Posted by: Marie | August 31, 2009

(136) Taking stock of the damage

Post #136
[Book study – Thursday, May 28, 2009]

The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse
(Third Edition, 1994)
by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis

Part One: Taking Stock
Effects: Recognizing the Damage

[Table of Contents]


Green text: Quotes/Summaries from the book
Gray text: My words

This transformative work (the entire series of blog posts relating to this book) constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright law.


The long-term effects of child sexual abuse can be so pervasive that it’s sometimes hard to pinpoint exactly how the abuse affected you. It permeates everything: your sense of self, your intimate relationships, your sexuality, your parenting, your work life, even your sanity.

You cannot heal until you acknowledge the areas that need healing.

Where are you now? (Self-esteem and personal power)

The way the abuse was handled when you were a child has a lot to do with its subsequent impact. If a child’s disclosure is met with compassion and effective intervention, the healing begins immediately. But if no one noticed or responded to your pain, or if you were blamed, not believed, or suffered further trauma, the damage was compounded. And the ways you coped with the abuse may have created further problems.

On the Top by Martin Chen

On the Top by Martin Chen

When you were abused, your boundaries, your right to say no, your sense of control in the world, were violated. You were powerless. The abuse humiliated you, gave you the message that you were of little value. Nothing you did could stop it.

If you told someone about what was happening to you, they probably ignored you, said you made it up, or told you to forget it. They may have blamed you. Your reality was denied or twisted and you felt crazy. Rather than see the abuser or your parents as bad, you came to believe that you did not deserve to be taken care of, that you in fact deserved abuse. You felt isolated and alone.

Do you feel that you’re bad, dirty, or ashamed? Yes, all three.

Do you feel powerless, like a victim? Yes, when I interact with people I know and am supposed to trust (but typically not with strangers), and when I am physically vulnerable (like when I’m asleep).

Do you feel different from other people? Yes

Do you feel there’s something wrong with you deep down inside? That if people really knew you, they’d leave? Absolutely

Do you ever feel self-destructive or suicidal? Or that you simply want to die? Not suicidal, but I often behave self-destructively (drink to excess, binge eat, etc.) to numb the pain; I often wish I would die in my sleep so I don’t have to feel the pain. I couldn’t allow myself to kill myself because the collective pain I would cause other people is so much bigger than the pain I’m feeling.

Do you hate yourself? Hate may be a strong word – but I don’t love myself and I usually don’t like myself.

Do you have a hard time nurturing or taking care of yourself? Absolutely.

Are you able to enjoy feeling good? When I feel good, I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop – I know the feeling is fleeting.

Do you find it hard to trust your intuition? No, I trust and follow my intuition a great deal.

Do you feel unable to protect yourself in dangerous situations? With strangers, no. With people I’m supposed to trust, yes – I feel they can out-manipulate me.

Have you experienced repeated victimization (rape, assault, battery) as an adult? One sexual assault in high school, one sexual assault as an adult, repeated verbal/emotional abuse, some physical intimidation.

Do you have a sense of your own interests, talents, or goals? Yes.

Do you have trouble feeling motivated? Are you often immobilized? Absolutely – daily.

Are you afraid to succeed? I’m afraid to make commitments concerning accomplishments because I am sure I will fail.

Can you accomplish things you set out to do? No – when I get close to completing something, I sabotage my efforts.

Do you feel you have to be perfect? Absolutely – I have no value otherwise.

Do you use work or achievements to compensate for inadequate feelings in other parts of your life? Absolutely.

Quotes 047


  1. I would answer those questions almost exactly the same way you did, except for one major difference – I was never abused. I don’t know what caused my problems.

    I’m sorry those things happened to you and that you feel this way now. I don’t know how abuse feels, but I know what it feels like to hate oneself, to sabotage oneself, to feel different and self destructive.

    • Hi, Harriet –

      I’m not an expert by any means on these matters; however, I believe that these same symptoms can show up in the wake of any kind of trauma. This might include things like an untimely death in the family, a parent that stopped being part of the family, illness, car wrecks, having to move a lot to new towns or new schools, being teased for being a little different, etc.

      Also . . . just a side note . . . and I’m not saying that this is the case with you since I don’t know anything about your life story . . . but, 18 months ago, I was saying the very same thing (what you wrote) to my therapist. At that point, I had not yet started recovering the memories of sexual abuse and I did not consider the “discipline” I received from my parents bad enough to be “abuse”.

      So, my point is . . . we are such complex creatures that it is hard to know why we are affected the way we are by life events.

      Thanks for your input!

      – Marie

  2. I would have answer those questions exactly the same way you did. I have so much to tell that sometimes I feel guilty of not telling more people about my journey. I was teach in school to be impartial, and to keep Very separate bussiness and personal life. I have tried writing…actually most of my life I have written different things…but right now is to painfull. I prefer to read at your stories Marie, you are such an inspiration! Thanks for sharing!

    • Hi, Marisol –

      I bet the answers would be the same for many, many, many other people — if we knew how many, we would likely be shocked. I bet many people have been silenced and shamed into keeping the secrets of “what happened” and the impact it had (and continues to have) on us.

      The writing and the sharing seem to be such key components in the healing process — more so than I could have ever imagined. I encourage you to keep trying to write . . and to share, if you can.

      Thank you for your kind words!

      – Marie

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: