Restoration of Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse: How Can Caregivers Contribute to the Process? -- By: Scarlet Hai Yin Tsao
PP 20:1 (Winter 2006) p. 13
Restoration of Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse:
How Can Caregivers Contribute to the Process?
SCARLET TSAO holds a Master of Laws from Yale Law School and is an attorney admitted to practice in Hong Kong and England. She is currently a Master of Arts in Religion student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts. She is also a legal advocate of Help for Abused Women and Their Children (HAWC) in Salem, Massachusetts. HAWC provides services and support to abused women and their children residing in 23 cities and towns on Massachusetts’ North Shore.
In the United States, it is estimated that there are between fifty thousand to more than one million instances of child sexual abuse (CSA) each year. Research shows that one out of every four girls and one out of every seven boys has been sexually abused before the age of eighteen. This means that, “in any group of adults gathered together for ministry or another purpose, 15 to 20 percent of the people present may have been sexually abused by an adult before the age of eighteen.”1 We may have relatives, friends, colleagues, and members of our church who are still haunted by the traumatic memories of CSA and tormented by its poisonous effects on their lives, but who choose to conceal their pain.2 Churches and caregivers should not ignore the needs of this silent group of sufferers. This article discusses some of the major steps in the healing process of CSA survivors and how caregivers can be equipped to facilitate the process by adopting a multidisciplinary approach.
The Healing Process
CSA survivors have to be made whole both psychologically and spiritually. It is said that the healing process is like a spiral with different stages and that the survivors have to move up and down the spiral and go through the different stages repeatedly:
You go through the same stages again and again; but traveling up the spiral, you pass through them at a different level, with a different perspective. You might spend a year or two dealing intensely with your abuse. Then you might take a break and focus more on the present….With each new cycle, your capacity to feel, to remember, to make lasting changes, is strengthened.3
1. The Decision to Heal
The first step toward recovery requires a CSA survivor to make a conscious decision to be healed. Time will dull some pain, but deep healing will not happen unless a person chooses to pursue it.4 Further, healing often takes years of commi...
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