FanStory.com
"Beauty for Ash and Stone"


Prologue
Introduction

By MelB

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of sexual content.

If you've picked up this book, it's likely you know someone who has been a victim of rape or sexual assault or you have been sexually abused. Please know you are not alone. According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. On average, there are 321,500 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year in the United States.

The American Psychological Association defines sexual abuse as unwanted sexual activity, with perpetrators using force, making threats or taking advantage of victims not able to give consent. Most victims and perpetrators know each other. Immediate reactions to sexual abuse include shock, fear or disbelief. Long-term symptoms include anxiety, fear or post-traumatic stress disorder.

The abused person you know may think they are fine or you may believe you're handling it without any repercussions. Physical effects after assault may include: bruising, bleeding, soreness, difficulty walking, broken or dislocated bones, sexually transmitted diseases and infection, or pregnancy.

Mental effects may include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, and uncontrollable thoughts; depression, including prolonged sadness, feelings of hopelessness, unexplained crying, weight loss or gain, loss of energy or interest in activities previously enjoyed; suicidal thoughts or attempts; dissociation, including not being able to focus on work or on schoolwork, as well as not feeling present in everyday situations. If you or someone you know is suicidal, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Emotional effects may include changes in trusting others, anger and blame, shock, numbness, loss of control, disorientation, helplessness, sense of vulnerability, fear, self-blame/guilt for "allowing" it to happen, or feeling that these reactions are a sign of weakness.

Other circumstances can develop after being sexually assaulted or raped. A survivor may develop a negative outlook and feel "damaged" or unworthy of a better life. Drug or alcohol abuse may also become an issue as a way to cope with the overwhelming feelings. Women may also have trouble with their menstrual cycle and fertility. In addition, survivors may also experience chronic fatigue, shortness of breath, muscle tension, involuntary shaking, changes in eating and sleeping patterns, or sexual dysfunction.

The above list is not exhaustive, and you may be experiencing something other than listed above. Every survivor responds in their own way to the trauma they have experienced, whether it happened once or numerous times. The symptoms can be mild or severe, and short-term or long-term.

If you are keeping the abuse a secret, I urge you to seek help through a counselor and/or sexual abuse support group. The symptoms will continue and become worse, until the trauma has been acknowledged and worked through. The path of healing can be a long and difficult process, but if you are willing to do the work, it is possible. I know, because like you, I am a survivor -- and I've found healing.

This devotional book is not meant to be the primary source of your healing, but a single tool used in conjunction with other resources as you seek counseling and/or a sexual abuse support group. It is intended to be read from the first to the last page, but you may find that you want to go to the problem or emotion you are dealing with listed at the top of the page and found in the contents list.

As you work through this book, may you find answers, comfort, healing, peace, and most of all -- hope. You are not alone, my friend. I'll be here walking down the road with you. I'm thinking of you and praying for your ash and stone to be replaced with beauty.


Blessings,

Melissa Brown

Author Notes I'm writing a Christian devotional book for survivors of sexual abuse to use while going through counseling/support group. Looking for thoughts, and help as I work through, particularly from anyone who is a survivor of sexual abuse. If there isn't enough interest, I will pull it. Thank you!


Chapter 1
Loneliness - Day 1

By MelB

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of sexual content.

Day 1

~ Loneliness ~
 
You've been sexually abused, whether one time or numerous times, and you may think you're alone. It hasn't happened to any of your friends, and you don't know anyone personally who has experienced it. But, the truth is, you are not alone. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old. One in 5 women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college. One in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives. In eight out of 10 cases of rape, the victim knew the person who sexually assaulted them.

Since many keep silent, the number of sexual abuse and rape cases are much higher than as noted above. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, rape is the most under-reported crime; 63% of sexual assaults are not reported to police. Only 12% of child sexual abuse is reported to the authorities. More than 90% of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report the assault.

From the statistics above, you are definitely not alone. No one understands feeling alone more than Jesus. In his darkest hour, Peter denied him three times. The other disciples left him, and one, Judas Iscariot, betrayed him for money (Luke 22). Peter and the two sons of Zebedee couldn't stay awake, as Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, knowing he was going to die (Matthew 26:36-46). As Jesus was being crucified on the cross, he cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46)

God will never leave us or forsake us, even in our greatest times of trouble.* As you go through this process of dealing with your current or past abuse, I encourage you to journal your feelings. Maybe, you've never told anyone what happened to you. You may feel there is no one you can trust. God is with you, my friend. He wants you to know you can trust Him. He cares about everything you are feeling. If you are unsure what to journal, pretend you are writing a letter to a friend. Write your every thought. Before you begin to journal, pray this:

Dear God, I've kept quiet for so long about what happened to me. Will you help me start to work through what I'm feeling? Please help me not to be afraid. Help me to be strong and courageous. Thank you, Lord. Amen.

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV

*If you are angry with God, and feel like He abandoned you when you were abused, God understands. Be honest and get it out as you journal. Tell Him exactly how you feel/felt. We will return to this topic later.

Author Notes * When I have a page number, I will include it in the note at the bottom. That way, the reader can go directly to the Anger at God page, if they would like to.


Chapter 2
Speak Out - Day 2

By MelB

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of sexual content.

Day 2

~ Speak Out ~
 

If you are being sexually abused, please tell someone you trust immediately!  It will not stop until you speak out.  Perhaps, the abuser/s has/have told you no one will believe you or has/have threatened to harm your family members or pets.  The truth is they will continue to harm you, until they are stopped.  They may also be sexually abusing someone else, so your voice will help not only you, but that person/s too.       

