DEPRESSION, BIPOLAR & ANXIETY - LIVING AS A LATTER-DAY SAINT, LDS

Episode #216 - Sexual Abuse and Assault - Healing and Hope

February 18, 2024 Damon Socha Season 1 Episode 216
DEPRESSION, BIPOLAR & ANXIETY - LIVING AS A LATTER-DAY SAINT, LDS
Episode #216 - Sexual Abuse and Assault - Healing and Hope
Show Notes Transcript

Sexual abuse and assault are perhaps the most heinous type of sin perpetrated upon the innocent victim.  The wounds can run deep and cause great distress leading to mental and emotional health concerns.  The Lord weeps for those who suffer and desires that they find his healing balm with the embrace of the Atonement of Christ.

Episode #216 – Sexual Abuse, Healing & Hope.  I am your host Damon Socha.  

Given the title I don’t believe that I need to provide a warning as to the subject material.  It is likely you have already taken that into consideration before listening to this podcast. Given the statistics is likely to apply to many individuals whether that is yourself or someone you know.  If you find this podcast helpful, insightful or valuable would you pass it along to someone who might need help.

 Sexual abuse in all its terrible forms wreaks havoc upon far too many individuals, women and men.  The statistics say that more than fifty percent of women and twenty percent of men will experience some form of sexual abuse during their lifetime.  That is the reported statistics.  Most individuals who track these types of numbers say that the percentage is likely an undercount.  Given that most sexual abuse is done under the cover of familial, social, or cultural guise I would agree with the assessment of the statisticians.  Far more abuse has occurred than we will ever know.  A great majority of the victims are forced to hide the truth to save face.  So victims often suffer more than just the injustice of the event, they must suffer the injustice and indignity of silence.  To suffer because of the evil act of another is one thing, to suffer in silence to protect the abuser to save another’s face is a far greater level of suffering and pain.  So very often these types of abuse lead to mental health conditions.  Whether those conditions are more temporary or more permanent is really more of a factor of genetics and support of the victim by others rather than the fortitude of the victim.  Mental health conditions such as PTSD, anxiety disorder, depression, and addiction are regular companions of those who have suffered.  Outside of genetics, this type of abuse accounts for much of the mental health issues we see today in our society.

The suffering of the innocent in the case of sexual abuse and assault is beyond description and is only truly known to those who pass through it.  Nothing causes my spirit and heart more pain than to know that someone suffers this type of deep trauma in silence.  I have a deep compassion for those who have suffered.  Yet I can only offer you the knowledge that I have some understanding and I empathize with you.  My only desire is that you find the peace and healing that you deserve through the mercy and merits of the atonement of Jesus Christ.  Healing from such trauma can be difficult, troubling and sometimes takes a great deal of time.  Many individuals may be suffering in silence and not even know that they do. Sometimes we bury this type of trauma so deep that it doesn’t arise until later in life and we don’t understand why we are suffering.

Sexual abuse and assault is very much an individual concern when it comes to trauma and the response of the brain and the soul.  The real definition is broad and all-encompassing.  Any type of touching, leering, voice expressions that cross the line of comfortable conversation can be included in the discussion of sexual abuse.  Abuse can be a one-time event or multiple events or even an aggregation of small events.  One should not simply dismiss abuse because of the world’s supposed definitions.  Marriage is not excuse for abuse sexual or otherwise.  Yes abuse and assault can occur under the guise of marriage.  That relationship contract should not be a license to allow actions against our agency.  Both partners in the marriage should be comfortable with the type of action and contact that is taking place.  Abuse is not determined by the abuser or by some type of relationship contract.  It is determined by the abused.  And that is incredibly important.  The abuse must be determined by the abused.  What may be considered of no concern to me, might be of great concern to you.  How do you know if you have been abused or assaulted in such a manner.  If an experience causes you emotional pain either deep in your past or even in the present, then you have experienced abuse.  Even if what you experience does not reach the definition of the law of the land or societies unwritten rules, that does not determine abuse.  Any abuse or assault is determined by you.  The first step in any healing process is to recognize the hurt caused and the damage that was done.

