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Archive for the ‘Surviving and Moving On’ Category

Author: Dr Kim McGregor.  Subtitle: Self-help for survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

Published 2008.

This is excellent, though it makes rather grim reading.

Dr Kim McGregor has worked in New Zealand as a therapist with survivors of sexual abuse for more than 20 years, she is currently the director of Rape Prevention Education and is an active member of several other organizations dedicated to the prevention of sexual violence and/or the support of survivors of sexual violence.

The book is organised under three main section headings:  Surviving; Moving On and For Others.

Part 1, Surviving, has chapters on child sexual abuse, the child, consequences of sexual abuse and the offender.

Part 2, comprises 14 chapters on topics such as preparations for a healing journey, dealing with the abuse, dealing with feelings and emotions, expressing anger, getting rid of self-blame, confronting the offender, finding a therapist and the like. 

Part 3, has advice on caregivers of survivors and living with a survivor.  There are extensive appendices on keeping children safe, normal sexual development, notes for counsellors and a message to offenders.

Each chapter is interspersed with the accounts of those (male and female) who suffered sexual abuse in childhood and it is this that makes harrowing reading.  Harrowing not only for the accounts of abuse, which are dreadful enough, but also for the reactions, actions, inactions of others, many, if not most of whom should have known better.  There are accounts of shattered childhoods, children who grew into severely psychologically impaired adults, self-loathing, drug abuse, promiscuity, self-harm, isolation, damaged relationships.  There are accounts of the disbelief of others when the abuse was revealed, the denials, accusations, assaults, allegations of lying, shunning.  There are accounts of how the offenders operated, the grooming, the lies, assaults, rationalisations, splitting of families, denial.

There are also accounts of how survivors found help, moved on, constructed better lives for themselves and their families and, for some, used their experiences as a base of strength to help others.

Dr McGregor is a New Zealander and the accounts contained in the book have a New Zealand setting.  The content and the principles are, however, universal and I can see that the advice here could apply just about anywhere.  The advice is sound and matter-of-fact, there is an absence of gender politics and political correctness.

This book is intended as a self-help publication for the survivors of childhood sexual abuse, but it would also be a very valuable resource for therapists, for agencies such as community mental health services, for parents and families of children who have been abused, for those working with abusers and for the general public.

Over the years I have engaged in therapy with a substantial number of people, male and female, who have been sexually abused.  I continue to do so.  (I have also worked on “the other side” and spent several years running a prison unit providing a treatment programme for sexual offenders against children.) Sexual abuse in childhood inevitably raises a number of questions for the person abused, such as:

Why me?  Why did the abuser pick me?  Was I carrying a sign saying: Here – abuse me? (Even more so if there were a number of abusers over time.)

What does the abuse mean about me?  What sort of person was I? What sort of person could I have been?  What sort of person can I now be?

What does the abuse mean for me?  What life can I have? Relationships? Children? Sexuality? Who can I tell?  Who can I trust? 

Often enough, victims continue to perceive their abusers as having a hold on them down through the years, sometimes even from beyond the grave.  It is the task of therapy to break that hold and transform a victim into a survivor, who can see their abuse as a strength for them, rather than a weakness.  This book will go a long way towards assisting in this process.

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