If you’ve been abused in the past, and you haven’t told anyone, now is the time to find someone you can trust.  It could be a spouse, parent, sibling, relative, teacher, pastor, co-worker, bible study or group leader, or someone else.  The key is it should be an individual who is able to keep it confidential, and comfort and support you through this process.  It should not be a person who says they don’t believe you, who places blame on you or make excuses for the abuser. 

When you find a trusted individual, break the silence and tell them what happened.  It will be hard to get it out, and you may not be able to do it without shedding some tears.  There is no special way to say it -- just get the words out.  It’s not necessary to go into great detail about what happened, unless you feel you must.  You also don’t have to name the person who abused you.  When you break the silence, if the person says they don’t believe you or tries to blame you for what happened -- stop talking!  They are not someone to be trusted, and you need to find someone else.  Don’t give up though!  Find another person.  Keep looking, until you find someone you can trust.       

You can also break the silence at a sexual abuse support group and/or with a Christian counselor.  A Christian counselor can help you through the healing process and recommend a group to you at the right time.  It’s important you find a counselor you like and feel you can trust.  If you feel you can’t trust anyone, this is normal.  Sexual abuse is a violation of your personal boundaries, and if you know/knew the abuser/s, trust was broken.  Before seeking help, pray this:

Dear God, please help me to not be afraid.  Give me the strength and courage to speak out against the one/s hurting me.  Help me to find someone I can trust, and who can help me through this process.  Lead me to the right counselor and support group.  Hold me in your Mighty hand, and don’t let me go.  Amen.       

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  Isaiah 41:10 NIV

Author Notes I plan to visit: shame, self hatred, denial, betrayal, fear, anxiety, anger at self, anger at God, forgiveness/unforgiveness, depression, control, trust, guilt, doubt, and more. I'm just not sure what order yet.

If there is a subject or topic you would like to see added, please let me know. I want to cover everything that survivors go through. Thanks for reading!


Chapter 3
Denial - Day 3

By MelB

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of sexual content.

Day 3

~Denial ~

If you admit to yourself you were sexually abused, then it did happen.  It’s easier to fool ourselves into thinking it didn’t happen, it wasn’t really abuse, or that we allowed it.  Shame, guilt, fear, control, and denial play a part in keeping an abuse victim silent.  If you were sexually abused as a child, you may have heard, “it’s our little secret” or “this is what people who care about each other do” or “you’re my special girl.”  This is what you were told by your abuser/s to make you think the abuse was “normal” and to keep you quiet. 

When a child is sexually abused, it is not uncommon for the memories to be “suppressed” for many years or decades.  It is too painful for the young child, so the memories are “stored away” in separate compartments in the subconscious mind for a later date.  There are no recognizable or explicit memories of the abuse, but it is there and can be “triggered” by anything that is a reminder of the abuse.  The memories may not surface, but instead trigger as a panic attack, anxiety, fear, hyperventilation or some other response.  For example, a touch of the skin, a hug, the smell of perfume or cologne, a song on the radio, or even words spoken can elicit a response. 

Memories or flashbacks will resurface and will either have to be dealt with or pushed back down into the subconscious.  Jeremiah 6:14 says, “Feelings buried alive will never die.” (Living Bible)  According to Dr. Paul Hegstrom, of Life Skills International, a program designed to help and give hope for domestic abuse, “Childhood wounds not acknowledged and dealt with will automatically drive adult behavior negatively.”  

I was sexually abused at age 8.  I suppressed the memories until age 20, when my abuser leaned toward me and spoke soft words.  I had two vivid flashbacks before he pulled away from me.  Before that, I felt awkward around him, but had no recollection of anything else.  I went into denial mode, and it took me another 5 years to admit the flashbacks were real -- I had been sexually abused. 

An acronym for denial is -- Don’t Even Notice I Am Lying.  Whether you were sexually abused recently or many years ago, it’s time to stop lying to yourself, and admit what happened to you.  Until you can do that, you will be locked in a prison that only you have the key to unlock.  Write “I was sexually abused” in your journal.  Underneath those words, explain how the abuse makes/made you feel.  If you haven’t found that trusted person yet, go find them today.  Before you journal, pray and ask the Lord to put you in touch with every emotion you feel/felt.

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." John 8:32

Author Notes Christian Devotional for Survivors of Sexual Abuse


Chapter 4
Guilt - Day 4

By MelB

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of sexual content.

Day 4

~ Guilt ~

If you’ve been a victim of sexual abuse or rape, guilt and shame can be debilitating.  Guilt and shame have similar definitions, but there are some clear differences.  Dictionary.com defines guilt as a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined.  Shame is the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another.  Guilt says, “I did something bad.  Shame says “I am bad.  I am a mistake.”  Let’s tackle guilt today.

Many victims of sexual abuse experience guilt, because they feel the abuse was somehow their fault.  As a counselor, I hear so many survivors say, “If I wouldn’t have gone to that party” or “if I hadn’t talked with that guy” or “if I hadn’t worn that dress.”  Others feel guilt because they “froze” in fear during the rape or sexual abuse.  Some survivors feel like they should have said “something or fought back.”  Others did say, “No, and fought back.” 

It doesn’t matter that you went to that party, talked to that guy, or the type of clothing you wore.  I’ve read cases of girls wearing sweatshirts, and sweatpants, with their hair in a ponytail and no makeup on, and being raped in their dorm room.  You did nothing wrong!  Whether you froze in fear or fought with everything you had, it’s still not your fault.  The person/s that chose to do this to you is/are the one/s to blame!

Guilt can also surface from the victim responding to physical touch or sexual pleasure, even though they didn’t welcome it.  God designed us to be sexual beings and we were made to respond to physical touch.  That doesn’t mean you welcomed it or that what the person/s did wasn’t wrong.  The abuser/s is/are still the one/s to blame.

If you were a child when you were sexually abused, you may feel guilt for taking part or doing what you were told by your abuser.  According to Darkness to Light (d2l.org), 90% of child sexual abuse victims know their abuser. If you knew the abuser or were related to them, guilt will be stronger.  It’s likely this person was older than you, and you trusted them.  They broke that trust, took advantage of you, and there is nothing you could have done to change the outcome.  They made the wrong choice and are the one to blame – not you!  They are the one who should shoulder all of the guilt!

Draw a picture in your journal of what it looks like to carry guilt/shame.  Close your eyes and imagine yourself letting go of guilt and shame.  Draw a picture of it.  Put an X through the first picture.   

“Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.”  Hebrews 10:22  

Author Notes Guilt weighs heavily on survivors. Please let me know if I left anything out.

There won't be chapters in the book, so these "chapters" are short.

Thanks for reading!


Chapter 5
Shame - Day 5

By MelB

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of sexual content.

Day 5
 

~ Shame ~
 
To recap from yesterday, guilt says you have made wrong choices.  You are not a bad person; your choices are bad.  Shame is a strong sense of feeling uniquely and fatally flawed, and will make a person feel isolated and alone.  Shame from sexual abuse is the most intense, but a person can also experience it from physical, emotional, and/or verbal abuse. 
 
According to Chester and Betsy Kylstra, Restoring the Foundations: An Integrated Approach to Healing Ministry, “Shame is present any time a person rejects or abandons you, if you have/had abusive parents, if you are/were the scapegoat (the one blamed) for someone abusive, from an illegitimate birth, poverty, an alcoholic in the family, shaming from an authority figure, arrest of a family member or from any kind of handicap.” 
 
“If you were raised in a dysfunctional family, you were “caused to stumble.”  Unrealistic expectations or abusive treatment taught you the lies that you are the kind of child who deserves disrespectful or dehumanizing treatment, parents can do anything they want to you, and that God doesn’t care.  And the more extreme the level of inadequate parenting, actual abuse and distortion of reality, the deeper is your sense of being innately different and deficient.”  (‘Released from Shame’ by Sandra D. Wilson, Ph.D.)
 
I grew up in a dysfunctional family.  In addition to the sexual abuse I endured as a child, I also went through verbal abuse from my mom who hadn’t yet been diagnosed with major depression.  As a teenager, I started down the path of physical, emotional, and verbal abuse.  What began in childhood -- anger, rage, depression, anxiety, fear, hatred of men, disrespect for authority, and trust of no one – had escalated by my teen years. 
 
Have you ever thought you are a magnet for abusers?  I sure did.  There is a reason these people were attracted to me, and why they are drawn to you – shame.  If you want to be free of shame, you need to first reject it as your identity.  Second, you will need to put shame where it belongs – on the person/s who abused you.  It is the abuser/s to carry, along with what they did to you.  Third, you will need to accept your new identity – and that is found in Jesus Christ.  Jesus will allow guilt to draw you close to Him, but he nailed shame to the cross.  That means you don’t need to carry it any longer!
 
Go back to the guilt/shame pictures in your journal.  Write these words above, “I let go of guilt and shame.”
 
“Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame.  Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated.  You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood.”  Isaiah 54:4
 

Author Notes I know the subject of sexual abuse is hard to read, so I appreciate your support!


Chapter 6
Fear - Day 6

By MelB

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of sexual content.

Day 6
 

~ Fear ~
 
Sexual abuse is traumatic, and it’s normal to feel afraid after being assaulted.  Sometimes, a victim may have been assaulted with a knife held to their throat, or at gunpoint, and feared for their life. Fear can be a dominate emotion, and force survivors to change their lifestyle, which may make them feel less freedom and angry at this loss. 
 
Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD can be caused by traumatic events, particularly, sexual assault.   PTSD is associated with war veterans, but according to The National Women’s Study, one-third of all rape victims develop PTSD.  The American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress states that PTSD is a “normal human reaction to an abnormal situation:  traumatic experiences bring to the fore survival skills which are valuable and useful at the time of the trauma, but which usually become less valuable, less useful and less effective with time.  Sometimes survivors become stuck in problem behaviors when their pain is not acknowledged, heard, respected, or understood.
 
PTSD sufferers can have impairment to the hippocampus which is important for learning and memory.  It can also affect the medial pre-fontal cortex which regulates our emotional reaction to both fear and stress.  According to Help Guide.org, some of the symptoms may include:  nightmares, flashbacks of the event or the times surrounding the event as though one were reliving it, physical manifestations of the fight/flight response such as sweating, increased heart rate, hyperventilation or nausea in reaction to any reminder of the event, feelings of great distress and depression, intrusive memories which cannot be controlled, failure to recall important details of the traumatic event, heightened startle responses, great anxiety and fear when discussing the traumatic event, sleep problems, a feeling of emotional numbness or inappropriate affect to talking about the trauma, and difficulties with memory and concentration.

If you are keeping silent about the sexual abuse you are/were experiencing, you may be fearful that others will find out.  I can remember the overwhelming and paralyzing fear that friends and family would find out I was a fraud.  No one wants to feel different than others, and sexual abuse has a way of making you feel defective, flawed or like “damaged goods.”
 
An ancient Chinese proverb says, “If we do not change our direction, we are likely to end up where we are headed.”

Every time I spoke out about what happened to me, it lost power over me.  Did you catch that?  Each time you speak out about the abuse you experienced, it loses power over you!  Practice saying it right now out loud.  If you haven’t found that trusted person yet, find them today.
 
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” – 2 Timothy 1:7
 

Author Notes Christian Devotional for Survivors of Sexual Abuse


Chapter 7
Control - Day 7

By MelB

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of sexual content.

Day 7


~ Control ~

Sexual assault is a traumatic loss of control.  An individual’s right to make decisions about their body and contact they have with another person is destroyed.  Your whole life has been turned upside down and you may believe you will never have control over it again.  After the assault, this loss of control may result in difficulty making decisions or asserting feelings and needs.  For others, there is a subconscious decision to “never let another person control me again.”  This can result in controlling everything in your life, and everyone around you.  For some survivors of childhood sexual abuse, mostly boys, an extreme form of control ensues by becoming the abuser, ensuring they will “never again be the victim.”

In day 5 and 6, we discussed shame and fear.  Shame, fear, and control go together and form a stronghold of a counterfeit identity in our mind.  Great Bible Study.com defines a stronghold as a faulty thinking pattern based on lies and deception.   Deception is one of the primary weapons of the devil, because it sets the stage for a stronghold.  Strongholds are designed to cause us to think in ways which block us from God’s best for us. 

Shame, fear, and control were first introduced to mankind in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:6-10).  When Adam and Eve were tricked by the devil, into eating fruit from the tree God had instructed them not to touch, they immediately felt shame and realized they were naked.  They were fearful and took control by making fig leaves to cover themselves.  When they heard God walking in the garden, they felt fear and shame and hid from God.  The human race has been hiding from God since. 

I tried to take control of my life by pleasing everyone else around me.  I had difficulty making decisions, and thought others would approve of me if I never had an opinion.  I was perfectionistic, a workaholic and worked out at the gym for two hours a day, six days a week.  I tried marijuana, got drunk on alcohol, and suffered from an eating disorder.  I was ashamed of my body and the abuse, and I was afraid others would find out my secret.  This kept me in a perpetual stronghold of shame, fear, and control for 30 years.

So, how do we get rid of a stronghold?  Since a stronghold comes from the enemy, we counter it with God’s truth.  The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 10:4, “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.”  In John 8:31-36, Jesus tells us that we can be held in bondage due to strongholds in our lives.  But God’s word is truth, and as we meditate on it, strongholds are broken!

What’s your biggest struggle right now?  Google search scripture on it.  Read the scripture and pick out the verses that stand out to you.  Write them on a 3 x 5 card and renew your mind by reading them every day for a week.     

Author Notes Many more subjects to cover. Do you think this will be helpful for survivors of sexual abuse? Which exercises do you like best?

Thanks for reading!


Chapter 8
Perfectionism - Day 8

By MelB

Day 8 

~ Perfectionism ~

Perfectionism is defined as refusal to accept any standard short of perfection.  Perfectionism is unhealthy thought patterns and behaviors we use to hide our flaws.  In ‘Released from Shame,’ Dr. Sandra Wilson states, “Perfectionism is intended to compensate for poor self-concept and the painful sense of binding shame underlying it.  When we do inevitably fail, the resulting self-criticism leads to loss of self-esteem.  This often triggers episodes of depression.  As perfectionists, we can’t tolerate criticism from others in any form, so we react defensively and alienate those close to us.  This only reinforces our belief that we must be perfect to be accepted and loved."

Perfectionists believe they will be loved based on their performance, as more than likely this was modeled in their childhood.  If they can look perfect, act perfect, get perfect grades in school, are the perfect employee, etc., then everyone will love them.  The problem is when you step up on the pedestal, sooner or later, you are bound to fall and fall hard.  Perfectionism is a status we will never achieve, because one can never please everyone.  Sooner or later, you will burn out and become bitter.  This is exactly what happened to me in my 30’s.  I ran the race for so long, and like a mouse on a perpetual wheel that spins faster and faster, I eventually couldn’t keep up and fell off. 

Perfectionism is paralyzing!  When we can acknowledge we are not perfect, and give it all to God, we can begin to receive the grace that only God offers.  Romans 3:23-24 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.”  When we can accept the fact that God doesn’t expect us to be perfect in order to be loved by Him, it shatters the chains that keep us locked in bondage.  We are then free to become all God has called us to be and seek His plans for our life.

Today, write a resignation letter to perfection in your journal or better yet, write it and say it out loud.  Try something similar to this:  Dear Perfection, you’ve held onto me for far too long, and made me feel like I can’t measure up.  I believed that I don’t have what it takes for people to love and accept me.  Today, I call you out as a lie!  I no longer believe you, and I’m letting you go.  I resign from being a perfectionist and a shame-based person effective immediately!  Sincerely, Your Name 

How do you feel?  Do you feel free?  If you don’t believe this yet, say it out loud every day until you do.  You’ve got to receive it to achieve it!  I have faith in you.  If I could break free from perfectionism after 30 years, you can too!

But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”  2 Corinthians 12:9

Author Notes I appreciate all the great feedback! These are short chapters, because devotional books are small and don't have chapters. I didn't know how else to link it all together as a book.