That doesn’t mean the abuser will admit to or even acknowledge the abuse.  Abusers rarely admit fault and even more rarely ask forgiveness.  What is important to understand from the spiritual side is that the Savior full well knows that you have been hurt and he will make that know to the abuser if not before the judgement then at that day.  You can be certain that the Savior does not take abuse lightly in any sense of the word light.  He equates certain sexual sin similar to murder, or the shedding of innocent blood.  Sexual abuse which is a form of sexual sin sits on the very near edge of sexual sin right beside murder.  Abusers will definitely answer for their offences and the pain and suffering of the innocent victim.  I believe that prophets and apostles have made that very clear over the years.

I am not speaking today to talk about the sinner or the perpetrator.  We are here to talk about you the innocent victim.  I am going to repeat this definition of abuse again.  If you have been hurt by someone in a sexual manner, even if you may not have understood sexuality at the time and can still feel those emotional and mental pains, then you are the victim of abuse.  Abuse does not have to be significant to cause mental and emotional health issues.  Because of genetics, culture, parentage and social grouping, we all possess a limit breaker switch for abuse in our minds and emotions.  We don’t always get to define when that breaker switch trips.  That is just part of mortality.  You should never compare your abuse to another’s abuse and in so doing minimize your own suffering.  We as mortals are not built the same.  Our switches are different and each switch has its own limits.  Trauma is simply flipping one of those switches in the emotional brain.  We all have a survival mode and I think everyone listening understands the fight or flight switch in the brain.  What causes that switch to turn on and more importantly turn off is not well understood in science and I think most of us would admit we don’t fully understand our own on and off switch.  These limit switches are built to provide for a difficult moment in time and are meant to turn off once the danger is removed.  But many times one or more of these switches stays on when the abuse or assault leads to deep trauma.  Sometimes we notice right away and other times it takes several years.  What happens when these switches are left on is not always clear or understood but we do know that it regularly leads to anxieties disorders such as PTSD, OCD and other disorders such as depression, bipolar and even addiction disorders.  Unfortunately, abuse and assault often lead to more than one of these disorders. 

When mental and emotional illness occurs after the abuse or assault and it does so very frequently. The illness can be temporary and resolve itself over time. It can cause an immediate breakdown.  Or it can hide itself for years and then reappear later in life.  We never fully know which it will be. The point to all of this is to avoid rationalizing your abuse away thinking that its wasn’t enough of an event to be abuse or that you never had a problem until today.  The emotional scars of abuse need cleansing and healing.  If we cover the abuse without the cleansing affect of the atonement of Christ, it is likely to fester and reappear in a much uglier state affecting more than just the wound itself but the whole body.  And that may take much more time to heal.

Before I talk about that healing process, there is something important to understand about our mind and soul.  It very much likes to believe that it is in control.  So much so that our brain doesn’t like to admit that anything might be out of its control especially anything that might be devastatingly harmful.  And so our brain will tend to use a terrible trick to help it feel in control.  The brain will take some of the blame when its agency has been violated.  If it takes blame then it takes responsibility and if it has responsibility then in some ways the brain feels that it has control.  In other words, the brain is choosing to make peace with an abusive event that was not under its control by taking upon itself guilt or partial responsibility for what happened.  I implore you not to fall under the control of your brain and accept any responsibility for abuse.  Abuse is always the choice of the abuser and never the responsibility of the abused.  I have heard wives take responsibility for abuse by their husbands thinking somehow they had provoked the abuse.  I have heard young women and men think that somehow the way they acted or the way the dressed or what they said cause someone to abuse or assault them.  The answer to any abuse or assault is simple.  The fault always and completely lies with the abuser.

