The Body and Sexual Abuse

By Adela Brent from Zig Zag

Trigger warning for references to effects of sexual violence

There is no doubt that our society does not allow women to feel at peace with their bodies.

A society that is constantly telling us that we are not okay unless we look like “super-models”. A culture where women’s value is based on what they look like. Beauty magazines are a reminder of what we should aim for when it comes to our bodies. Unrealistic expectations hitting us in the face every day. A capitalist society needs to make women feel bad about themselves. They have to sell us cosmetics, diets and a menu of surgical procedures we don’t really need. No wonder we are so unhappy about our bodies.

For survivors of sexual violence, the body issues can get more complicated. Sexual abuse was done to them through their bodies. Some survivors blame their bodies for responding, for being womanly, for being small, for being large, for being vulnerable. For survivors, learning to love their bodies and recognize that their bodies were not to blame for the abuse, can be a long process. The reality is that sexual abuse is not the survivor’s fault. It is always the offenders’ fault. Always. Reestablishing positive feeling of our bodies, after sexual assault, can be a difficult process but not impossible.

During the process of reclaiming your body after sexual abuse, these are some activities that have been helpful to other women. Remember, if you feel unsafe or uncomfortable about them, don’t do it. It is fine to respect your needs.

1. Healing Drawing Exercise: Many women who were abused still carry associations of the abuse in specific parts of the body. There may be physical scars or negative associations to touching areas that were involved in the trauma. Draw a simple outline of your body with one line. Mark with one color all the places in your body where you feel okay or good. Mark with another color any places where you feel you are carrying pain. Then draw the outline of your body on another piece of paper and pick out a color that you associate with healing. Then draw little hearts of healing into all the areas of pain identified in the first drawing.

2. Dialogue with individual body parts: Imagine that each body part has a voice of its own. Imagine what story the body part has to tell you about the gifts the body part has to offer you.

3. Massage: If this is not threatening for you, you can have a massage done by a qualified practitioner.

4. Dance and Exercise as a way of reconnecting with the body: Exercise is a way to
establish a positive sense of body awareness. Movement oxygenates your body and
improves your circulation. Dance provides a vehicle for self-expression. Remember to not to overdo.

5. Self-Massage: massaging your hands and feet is a way of reconnecting with your body.

Remember that your body is you. It is the place in which you live and are alive. You connect and are in relationship with others from your body. You act in the world from your body. Your body is where the healing happens. Your body is sacred and did not deserve any kind of abuse.

If you need to talk to a counselor, do so.

May you body have peace
May your body have happiness
May your body be respected
May your body be healed

~ Adela Brent


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