Next up . . . People Pleaser


Chapter 9
People Pleaser - Day 9

By MelB

Day 9

~ People Pleaser ~

 

A people pleaser is one of the nicest and most helpful people you will meet.  They never say “no.”  You can always count on them for a favor or to help others.  Similar to the perfectionist, the people pleaser learned at an early age that love came by doing what others asked.

The people pleaser becomes the ultimate human doormat in order to please others.  They never offer an opinion and never do or say anything that could rock the boat.  They are submissive and often, extremely apologetic.  Have you ever met the person who apologizes for everything by saying, “I’m sorry?”  It’s almost as if they are sorry for breathing air and will take blame for everything, even when it isn’t their fault.

The intense need to please others and care for them is rooted in fear of rejection and fear of failure.  Fear of rejection comes from feeling that you have to do everything right and make a person happy or they will leave you.  Fear of rejection comes from having emotionally unavailable parent/s, a parent/s who gave conditional love, or rejection/abandonment by a parent/s before age 9.  Fear of failure comes from thinking if you make a mistake you will disappoint people and/or be punished.  Fear of failure comes from having highly critical parent/s or being punished harshly as a child for making a mistake.

What’s wrong with helping others?  Nothing, until it is done at your expense.  When you don’t have time to take care of yourself properly, that’s when the problem occurs.  You need to be able to eat healthy, exercise, have time for some fun, and get proper rest.  Psychology Today states, “People pleasing can turn into a vicious cycle of chronic stress and unhealthy behaviors.  If you have the constant feeling like you are too busy and doing everything for everyone else but yourself, you might be stuck in this cycle.”

By always saying yes, you put yourself at risk of others taking advantage of your kindness.  Even worse, exploitive people will take advantage, because they will see you cannot say no and take as much as they can from you.  You may feel guilty when you start to say no, but it’s necessary to get out of this unhealthy pattern for your well-being.  You may have heard, “I can only please one person a day.  Today isn’t your day.  Tomorrow doesn’t look good either.”  The good news is we don’t have to please people.  As a Christian, the only One you have to worry about pleasing is God.  The two greatest commands are to love God and to love others.  Notice it says love others, not please them.

Stand in front of the mirror and practice saying, “No.”

“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”  Galatians 1:10

Author Notes Thanks for reading!


Chapter 10
Isolation - Day 10

By MelB

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of sexual content.

Day 10

~ Isolation ~

 “I’m all alone and no one understands me or what I’m going through.”  “If I tell, no one will believe me anyway.”  “If anyone finds out, they’ll think I’m weird or a freak.”  Adult survivors isolate themselves for many reasons.  If you were neglected or abused in your home, isolation for self-protection is common.  For those that don’t receive love or support at home as children, they learn to stop asking for it at all.  Survivors can also believe they don’t deserve the good things in life, like healthy relationships or romantic interests.  If past attempts at breaking isolation have failed, learned helplessness can result.

Survivors can also isolate themselves from romantic relationships due to triggering from past wounds.  As a child, my mother hadn’t been diagnosed yet with major depression, and had fits of rage, crying, and screaming, followed by crying and remorse.  In my teen years, when someone raised their voice at me or even near me, I started shaking and had to bolt from the room.  After counseling, I no longer “trigger” at angry people, but I can still walk in a room and know right away if someone is angry.  For those who don’t get healing, they will sabotage relationships in order to avoid being the one who is rejected and abandoned or eventually isolate themselves altogether.

Adult survivors can also isolate from themselves – disconnecting from their own emotions and thoughts, because thinking and feeling can bring emotional distress.  When emotional pain occurs, survivors can remain guarded around others, stay away or seclude themselves. Food, alcohol, drugs or other coping mechanisms can also be used to comfort while in seclusion (more on coping mechanisms on another day).

I’ve seen women who also try to make themselves as unattractive as possible to isolate from others.  Some will wear large baggy clothes, cut off all their hair, put on a baseball cap, and not wear makeup.  Others will seek comfort in food, overeat, and gain weight.  Sometimes it’s a conscious decision and other times, it is in the subconscious mind.  But, the intention is the same – if I make myself unattractive, no one will be able to hurt me again.

If you’re isolating yourself, take things slow.  Continue to journal your feelings.  If you haven’t sought out a person you can trust, find one.  Keep talking about what happened if you’ve already found this person.  A Christian counselor can help you to start working through the healing process.  Hearing other survivors’ stories at a sexual abuse support group will also be helpful.  God didn’t make us to be alone.  We are to have fellowship with other believers.  We are also to help, support, and encourage each other.  By reaching out to others, you will unlock the door to your prison of isolation and work up enough courage to leave. 

 

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.  If one person falls, the other can reach out and help.  But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.”  Ecclesiastes 4:9-10     


Chapter 11
The Tough Girl - Day 11

By MelB

Day 11

 

~ The Tough Girl ~

 

If you aren’t a tough girl, you probably know one.  She is a take-charge, task-oriented, hard-hearted person who lives behind walls so thick that a sledgehammer couldn’t break through.  The Tough Girl is suspicious of others’ motives, and angry and arrogant in her assessment of others.  She finds human needs and emotions weak and pointless.  She believes in ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’ and wouldn’t spend time comforting a crying baby.  She’d sooner put the child to shame to “toughen up” or help the child “get over” the problem.

The Tough Girl views herself as a good wife and mother, and wants to be respected, but refuses to be dependent on anyone.  Her feelings and emotions must be conquered, so that no one can control her again.  She can watch a sad movie or go to a loved one’s funeral and not shed a tear.  Her attitude can be standoffish and downright hostile.  She is suspicious and critical, and will see any kindness toward her as an attempt to dominate and control her.

