There Is Hope

There Is Hope

Surviving Childhood Sexual Assault

When you were a child, suppressing or avoiding the feelings about the abuse was the only way to cope. Now you are an adult, it becomes possible, slowly, to face and process these feelings. And this in turn means that the strategies you developed to avoid the feelings are no longer needed.

The natural process of feelings is that you feel them, and then they pass. Feelings never last forever. They don’t even last for very long at a time – they tend to come, go, come back, and go again, until they are fully processed. The only feelings that stick around for long periods are feelings you are putting off experiencing out of fear.

Remember, feelings can’t kill you. By definition, they are smaller than you; they are inside you, not the other way around. They can’t sweep you away or drown you.

Having said this, facing and processing these feelings should be done carefully and slowly. We are not big fans of dramatic ‘emotional breakthroughs’. This work doesn’t have to be done quickly. It is safer and less exhausting to do it slowly and in manageable chunks.

In very broad and simple terms, the process of counselling for child abuse goes something like this:


To begin with you will learn basic skills for recognizing and managing anxiety as it comes up. This prepares you for the real work.


  1. Gradually and carefully, you will expose yourself to the fear that comes up when you think of the bad feelings and memories. This stage is working only on the fear about the feelings, not the feelings themselves. Slowly and gently you will build up a tolerance to this fear.
  2. Once the fear is manageable, in a safe environment you can slowly and carefully begin directly facing the memories and/or feelings. Once the fear has been managed, the bad feelings will be relatively easy to ‘resolve’. This will involve lots of sadness, grief and probably anger, but they are only feelings and you will cope.
  3. Over time, your memory of the abuse will no longer trigger these intense and terrible feelings. It will still be tragic and sad, but it will have become a ‘normal’ memory, no longer triggering of extreme emotions.
  4. Once the feeling are processed, the strategies – the ‘problem behaviours’ which may have brought you to counselling or to reading this book – will tend to become much easier to get on top of. They may even melt away without much effort on your part.

We are definitely not suggesting that you should use this outline to do this work by yourself. This work should only be carried out with the support of one or more professionals specializing in trauma-informed counselling or therapy. Dangerous memories should only be confronted in a safe environment. Contact us on 02 6247 2525 to fins out more about how SAMSSA can help you.