Sexual abuse includes any type of unwanted sexual touch, behavior or language, coercion to engage in unwanted sex, or unwanted exposure to material of a sexual nature such as pornography.
Sexual abuse includes sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, molestation, sexual assault, and rape. It may occur only once or on numerous occasions. Sexual abuse may or may not involve violence.
Ambivalent Goddesses is for any woman who feels the sexual abuse she experienced interferes with her well being and ability to reach her full potential. Because I was pretty debilitated by my sexual abuse history, and then went on to work with women who had severe histories of childhood sexual abuse and/or adulthood rape, I write with awareness of how challenging recovery can be.
Ambivalent Goddesses emphasizes taking the process of recovery slowly, and reducing symptoms and triggers early in the process. I think going slow, especially in the beginning, benefits just about everyone, but I’ll let you decide if that’s true for you.
Ambivalent Goddesses is organized according to the phase-oriented model of trauma treatment in which the first phase of recovery is devoted to stabilization and creating safety. I encourage you to make time to read from the beginning if you are just starting your recovery process, or have not yet benefitted from trauma-informed care.
I also encourage you to make your recovery work a practice, and devote twenty to thirty minutes a day to making simple changes that over time become the ground for living without the burden of sexual abuse.
Ambivalent Goddesses provides suggestions throughout for simple ways to create meaningful change, which I hope inspire you to invent some of your own methods.
Not everyone with a history of sexual abuse wants to address what happened to them. Recovery work is time consuming and life changing. Indeed, you might naturally feel resistance to recalling the trauma. Personally, I didn’t start dealing with my history of childhood sexual abuse until I began having uncontrollable flashbacks. Only then was I willing to deal with the past. So I understand if recovery work isn’t your ‘thing’.
There’s a lot you can do to improve your life without going into the memories of what happened. In fact, research shows, for some people, getting into traumatic memories and rehashing the past is more harmful than helpful.
Ambivalent Goddesses is a tool for supporting recovery from sexual abuse that does not require going into the memories of the actual traumatic event(s). If you choose to — or need to — go into your memories (like me and the flashbacks I couldn’t avoid), I encourage you to seek support from a person trained in the treatment of psychological trauma. You want someone knowledgeable to support you as you do this work! Please trust me on this.
I have trained in Sensorimotor Psychotherapy as well as assisted training others in this modality. Sensorimotor Psychotherapy uses neuroscience, attachment theory, and mindfulness-based practices to address how trauma affects the mind and body. It’s a very gentle approach to the treatment of trauma that takes into consideration the whole person.
I am also trained in depth psychology (MA in counseling psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute), especially the work of Carl Jung and more contemporary analytic psychologists. Depth psychology focuses on the symbolic aspects of psyche, including how its conscious and unconscious aspects communicate with one another. Jung believed our symptoms of illness are actually signs for the direction of our growth. I think this is a great way to think about reactions to sexual abuse. Rather than evidence that we are somehow irreparably damaged by what happened, our symptoms are trying to get our attention, telling us that something needs to change.
I received my Phd from Stanford University, where I was enrolled in an interdisciplinary program based in the School of Education. I specialized in philosophy of education and symbolic systems, and studied the interrelationship between internal psychological states and external social conditions. I continue to use this lens in my research. However, this influence shows up more in the book I am writing where I examine the role society plays in how we make sense of our sexual abuse histories and thus also influences how we recover.
Unfortunately, not at this time.
I do not provide the names of specific therapists. However, I do refer people to the Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute’s website where they have the names and contact information for therapists according to region.
I also recommend visiting the EMDR website for referrals. (In the search field, just put in your city/state/country and hit search). I used this modality for working through my traumatic memories.
Furthermore, I have received trainings from practitioners of Peter Levine’s Somatic Experiencing, and am very impressed with this modality.
“Transformation of any kind always exacts a holy tussle. The newborn butterfly struggles to open its wings so it can conjure up the strength to fly. So, too, with artists, inventors, mystics, and entrepreneurs.”
— Tama Kieves