|You are not
responsible for the sexual abuse, whether molestation, rape or incest,
that happened to you when you were a child. You are responsible for how
you think, feel and act. You and only you, can decide how you will live
the rest of your life. You and only you, can make the changes you
desire. Other people can help you achieve the things you want, but you
must do the work. Remember, you have some important strengths! You have
gotten yourself through some really tough times in the past. You also
have the strength and ability to make the changes you want now!
How can a victim of child sexual abuse (molestation, rape or incest)
change the way he or she thinks, feels and acts?
There are many things you can do to make changes as you move toward
recovery. You can do many of these healing things on your own, but very
often it is helpful to seek treatment from a professional counselor to
help you work on making the changes you want. A professional
can often help you reach recovery sooner.
All of the problems resulting from child sexual abuse can be corrected
even if they have gone on for many years. Of course, the bigger the
problems are and the longer they have lasted, the more work it will take
for you to make changes. If the problems are very big and have lasted
for a long time, you will probably need a professional counselor to help
you make these changes through treatment.
If you are not able to make things better for yourself on your own, even
after you have tried some of the suggestions in this chapter, consider
getting help from a professional counselor. If you think of suicide
frequently, the best thing you can do for yourself is to seek
professional help immediately.
Even if your situation is not this extreme, it is comforting and helpful
to have an understanding person to talk to about your problems. An
understanding person can help you work them out in your own mind as you
work toward recovery and healing. People who do not have special
training often have trouble understanding your experiences and feelings.
Professional counselors can understand them. Counselors can also offer
suggestions and teach you skills to help you make the changes you
Okay, you have decided that you want to change some of the ways you
think, feel and act. You are reading this book to help you do this. Now,
how do you begin? The best way is to attack each problem individually,
one at a time. Remember the different effects of child sexual abuse that
we discussed. Let’s start with those.
Confusion is a big problem for many victims of child molestation, rape
or incest. They are often confused about what happened to them and why.
They are also confused about their own reactions and emotions.
Learning more about child sexual abuse
One way to reduce your confusion about the things that happened to you
is to learn as much as you can about sexual abuse. Reading books like
this will help you understand more about your experiences. There are
many other books available that can give you information about child
sexual abuse. Look in the Bibliography at the end of this book for the
names of some of these. Your public library can probably help you find
You can talk with other victims of child sexual abuse to help reduce
your confusion. You can read novels or see television show about victims
of sexual abuse to learn more about the problem and its solutions. Can
you think of other ways you can get more information about child sexual
Sometimes questions still remain in your mind even after learning much
about sexual abuse. Then it is a good idea to ask an expert to help you
find the answers. A professional counselor is most likely to be able to
answer the questions you have about child sexual abuse. You can reduce
much of your confusion about your own experience by learning as much as
possible about child sexual abuse.
Knowing what happened
Another source of confusions for victims of child sexual abuse is not
being sure exactly what happened to them when they were abused.
Sometimes it is difficult for a young child to understand just what is
happening when the abuse takes place. Later this makes it hard to
remember exactly what did happen. Sometimes victims who do understand
what is happening try to block out memories of the sexual abuse. Other
times this happens without much effort.
It is important for you to have a clear picture in your mind of exactly
what happened to you. This will help reduce some of the confusion you
feel about your experiences.
Go over the events that took place in your own mind. How did the abuse
start? How long did it continue? What kinds of sexual acts did the abuse
involve? Who abused you? How did the abuse end? What happened then?
It may be very unpleasant for you to think about these things, but
knowing exactly what happened is important. When you are sure of what
happened, you don’t feel so confused. If you have difficulty remembering
just what happened, going over the events in your mind or talking about
them with someone else may help you remember.
Remembering forgotten events can be a frightening, even terrifying,
experience. You may want to seek help from a professional counselor
during this process, especially if remembering causes you substantial
emotional pain. A professional counselor can probably suggest other ways
to help you remember forgotten or confused events, and can provide much
needed support at this difficult time.
