If you have read and studied the content of this website, you know that, as a survivor of sexual abuse, you can prevent disease, rather than becoming another statistic of an adverse childhood experience. It may not be an easy road but the good health you will enjoy is certainly worth every ounce of effort you will put forth. The feeling of isolation, so common with SA survivors, makes it hard to start this healing journey. If you have never told anyone about your sexual abuse, this might be the time.
While you may have many ideas of certain goals you want to achieve in your life, the following, mere suggestions and perhaps ones you have heard about previously, may give you some idea of how to enjoy a healthy life. The first step is to put your goals on paper and then develop an action plan on how to accomplish them. Set a time limit and monitor your progress weekly. Tape the action plan on your bathroom mirror where you will see it everyday. Reward yourself when you see how much progress you have made after one month, six months, a year, and finally when you accomplish your goals.
- Prepare your body to reach its best possible aerobic condition. If you come up against significant stress in your life, as we all face from time to time, your body will be better able to withstand it if it is in optimal physical condition. If you are obese or have other health problems, you should have a consultation with your internist before beginning such an aerobic program. The important concept to understand is that, by elevating your heart rate on a regular basis, the collateral circulation in your coronary arteries will improve dramatically and your lung capacity will also be enhanced. If you are a smoker, this might be a good time to quit. A common sense diet, combined with aerobic exercise, can help you to achieve this goal.
- Avoid negative emotions. Anger, guilt, shame, frustration, jealousy, fear, and the like will only cause problems for you. Changing habits may be difficult for you and, if it seems overwhelming, a psychologist may provide help. Medical studies have connected many of these emotions with disease.
- Develop strong social support. Did your family ditch you because you exposed your father or your uncle or your sister? If not, you’re lucky because your family members can be a wonderful source of support. But, if your family has deserted you, try to find a support group for SA survivors. In this section of this website, we list a number of such centers throughout the USA. If there isn’t one nearby, be a hero or heroine and start one yourself. Considering that a large number of men and women are in the same situation, you should have plenty of company in your location.
- Learn to practice deep relaxation at least twice a day. This calms your body and allows your NK cells to actively fight viruses, bacteria, and any cancer cells growing. Books and tapes on meditation, guided imagery, yoga, and a host of other methods are available in bookstores or via the Internet. To deeply relax is an integral part of avoiding disease for the SA survivor.
- Get religion. God cares about you and will help you. Numerous medical studies have proven that a strong religious belief as well as participation in religious activities (church going, volunteering) can enhance the immune system. Helping others can raise your self-image and make life more enjoyable.
- Have fun. If you seem to be caught up in a routine of taking care of teenagers, your spouse, the house, a job, and all the other activities that can make today’s life so hectic, remember that we all need time for ourselves. Even the President takes a retreat at Camp David every now and then. Take in a movie, go out to dinner, turn a weekend into a mini-vacation with a short trip, go fishing. Do something that makes you smile and have fun.
- Love yourself. This represents one of the most difficult aspects of healing for a SA survivor. Overcoming the guilt and the shame, dealing with flashbacks, and facing the daily fear of your abuser is a challenge for anyone. However, you are a survivor, a warrior in this fight, and a champion. The average person does not have a clue how difficult your battle is. So take pride in working hard to be happy and use the ideas in this website to live a normal, disease-free life. Good luck and congratulations!
- Be another Nicole. If you feel so moved, fight for your rights and for those of the millions of men and women who have been sexually abused. On January 25, 2006, the front page of the Cincinnati Enquirer newspaper featured a full color photo of Nicole Robertson and her parents, all smiling. This nine-year old was in the shoe department of a local store when a sexual offender (with a history of offenses against children) exposed himself to her. Unafraid, she told her mother and the man was arrested within minutes. Nicole accompanied her parents to a meeting of the state government in Columbus, Ohio, where her mother testified before legislators who listened and then acted to make a new law to toughen penalties against sexual offenders. This type of action certainly qualifies for a medal of courage, although it is not everyone’s cup of tea. But, if you have the temperament and the inclination, it is a way to make a difference in society and help protect the innocent. By having their photo in the newspaper, Nicole and her parents showed society that there should be no shame in having been sexually abused. This can help to change the way society views the topic of sexual abuse.