The Tough Girl doesn’t want your opinion and doesn’t ask questions.  She knows how to do everything and does it herself.  The Tough Girl is aloof and distant; she is the ‘no vacancy’ sign at the motel.  Don’t challenge her or get in an argument with her, because she will have to win at all costs.  She sees the world in black or white, and there is no in between.

The Tough Girl is valued for what she can accomplish, but she is not a good friend, and leaves others feeling lonely and kept at a distance.  Her critical spirit and hardened heart become a liability and keep others away.  The Tough Girl is a lonely person at her core.

The Tough Girl has been a victim of sexual abuse, and has made the self-vow that she will never be wounded or controlled again.  So, she will take control, dominate, and intimidate.  Eventually, others will leave her or become vengeful and retaliate against her.  After many years of trying to run my own life, I got worn out.  I wanted close relationships with others, but couldn’t understand why they were distant.  I was the princess in the tower, but I had closed the windows, raised up the drawbridge, and slayed my own dragon. No one was coming in!

Let go and let God.  Trust me – He can do a better job of controlling your life than you can!  Pray this:  Dear God, I’m letting go today.  I don’t want to control others or my own life anymore.  It’s too hard! I’m opening the windows, and lowering the bridge, and asking You to come into my heart.  Thank you!  Amen.

 

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11 


Chapter 12
The Good Girl - Day 12

By MelB

Day 12
 

~ The Good Girl ~
 
The Good Girl is kind-hearted, gentle, and a wonderful helper.  She is a peacekeeper and will do whatever it takes to keep others from becoming angry and abandoning her.  Finding out others are upset with her will cause anxiety and make her lose sleep at night.  She is the professional apologizer, needing constant validation and proof of her worthiness.  Internally, she keeps her emotions in check, by not allowing herself to experience too much pleasure or pain.  She appears controlled, but is numb.
 
The Good Girl is organized, dependable, loyal, and a hard worker.  Her hard work is generally to dazzle others with her commitment, but it is seen as subtle manipulation.  She has a tendency to be taken advantage of, as she has a hard time saying no to others’ demands.  When others become upset, she will blame herself for allowing it to happen.  It’s hard for her to accept help from anyone, as she believes no one could do it as well as she could anyway.  She would rather work herself into the ground, than to admit defeat and ask for help.
 
The Good Girl wears a plastic smile on her face, and takes good care of her outward appearance.  However, on the inside she is filled with critical hardness and self-hatred.  She has handled the abusive action of others by remaining pleasant, but emotionally detached.  The Good Girl has learned the hard way not to trust others, and would like to put faith in herself, but she is not able.
 
The Good Girl is destined to live a life of loneliness and suffer repeated abuse, if she continues down the same path. 
She is more prone to depression, and will recoil in her own shell if attention is drawn to problems in a relationship with her. 
 
Jesus spoke these words on the Sermon of the Mount, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9). Peacemakers strive to create peace and attempt to reconcile things and people that are at odds with one another.  Peacekeepers, on the other hand, strive to keep peace at all costs.  The Good Girl will need to make peace, instead of paying the price to keep it. 

Our self-worth often comes from what other people tell us about ourselves.  “Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold … but with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18, 19).  God was willing to pay the highest price to redeem us – with His Son’s blood.  We must be important to God to give that huge of a sacrifice! 

“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1).

Author Notes Various issues and emotions that sexual abuse survivors go through are covered in this devotional. Devotionals are small books, so a lot of information is covered in a small space. This is a series and each day builds from the previous day.


Chapter 13
The Party Girl - Day 13

By MelB

Day 13

~The Party Girl ~
 
In ‘The Wounded Heart,’ The Party Girl is described as a good-time gal; easy-going, inconsistent, hard to read, and impossible to pin down in a close relationship.  Sometimes, she is intense and other times mellow.  She draws a person in, and then turns her back on them.  In an instant, she can go from warm and inviting to demanding and whiny.  This is a complex, complicated person, who not only has contempt for others, but also for herself.  The Party Girl is a master at hating you and herself at the same time.

The Party Girl is unstable and you don’t know what to expect from moment to moment.  Her mood changes on a dime and depends on who she hates more at the moment, herself or you.  Brief agony over hurt or loss may be allowed, but she views it as pointless.

The Party Girl will use seduction as a tool, but it is meant more to entice or enmesh into a relationship and keep the other person interested.  She will lure through lust and guilt for the purpose of enmeshment, control, and power to destroy.  Her loyalty remains only as long as she benefits, and when it no longer does, she will be on to the next relationship.  Once there is no longer enjoyment in a relationship, she will sabotage it, and start over again.  She will “attach” to someone else to satisfy her needs and “detach” when she has run the well dry.  The problem is her needs are never satiated. 

The Party Girl wants your involvement, but intimacy sends her into fear and rage.  She will use intimidation to abuse others, but she is also abused by others.  Her harm of others will cause them to eventually become frustrated and withdraw. 

The Tough Girl, The Good Girl, and The Party Girl have all been victims of sexual abuse.  A survivor of sexual abuse can have one of these styles of relating to others or have a combination of two or all three.  These styles of relating are normal ways of protecting ourselves from ever being harmed again.

We would like to think that our belief in God would encase us in a plastic bubble and we would never go through anything harmful.  We are fallen people in a fallen world, where we were given free will.  Free will means that fallen people will sometimes, make bad choices.  Your abuser made a bad choice and chose to do evil.  You didn’t want to be abused, and neither did I, but we both paid the price for someone else’s bad choice. 

You do have a choice now – stay locked in the prison you’re in or make the choice to heal.  Getting healthy is a hard, painful process and it doesn’t happen overnight.  Sometimes, it can take years.  If you quit now or give up along the way, you lose, your abuser wins, and someone else wins – the devil.  Who do you suppose was behind what your abuser did?  He came to kill, steal, and destroy (John 10:10).  Give yourself the best gift –choose to heal. 

Author Notes For more details on: The Tough Girl, Good Girl, and Party Girl see 'The Wounded Heart' by Dr. Dan Allender.


Chapter 14
Powerlessness - Day 14

By MelB

Day 14

 

~ Powerlessness ~

 

Dictionary.com defines powerless as lacking power to act; helpless.  When a child is molested, the mind splits from the abuse, burying it in denial and suppression.  When a child is abused in the home by a family member or outside the home, the loss of power came prior to the abuse.  Children who are sexually abused tend to live in controlling homes that instill fear, and emotional neglect.  The child is in a position without power, strength, control, or hope.  This sets the stage for abuse to happen either in or out of the home. 

Home is deemed unsafe; the child loses the ability to trust, particularly if abuse occurs in the home, and remains silent.  Powerlessness results because leaving the family or escaping the pain is not an option.  Trust is destroyed, and sets up many failed relationships as an adult.  Due to loss of control as a child, the adult will cope by holding onto relationships, demonstrating obsessive traits such as being a workaholic, perfectionistic, and excessive hand washing as noted in obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).  Addictions and co-dependency are also common, creating acceptance of bad treatment that a healthy person would not tolerate.      

Those who have been abused can remain in a victim mentality into adulthood due to lack of boundaries.  Abusive relationships are repeated with controllers, and loss of power and control will continue for the victim.  Self-doubt, self-hate and loss of judgment cause the abused to ask, “What’s wrong with me?”

Fear and powerlessness eventually produce emotional numbness and a dead soul -- giving up on life and people.  Pain is forfeited for emotional emptiness.  Fear and terror not dealt with will manifest as anxiety, phobias, panic attacks, and fearfulness.  Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) develops when a person becomes emotionally stuck. 

The first step in gaining power back in your life is to decide you are worth it.  For too long, abusive people have been telling you it’s your fault, you deserve it, you made them act that way, or some other excuse.  Make the decision today to break the cycle of abuse!  Find a Christian counselor (if you haven’t already), who can help you work through the trauma you have experienced.  The extent and duration of abuse, will determine the time to recover and heal. 

When you were sexually abused, your boundaries were violated.  So, you may need help in learning to set boundaries with others.  Read the book, ‘Boundaries’ by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend.  Once you start setting and maintaining boundaries, you will learn how to avoid bad treatment from others.  Self-confidence and judgment will improve.  Releasing self-hatred and rebuilding trust of yourself and others will take more time.

 

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”  Psalm 56:3


Chapter 15
Betrayal - Day 15

By MelB

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of sexual content.

Day 15

 

~ Betrayal ~

The opposite of betrayal is faithfulness, loyalty, protection, and support – all of which are destroyed when sexual abuse occurs.  According to Darkness to Light (d2l.org), 90% of child sexual abuse victims know their abuser, and 30% are abused by family members.  The more intimate the relationship, the more pain it will cause, the deeper the betrayal, and the harder to trust another person and form deep, lasting relationships. 

A parent is supposed to love, nurture, and protect their children.  When basic needs are met in infancy, like food, clothing, and shelter, a child learns to trust their caregiver.  If the parent, who is supposed to love the child, begins violating that child, trust is shattered.  For the child coping with betrayal, a deliberate unawareness, through denial or in extreme cases, suppression of partial or complete memories can last years.  A child may also remain loyal to the offending parent, and lie for years or cover up the abuse.          

Betrayal is just as debilitating, when it comes in the form of one parent abusing the child, and the other parent denying its existence.  The non-offending parent doesn’t have to suspect or know the abuse is occurring, for it to be considered betrayal.  In some cases, the non-offender chooses their own comfort, fear, or self-protection over preventing their child from harm or providing a safe environment.  This parent may have experienced domestic violence, and may be co-dependent on the abusive parent.  I’ve read other cases where a parent is on drugs and has prostituted their child to fulfill their fix.  I met a lady in one of my counseling courses, whose mother had done this very thing.  She described in great detail how “johns” picked her up in their vehicles, and drove off, but then denied that her mother had allowed it.  

Victims of Crime.org reports those with a prior history of sexual victimization are extremely likely to be re-victimized.  Some research estimates an increased risk of over 1000%.  When a child is raised in a dysfunctional home, the treatment the child receives is considered the “normal” standard for a family.   The child is forced to lie to self and others and to deny any feelings of inappropriate behavior. 

Dr. Paul Hegstrom, of Life Skills International, states a child who is abused before the age of 8, will believe that the abuse is their fault and the result of being a “bad” child.  Three important chemicals at pre-puberty called serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, produce reasoning or abstract thinking, enabling a child to make their own choices, and reason that the abuse was not entirely their fault.    

Recovering from betrayal, involves first healing from the trauma of sexual abuse.  Childhood wounds can affect us for a lifetime, making us double-minded and unstable in everything (James 1:8).  We are fixable, if we are teachable!