Identifying your feelings
Confusion about feelings is another problem for victims of child sexual
abuse. You can learn to understand the feelings that many victims
experience by reading about the
effects of child sexual abuse on this website, in Dr. Daugherty's
book Why Me? Help for Victims of Child
Sexual Abuse, and in books about sexual
abuse listed on the
Books section of this website.
It is important to identify and
sort out your own feelings about many things. This will take some
effort. It may cause you some pain, but it will help you feel better in
the long run.
Most of the time, people do not have all pleasant or unpleasant feelings
about someone or something. We usually have some pleasant feelings and
some unpleasant feelings about something that has happened to us or
about a certain person. You can reduce your feelings of confusion if you
sort out these pleasant and unpleasant feelings. So let’s get started.
Unpleasant feelings toward the abuser
What unpleasant feelings do you have towards the person who abused you?
Victims often feel anger and fear toward their abuser. Do you have any
of these feelings? What exactly are you angry about? What exactly do you
fear? What other unpleasant feelings do you have toward the person who
abused you? It would be helpful if you would make a list of these
It is normal to have these unpleasant feelings. There is nothing wrong
with you for having them. It is natural to have unpleasant feelings
toward someone who has harmed you. But if you keep strong unpleasant
feelings with you for a long time, you only harm yourself more. We will
talk later about getting rid of some of these unpleasant feelings.
Pleasant feelings toward the abuser
In addition to the unpleasant feelings, many victims of child sexual
abuse also have pleasant feelings towards the person who abused them.
This is especially true if the abuser was a friend or a relative. This
is not unusual.
It is perfectly normal to have pleasant feelings toward your abuser, in
addition to the unpleasant ones. No person does only bad things even if
he or she does some bad things. The abuser has probably done many good
things as well as the bad things. So it is natural to have some pleasant
feelings toward him or her.
Try to identify whatever pleasant feelings you have towards the person
who abused you. What pleasant memories do you have of that person? What
nice things did he or she do for you in addition to the harmful things?
Because of the sexual abuse you suffered, you probably have many
feelings toward other people beside the abuser. Let’s look at your
feelings toward these other people now.
Feelings toward other people
First of all, let’s look at your parents. Try to identify your pleasant
and unpleasant feelings toward your parents because of the sexual abuse.
Many victims blame their parents for not preventing the sexual abuse or
are angry at them because they did not stop the abuse from taking place.
Do you feel this way? What other unpleasant feelings do you have toward
each parent? Why? What pleasant feelings do you have toward each parent?
Next, think about the pleasant and unpleasant feelings you have toward
other family members. What unpleasant feelings do you have toward each
one of them? Why do you have these feelings? What did each person do
that you dislike? What pleasant feelings do you have toward each family
member? What did each person in your family do to help you with the
problems caused by the abuse? What other feelings do you have toward
What other people outside your family were involved in the sexual abuse
or its aftermath? What unpleasant feelings do you have toward specific
friends and acquaintances? What unpleasant feelings do you have toward
teachers, counselors, medical personnel, legal personnel o others that
you came in contact with because of the sexual abuse? What did they do
that you dislike? What pleasant feelings do you have toward each of
these people? What did each person do that was helpful?
Feelings toward yourself
Finally, try to examine your pleasant and unpleasant feelings toward
yourself. Let’s look at the unpleasant feelings first. Did you, or do
you now, blame yourself for the abuse? Are you angry at yourself in any
way? Do you fear your own feelings or behaviors? Try to identify each
unpleasant feeling that you have toward yourself as a result of the
sexual abuse. Which one seemed strongest at first? Did any of the
feelings change with time? Perhaps some increased and some decreased.
Right now, which of these unpleasant feelings seems strongest in you? In
what ways do you feel worse about yourself because of the sexual abuse?
Now, let’s examine the positive feelings you have about yourself because
of the sexual abuse. They may be difficult to find, but you probably can
discover some if you try hard enough. What things can you feel good
about? Look for reasons to pat yourself on the back.
