December 4, 2013

Compassion for the Adult Survivor of Child Abuse

Hi all, today we begin a series by Susan Jacobi, survivor, coach, author and amazing woman! In this series, Susan will be sharing with us about her organization, Healing Hearts from Child Abuse and her personal journey of healing from abuse. In this post, Susan shares some statistics about abuse and, importantly, how we can have compassion for ourselves as we heal. I know you will be moved by Susan's story, and I am so thankful to be able to bring her to you! 

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I am grateful to Rachel for inviting me to introduce myself and share my passion and mission with you.  I am the founder of Healing Hearts from Child Abuse. Healing Heart’s mission is to support adult survivors of child abuse in reclaiming their life from their emotional, physical and/or sexually child abuse history. The struggle affects personal relationships, employment, social interactions and virtually every aspect of daily life. We focus on women from 35 to 65 specifically, which allows us to serve this group efficiently and maintain clarity on programs. 


In this age group, it is common for women to experience their first memory of child abuse that they may have repressed until now. There are two reasons women have this experience: the first is that memories are commonly triggered while giving birth and secondly, memories come back when a woman's child reaches the same age the victim was when the abuse began. 


Whether a survivor embraces her past or not, it is almost certain that her trauma will be reflected in her choices and actions. Historically, adult victims of child abuse turn, at some time, to alcohol, drugs, food (eating disorders), acting out with overspending, gambling, self-injury and many more addictive behaviors. The memory is stored in the brain. Yet making the choice to voice it, feel it, and heal it is where the decision to reclaim one's life begins. 


One in three girls and one in six boys is sexually abused by the time s/he turns 18. I am one of those girls. While my abuse history put me in the top 5 to 10% of child abuse severity, the reactions and consequences are universal to all survivors. My first memory is from the age of 4, my last 18. My abusers were my father and his mother. They were involved with a sadistic, ritual cult. Again, statistically the odds my father was not a victim of the same rituals that I was used for would be so low it would be hard to believe that he wasn’t. Maybe my paternal grandmother was used for a victim in her early childhood, as well. I will never know. The fact remains whether they were or were not survivors of the same horrors that I was subjected to does not excuse them for their choices in continuing the cycle. 


According to childhelp.org, 30% of victims will become perpetrators. Men and women are equally equipped to continue this staggering cycle, although men tend to dominate the cycle. It has always amazed me how two victims from the same family can make drastically different choices as adults. One can become an abuser and continue the cycle while the other can turn his/her pain from the trauma into love and learn how to nurture themselves and their children (or other children). 


Knowing the patterns of physical and sexual abuse helps to bring an element of compassion into the adult's life. As a survivor reclaiming my life, it was so difficult to believe and understand that I was not at fault. It was easy to say, to hear, to know intellectually but feeling it in my heart and releasing myself from the pain is a whole other ball game. There is a mountain of painful feelings--guilt, anger, shame, betrayal, abandonment--that must be climbed before accepting the simple phase ‘it wasn’t your fault.’ And yet, that is exactly where compassion towards yourself begins. No matter if your story consists of one violation or 18 years worth, compassion is a lesson that can be self-taught. It will replace the lies the abuser left on your soul. Like a baby learning to walk, it takes one small step at a time. Allow yourself to fall, see what you can learn from that fall like the baby falling after a few steps. You cannot, will not, be able to instantly believe in your soul that ‘It wasn’t my fault’ until you embrace the truth and embrace the compassion and gifts you have to offer your loved ones, friends and all who cross your path. 


Jack Kornfield offers a mediation I find comforting. At first, I noticed how very foreign these words seemed to me. Over time, I learned how much the words bring comfort to me. I want to share his mediation with you: 


May I be filled with loving kindness. 

May I be well. 
May I be peaceful and at ease. 
May I be happy. 

In my book, How to Love Yourself: The Hope After Child Abuse, I write about common struggles we face. Knowing how similar we all are gives us permission to have compassion for our story. If you can’t have compassion for yourself, then have compassion for the child who is being abused as you read this. Have compassion for the 20 year old woman struggling with her anger, right now. We are all that child, that 20 year old. Along the way you will find your compassion for your child self, your 20 year old self, and your adult self. 


Take care of yourself especially in this holiday season. Putting yourself first is an example of self compassion. You are not being selfish, you are practicing self care and nurturing your soul. 



Rachel has invited me to return next week. I will introduce the topic of isolation and how it is used by the abuser to keep control over his victim. While child abuse is more widely talked about now than ever before in human history, victims carry the isolation with them into adulthood. 



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Susan Jacobi is a survivor of emotional, physical and sexual child abuse, who advocates for all survivors of child abuse. Susan is a coach, author, speaker and host of Conversations That Heal, a weekly blogtalk radio show. Join her facebook page, Healing Hearts from Child Abuse for daily encouragement on your healing journey. Her book, How to Love Yourself: The Hope After Child Abuse, is available on amazon




To contact Susan you can reach her at susan@healingheartsfromchildabuse.com.

2 comments:

  1. Good blog. I'm very surprised that the number of survivors who become abusers is so high. Do you know the rates of abusers who are survivors of child abuse?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Susan, you always inspire me. Thank YOU for sharing this! :)

    ReplyDelete

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