Chapter 16
Ambivalence - Day 16

By MelB

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of sexual content.

Day 16

~ Ambivalence ~

Ambivalence is two contradictory attitudes or emotions at the same time.  Sex was designed by God.  In Genesis 1:27-28, God created male and female in his own image, and said to be fruitful and multiply.  Sex was also designed to be enjoyable between a husband and wife.  The sexually abused may think of sex as repulsive and need to avoid it at all costs.  It may also bring comfort, distraction from problems, or a temporary release from pain.  This can result in sex outside of marriage, adultery, or pornography use.  Pornography is addictive, promotes lies and deception, guilt and shame, and can lead to adultery.  (If you are involved in pornography, sex outside of marriage, or adultery, please stop immediately and seek help!) 

The sexually abused child may have felt physical pleasure, even though touch was inappropriate.  The child may feel tricked or betrayed by the body, but this is a natural response to touch.  They experience false shame and guilt for the physical response, responsibility for the abuse, and a feeling of cooperation.  Some abusers will use the child’s physical response to convince the child they “wanted or enjoyed it.”

Ambivalence is prevalent when the victim and abuser have a close relationship.  A child who has a home lacking love, evident neglect, or with emotionally distant or unstable parent(s), is open to receive affection, albeit abuse, from another relative or family friend.  Sexual feelings are connected with confusion, powerlessness, and betrayal.  This carries into adult relationships where flirtation or sexual pleasure is enjoyable, but also revolting.

Adult relationships can vacillate between flirtation and strong signals of attraction, and pulling away -- leaving the other person confused.  Everyone wants to feel love and cherished, but the risk is too great for the abused.  There is a need to be in a loving, committed relationship, but the pain and betrayal that came with the abuse returns.  Some victims will use sex as a tool to gain power over the other person.  This may be subconscious, but a self-vow of ‘I will never be a victim again’ or ‘I will never let another person control me’ is made.  The victim takes control of sex and/or the relationship, to avoid being violated again. 

Friendships can also be distorted by the victim “sexualizing” relationships.  I did this into my twenties, as I had no idea how to relate to men.  As an 8-year-old, I was told the abuse happening to me was ‘what people who cared about each other did.’  I flirted and gave off mixed signals, which caused confusion and misunderstanding with men.  It resulted in a few unwanted males following me home and one stalker who kept showing up where I worked.     

 

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things."  Phillipians 4:8

Author Notes Thank you to those who are following this! I appreciate your wonderful feedback.

Porn Industry:

12% of Internet websites (4.2 million) are pornographic (Internet-filter-review.toptenreviews.com/internet-pornography-statistics.html)
The Internet accounted for US $2.5 billion of the adult industry‚??s $14 billion in U.S. revenues in 2004. (Dirty Downloads Ready to Go on iPods, Ron Harris, www.macnewsworld.com, 2005)
Study shows that in 2005 and 2006, the United States pornography industry generated $12.62 and $13.33 billion in revenue respectively. (http://internet-filter-review.toptenreviews.com/internet-pornography-statistics-pg2.html)
2006 Worldwide Pornography Revenues ballooned to $97.06 billion (http://www.enough.org/inside.php?id=3K03RC4L00)
Every second $3,075.64 is being spent on pornography (http://www.enough.org/inside.php?id=3K03RC4L00)
Every second 28,258 Internet users are viewing pornography (http://www.enough.org/inside.php?id=3K03RC4L00)
Every 39 minutes a new pornographic video is being created in the U.S. (http://www.enough.org/inside.php?id=3K03RC4L00)

Internet & Television Pornography:

70% of 18 to 24 year old men visit pornographic sites in a typical month. 66% of men in their 20s and 30s also report being regular users of pornography. (First-person: the culture of pornography, R. Albert Mohler, Jr., Baptist Press, 28 December 2005)
40 million U.S. adults regularly visit Internet pornography websites, and 10% of adults admit to Internet sexual addition (Internet Filter Review, 2006).
20% of men admit accessing pornography at work (Internet Filter Review, 2006).
The number of television sexual scenes has almost doubled since 1998. 70% of all shows have some sexual content ‚?? averaging 5 sexual scenes per hour compared to 56% and 3.2 scenes per hour respectively in 1998. (Sex on TV 4, a Kaiser Family Foundation study, November, 2005)
56% of divorces involve one spouse‚??s continued use of Internet pornography
(Family Research Council, The Effects of Pornography, 2009)

Christians and Pornography:

According to pastors, the 8 top sexual issues damaging to their congregation are: 57% pornography addiction, 34% sexually active never-married adults, 30% adultery of married adults, 28% sexually active teenagers, 16% sexual dissatisfaction, 14% unwed pregnancy, 13% sexually active previously married adults, and 9% sexual abuse.
(More Sex, Please, Christianity Today International, Winter 2005)
53% of Promise Keeper men viewed pornography in last week (http://familysafemedia.com/pornography_statistics.html#anchor5)
47% of Christians say Internet pornography is a problem in the home (http://familysafemedia.com/pornography_statistics.html#anchor5)
50% of all Christian men and 20% of all Christian women are addicted to pornography. (Market Wire. August 7, 2006. ChristiaNet.com. December 7, 2006http://www.marketwire.com/mw/r‚?¶e_html_b1?release_id=151336)
51% of pastors say cyberporn is a possible temptation. 37% say it is a current struggle (Christianity Today, Leadership Survey, December 2001). 4 in 10 pastors have visited a porn site (Christianity Today, Leadership Survey, December 2001).


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