If you found a way to stop the sexual abuse, you can be proud of your
ability to do this. If you told someone about the sexual abuse, you can
be proud of your courage. If you were able to live through the sexual
abuse, you can look at yourself as a strong person in many ways. What
skills did you use to get through the experience of sexual abuse and the
problems it caused?
If you are reading this book, you can feel good that you are doing
something for yourself to make changes in your life. What else are you
doing for yourself to make your life better? What strengths and skills
are you using to do this?
So now you have started to examine your feelings. Good work! It has been
hard figuring out just what feelings you have toward the people involved
in your sexual abuse. You have done it—or at least you have made a
start. Sometimes it takes a while to figure everything out. The more you
think about it however, the clearer your feelings become and the less
confused you are.
Understanding your feelings
You have probably reduced some of your confusion by sorting out some of
your feelings. You may have also realized that they are not as
frightening or as overwhelming as you thought they were. The unknown is
more frightening than the known. Now you know more about your feelings.
You know what they are. You know which ones you want to keep. You know
which ones you want o work on changing. You know more about you!
You probably discovered you have many “mixed” feelings about people and
events. Being able to recognize and live with conflicting feelings is a
sign of maturity. It shows that you can accept the fact that everything
in this world is not simple, not black and white. Every person is not
good or bad. Each of us does some good things and some bad things.
Accepting the fact that the world is not simple is part of becoming a
You have a right to your feelings, whatever they are. Feelings are
neither right nor wrong. They are the way you feel. Some feelings are
helpful to you and some feelings may cause you difficulties. But do not
let anyone tell you that you “should” or “should not” feel a certain
way. You may want to change some of your feelings, but that is your
Sharing your feelings
Maybe you want to share some of the feelings you have identified in
yourself. You may want other people to know and understand how you feel.
Perhaps you want the abuser to know, or maybe you want your family
members to know. Perhaps you want your
or your friends to
Some people will welcome knowing what your feelings are even if they are
unpleasant. Other people may have difficulty accepting your feelings.
Sharing feelings with other people involves risks. Maybe others won’t
understand. Maybe they won’t care. Maybe they will make fun of your
feelings or try to use them against you. Or, maybe they will be honored
that you trusted them by sharing your feelings. Maybe they will be glad
to know you better.
Only you can decide which feelings you want to share and with whom you
want to share them. Your counselor can help you make these decisions.
Your counselor can also help you plan how to share your feelings with
someone effectively—if you decide to do this.
Summary: Reducing your confusion
Now we have talked about two ways to reduce your confusion, first, by
learning more about child sexual abuse and what happened to you, and
second, by identifying and understanding your own feelings. You have
probably already come a long way toward reducing your confusion if you
have followed the suggestions presented so far.
In Why Me? Help for Victims of Child Sexual
Abuse (Even if they are adults now) Dr. Daugherty discusses ways
to change your other negative emotions. She addresses the following
Using anger constructively
Expressing your anger
You are not alone
It is not your fault
Feeling guilty doesn’t make it true
Depression and suicide:
You are important
Recognizing your good traits
Attitudes toward sex
Independence and maturity
Physical abuse of your own children
Sexual abuse of children
To learn more about these and other topics . . .
the complete paperback version (single copy, or in bulk) of Dr. Daugherty's bestselling book,
Why Me? Help for Victims of Child Sexual Abuse
(Even if they are adults now)
also $9.99 on
(readable on iPad, PC, Mac, iPhone, Blackberry, Android, etc.),
and available from other online booksellers, through your local
bookstore, or on
also available as ebooks . . .
Child Molestation Stories
Voices of Survivors
of Child Sexual Abuse
(Molestation, Rape, and Incest)
Why Me? Help for Victims of Child Sexual Abuse)
Child Rapists, and
Child Sexual Abuse
Why and How Sex Offenders Abuse: Child Molestation, Rape,
and Incest: Stories, Studies, and Models
© Cleanan Press, Inc. 2004-2011
All rights reserved.