How to Overcome Abuse and Start Discovering Hope, Freedom and Joy

By: Gina Rolkowski, Post-Traumatic Growth Coach

An old fashioned key is held up to a heart shaped cloud with a key hole in it that fits the key in the woman's hand holding it.  The background is sky blue.

The Platitudes that Don’t Help You Overcome Sexual Abuse

Have you ever heard some of these annoying platitudes about healing from sexual abuse and trauma?  “Let your faith be bigger than your fear.” Or, “you survived the abuse,  you’ll survive the recovery.” And, my favorite (insert huge eye roll here) “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” 

That last one always makes my skin crawl. As abuse survivors we have been strong enough, thank you very much!  

It’s Hard To Overcome Sexual Abuse When You Carry the Weight of It

Carrying around the heavy and hurtful  life-altering effects of trauma and abuse gets increasingly exhausting!  So, the last thing we need is a bunch of Pinterest or Instagram blah blah blah that sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher.  Or worse, vague concepts like “let go and let God” that don’t answer the burning question of “How?!”  

How Do I Heal from the Horror of Sexual Abuse?

As a survivor of childhood sexual abusive, all I wanted to know from people who I thought could help me was, “Tell me how!”   How do I overcome the paralyzing fear, frightening anxiety, annoying self-doubt and self-hatred preventing me from living a joyful life free from a painful past that wasn’t even my fault? Not to mention, is that even possible for me? 

For God’s sake all I wanted was a roadmap to tell me “HOW!”  I had no interest in reliving the trauma or ruminating over the past or focusing on how awful my life seemed.  I just wanted to get better!  I just didn’t know how.  Can you relate?

So here’s’ some great news (drum roll please…) I am going to share with you 5 helpful keys to experience beautiful breakthroughs so you can overcome abuse and find the joy you deserve and desire.

The 5 Keys to Overcoming Sexual Abuse

Key 1-Recognize

Healing from trauma and abuse can seem scarier than the abuse itself.  However, the perspective of this journey and the path itself can be softened by understanding key truths that most likely you don’t know.  For example, the number one negative impact of abuse is shame.  And shame is caused by a lack of unconditional love.  

Unconditional Love 

And let me just say, a lack of unconditional love growing up does not mean you are unloveable!  (Read that again. :))

Shame Related 

So what makes shame so crucial to address?  It has the potential to change the way we see ourselves and can lead to long-lasting social, professional, and personal difficulties. 

Similarly, when you have been repeatedly abused or neglected the brain’s survival system stays on. This means that the survival state of fight, flight, freeze or fawn become traits we use to function.  What makes this so important to recognize? 

Not Just Survival – But Moving Forward to Overcome Sexual Abuse

Survival traits do not work to our advantage unless we are in danger. 

So the very traits/skills we try to use to create breakthroughs like happiness, self-confidence and purposeful and playful lives free from the pain and patterns of the past, actually hinder these goals because we are no longer living in danger.  

But rest assured…

That might sound all gloom and doom however, God designed our brains with an amazing ability to change!  Yippie!  So with safe and supportive help we can very gently open our hearts to God’s unconditional love for us and learn to experience that daily. Thereby, removing shame.  

Additionally, we can unlearn those survival traits and learn new helpful and healthy strategies for relating to ourselves and others which makes the pathway on the bridge to breakthroughs much more hopeful and a lot less frightening! 

Key 2-Relate 

Often abuse survivors barely tolerate themselves.  In fact, I didn’t even want to be a “self” early on in my recovery because of who and what I believed about myself.  

Understandably, as a result, survivors many times dissociate as a survival skill.  However, this skill once helpful in surviving can hinder healing which is why learning to relate to God as an unconditional loving Father and then yourself as His fearfully and wonderfully made child play a huge role in experiencing breakthroughs that lead to joy.    

Notice the little breakthroughs happening on each key on the bridge to breakthroughs!

Key 3-Rest

Even God rested on the seventh day. Do we? 

Think about it, the field that reaps the most fruitful harvest rests for a season.  We are no different.  In fact, resting actually changes the patterns in the brain from survival to thrival (that’s not a word but you get the idea ? that aid in healing from abuse without even trying.  Thus those breakthroughs become more easy to achieve! 

Key 4-Recover 

We only know what we were taught.  By taught, I mean what we observed and heard growing up.  For example, how to manage feelings-not remove them or push them down, how to effectively handle conflict without confrontation and how to  recognize our needs (safety, love, belonging, purpose in work and life) and have them met in loving safe relationships with God, ourselves and others.  

Having been abused by those entrusted to keep us safe and loved, we never learned these imperative life skills.  We learned to react not respond or to relate.  We simply stayed stuck in survival mode in our brains because that is how the body and brain work. So at least we know our brains work which means this can be transformed.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Romans 12:2) 

Although it might seem uncomfortable, getting help and building new safe connections with someone who can help you learn these skills will allow you to be almost across the bridge so you can experience the peaceful, playful, purposeful life you want and deserve.

Key 5: Renew 

Renew definition: resuming an activity after an interruption. Shed the old and put on the new true self.  Go from knowing who we truly are to being who we truly are.  This is a fluid continual process.  Think of this key as maintenance.  

This key allows for the intensity and frequency of anxiety, fear, old patterns and behavior to significantly decrease which provides a more peaceful pathway to those things we long for like love, peace, freedom, experience of true self as worthy, loved and capable.  Hence, we put on the new true self and feel safe, hopeful and capable in pursuing the goals like healthy relationships, purposeful and profitable work and playful joyful lives.

My Hope for You is to Overcome Sexual Abuse and Thrive

If there is one thing I hope you take away from this brief sharing, it is a softening around why you have suffered and that you do not have to live in suffering and shame any longer.  

As human beings we only learn what we observe growing up.  We experience ourselves as how we were treated growing up.  So, if that time in your life was filled with trauma it’s understandable that you struggle.  The good news is it is not your fault and it can and will change with safe supportive help.

Breakthrough vs. Breakthroughs When You Overcome Sexual Abuse

Also, keep in mind that the goal really is not ‘breakthrough.”  It’s “breakthroughs.”  These keys help you create the little breakthroughs on your healing journey because they each are a step towards letting go and experiencing the transformation from suffering to joy.

In keeping with the theme from the beginning of this article, I’ll leave you with this non annoying thought about abuse :o)  You cannot self-heal from events that occurred in connection.  

Gina Rolkowski is a writer and Post-Traumatic Growth coach based in Delaware. A former elementary school teacher, Gina teaches women how to overcome abuse, discover joy and start living a peaceful, playful, purposeful life. Sign up for her free weekly “Bitesize Breakthroughs” newsletter via her website.