Women Sexual Assault Centre
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The effects of sexual violence can be difficult to overcome and the healing journey may seem to be a long one. There are many paths to healing; any action that leads you toward greater health, expanded self-awareness, and increased self-respect is beneficial in beginning or in sustaining the healing process.  There are many ways to heal from sexual violence. There is no right way. Healing is not a tidy, step-by-step process.  Although there are particular aspects that have been identified from the experiences of many survivors, the stages of healing my not always occur in the same way or in the same order for each survivor. Generally, healing can involve:

  1. Making a decision to heal. Taking that first step and deciding that you would like to make change in your life.
  2. Facing the crisis of beginning to realize the impact of the abuse/assault on your life.
  3. Remembering more details or remembering feelings associated with the abuse/assault.
  4. Working through the desire to deny or minimize the abuse/assault and to believe and accept that it really happened.
  5. Breaking the silence and telling about the abuse/assault.
  6. Healing the shame and coming to understand that it wasn’t your fault.
  7. Learning to trust yourself and your perceptions and judgments.
  8. Grieving the loss that resulted from the abuse/assault (of innocence, of trust, of a sense of security).
  9. Getting in touch with your feelings including your anger about what happened.
  10. Developing a sense of spirituality or meaning through art, music, religion, or a spiritual practice.
  11. Resolution - achieving some sense of peace and still allowing you to cycle through previous stages if necessary with less pain and with greater self-awareness

"There's more than anger, more than sadness, more than terror, there's hope."
Edith Horning, Survivor / Beginning to Heal (2003), Ellen Bass & Laura Davis.

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