced to watch people have sex?
Were you shown sexual movies?
Were you forced to have enemas, genital exams, or other medical procedures that weren't really needed?
Were you told you were only good for sex?
Were you ridiculed about your body or your sexuality?
Were you pressured into having sex you didn't really want?
Were you involved in selling your body for sex?
Were you forced to abuse or hurt someone else?
Were you forced to take part in rituals that involved violence, sex, or torture?

If any of these things happened to you, then you were sexually abused.

Does My Experience Really Count?

As you think about your past, you may clearly remember what happened to you. But sometimes memories are fuzzy or unclear. Memories can also be blocked out completely as a way of coping with the pain.
Sometimes survivors think that what happened to them isn't bad enough to qualify as abuse. They say things like, "It wasn't incest--he was just a friend of the family," or "It only happened once," or "It was just my brother and he was only a year older than me." But your pain counts.
The fact that someone else has suffered from abuse that was worse than yours does not take away your suffering. The important thing in defining abuse is not the physical act that took place. It's how you felt as a child. An abuser used power to manipulate and control you. Your trust was shattered and the world stopped being safe. You felt terrified, hurt, ashamed, or confused.
Even abuse that isn't physical can leave deep scars. Your father treated you like you were his wife instead of his daughter. Your uncle walked naked around the house making comments about your body. These acts, though not directly physical, hurt you.
It doesn't matter how often you were abused. A mother can stick her hand in her daughter's underwear in thirty seconds. After that the world is not the same.

The Healing Process

This book is about the healing process. Healing begins when you recognize that you were abused. And it leads to the satisfying experience we call thriving.
Survivors have taught us that there are recognizable stages in the healing process. This book will give you a map so you can see where you are, what you've already done, and what still lies ahead.
We've presented the stages of healing in a particular order, but you may not experience them that way. You may spend time focusing intensely on the abuse. Then your attention may shift more to your current life. When something in your life changes--you start a relationship, leave home, or have a child--you may deal with the abuse again, from a new point of view. Each time, you learn more, feel more, and make more lasting changes.
The further along you are in the healing process, the more you'll be able to take care of yourself along the way. You'll be able to laugh, to experience pleasure along with the pain. You won't change your history, but it will no longer seem like the most important thing in your life.
There is no clear end to the healing process. It's a way of growing that continues throughout your life.
You deserve this healing.

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Bass, Ellen, Davis, Laura
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Ellen Bass, Laura Davis
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