That is actually the first note in healing from abuse.  Do not take sins upon yourself that are not yours to take.  It is acceptable and recommended that you leave the abuse in the hands of the abuser.  Nothing you did or said caused the abuse to occur.  It is OK to see someone as a person who abused you.  It is OK to recognize the abuse.  If you had a cut on your leg and it was bleeding, you can’t simply ignore the cut and pretend it didn’t happen.  It is OK to see the hurt and to feel the hurt.  That is a normal response.  So is anger, depression, anxiety, fear and a deep sense of injustice.  There is one key to emotion and pain of this nature.  While you may experience it, don’t feed it.  Feeding pain always leads to over pursuing justice and that leads to revengeful thinking and deeds.  Revenge upon the abuser can make you an abuser.  We should most certainly use lawful and acceptable means of civil punishment but we should not be consumed by it.  Don’t become a person you don’t want to be because of abuse by another.  We have all heard the clarion call to forgive and leave judgment to the Lord.  And while that is true, have you ever thought why?  Why would the Lord ask this?  This is a God of fairness, justice and judgment.  So why would he ask you to reserve judgment and turn the other cheek.  Why would he ask of you to completely forgive someone without redress?

The secret is in the act of forgiveness.  The Lord knows that justice is needful and required but it doesn’t heal wounds.  If you were to see your abuser tortured, it would not heal the wound they have caused.  Mortal wounds are healed by killing the invading bacteria. You can’t always stop the bacteria but you can kill what has entered your body. In this case, the hate, anger and malice is the bacteria that will ravage your soul if you do not cleanse the wound.  I know that it sounds strange to cleanse a wound that you did not cause yourself.  But that is what we must do.  Once the abuser has violated your agency, trust and emotional connection, that pain must be cleansed and repaired.  The hate, malice, anger must be turned away and one’s heart and soul filled again with trust and love. 

This doesn’t mean that you will entirely forgive the abuser and run back only to be abused again.  Forgiveness is not forgetfulness in the sense of protection from the abuse.   The Lord would not have you forget and return to the abuse.  He wants you to forget the emotions of hate, malice, anger and resentment.  But you are unlikely to forget the abuse.  When I was 15 years old, I cut my knee open with a chainsaw.  It wasn’t as gruesome as it sounds.  I just needed a few stitches.  My father took me to get it sewn up and initially the nurse tried to clean it without the numbing agent.  That was far too painful.  So she reached for a needle and some painkiller to numb the nerves.  That needle hurt more than the cut itself but it allowed the nurse to clean the wound without significant pain and provided for some lasting relief.  That is an important metaphor to understand.  Even when we have been wounded, we may be in a state of shock until those nerves realize what has happened.  Once they do the pain is likely to be searing and distressing.  Pain is part of the process of healing and skipping it simply keeps us in shock until we recognize the pain.  Eventually the pain will rise to the surface.  We cannot avoid pain, it has purpose and design.  But pain was not meant to last forever.  If we feed that pain, it most certainly will last far longer than is needful.  But if we cleanse it, maybe numb it a little the pain will subside and the healing will occur.  Many individuals somehow believe that they should be able to handle mental illness caused by abuse without medication, counseling or any psychiatric treatment.  That is like cleansing the wound without the Novocain.  You can do it but it may be far more painful and much harder than it needs to be.   The Lord has provided wonderful knowledge to competent individuals.  They may not know everything there is to know about mental illness but they know enough for the Lord to give them some understanding that leads to medications and counseling that helps.  Sometimes we have to endure the needle to allow for the proper cleansing to occur.  What is also important is to choose the right doctor when it comes to the healing.  I am not going to call a vet to sew up my leg.  In addition, when we are discussing emotional healing we also need a doctor who understands us and more important we understand them and are comfortable with the methods, personality and processes they are using.  Don’t go into counseling thinking that everything the counselor tells you is right for you.  You have the right to say this isn’t working.  You have the right to say, this doesn’t feel right.  You have the right to change counselors.  The same is true for medications.  You should be forthright and honest with the doctor who prescribes it.  If it isn’t working then you need to speak up.  Remember though that sometimes we can’t always see what is working and what is not because changes in emotion change our reality.  More than once I have spoken with an individual who has felt that the medication just wasn’t working very well but their companions, family and friends state entirely the opposite.  So before you jump to the conclusion that the medication isn’t working you should check with a good friend or family member.  

The cleansing and healing always comes from the Lord.  There is no real power to heal in mortality certain wounds that cut so deep in our emotional lives.  Only the Lord can provide physical and emotional healing.  This is the second clause of the atonement.  The first is that we can repent and cleanse our sins.  The second clause is that the same power that heals the sinner can and does heal the victim.  However, there is no need for repentance on the side of the victim.  The victim must simply ask for that power to be applied in their lives and do their best to lived righteous principles based on their ability and capacity.  The Lord does the rest.  I admit that each of us would very much like that “rest” that the Lord does to come quickly and to heal completely.  But we find that it doesn’t and that a complete healing more often comes in stages rather than all at once.  I personally believe that the Lord’s main point of these healing stages is that you spend far more time with the Lord and time with the Lord is a very good thing.  I believe that he heals us as we are ready to be healed.  Sometimes, many times, we get in our own way when it comes to healing.  We make pain a badge of honor and suffering a gold medal event.  Pain and suffering have purpose and design but we can and often do take them too far in our lives.  While we are going to suffer pain, there is no need or desire on the part of the Lord to have us suffer longer than is needful.  So we should allow the Lord to heal us as fast as he desires.  For most of us, I believe that the healing is far slower than we would like it to be.  

As we heal and recognize the Lord’s hand in the process, lengthy or short, we should understand the power that he is exercising upon you.  Without his power to heal the soul many of us would be forever tortured by our experiences and yet he can take that pain and suffering and bind up the wound.  That is a true miracle.  He can truly heal our body and mind in ways that we most certainly cannot do ourselves.  That healing is also often based on our forgiveness of the perpetrator.  That healing balm cannot be applied when contention, hate and malice exist.  The Spirit that heals cannot coexist with the emotions of anger, hate and malice.  The Spirit can most certainly help us rid our souls of those emotions but the true healing cannot take place in full measure without them entirely removed.  Yes that is a difficult thing to hear.  I fully understand what I am saying. It does seem unjust that someone can hurt us so deeply, causing serious emotional pain and perhaps mental and emotional illness and we are asked to fully forgive.  But it is important to remember two things.  The Lord is just and you have handed that justice to a perfect being.  And that is probably better than us with our mortal failings.  The Lord will most certainly take care of justice for he has said so.   The second thing is that anger, hate, malice and all the other emotions that tend to follow in the same class will destroy you emotionally and physically.  Giving into those emotions will not cure a mental or emotional illness but only make it worse.  There exists no benefit whatsoever to those emotions and so giving them to the Lord is actually the best thing you can do for you mental and emotional well-being.  Now are you going to feel these emotions.  Yes you are.  I have no doubt of it.  And it is not a sin to feel these type of justice inducing emotions.  It is a part of who we are and where we came from.  We naturally desire to see justice because we came from a very just world.  These energizing emotions such as anger stem from our sense of justice.  And so we will often feel them deeply, however we should not feed them.  While they might arise on their own and stay for a time, removing them is the path to peace and healing.

While the Lord has commanded that we forgive and he gives us grace and mercy, there is nothing easy about this type of experience.  The Lord only asks that you keep trying and that you don’t give up.  If the anger rises from time to time.  If you can’t talk to or be around the abuser.  If you are struggling with addictions and mental health episodes because of the abuse know that the Lord fully understands.  The Lord fully understands the ramifications of what has occurred and while you may not feel his presence, I know that he sends angels to attend to you regularly.  There are those who watch over you from beyond the veil with mercy and tenderness to heal those wounds and to hold you when the tears and anger rise to the surface.  With every desire of my heart, I hope that you find the mercy and grace you deserve in this life.  If you are wondering if the Lord even cares, let me assure you that he does and tears often fall from his eyes as he sees the suffering of the innocent.  His arms are open wide no matter where you are or what has occurred.  I hope with all my heart that you find peace, safety and love as you pray to him for help.  Until next week do your part so that the Lord can do his.