In the beginning of the process, victims may experience shock, disbelief or denial - especially if they were abused by someone they trusted and/or knew for a long time. It is interesting to note that approximately 90% of abuse happens by someone that the child knows.
They may find it difficult to believe that they have been abused or maybe they may even pretend that it did not happen at all and continue with their lives as usual.
It isn't always easy to tell if denial is holding back the victim's process be cause the strength of denial can change over time; if you or someone you care for feel stuck you might try these strategies:
- Honestly examine what are they scared about.
- Think about the potential negative consequences of not taking action.
- Allow the victim to express the fears and emotions.
- Help them to identify irrational beliefs about the situation.
- Recommend them to participate in a support group.
A mental health professional can always help to find healthy ways to cope with the situation rather than trying to pretend it doesn't exist, that will help to have a smooth recovery process.
Acceptance is critical for healing. Without it, people will just exhaust themselves resisting the things one can’t change (like the valid emotions experienced).
In a very deep way, acceptance brings empowerment that allows everyone to focus on the future choices rather than wasting energy thinking over and over about the past.
We are not saying that facing the abuse or traumatic experience is easy, but directing the mind and emotions towards a bright future can help a lot to overcome the negative impacts in life.
To have experienced abuse is never fair, but the healing process can be beautiful. Acceptance opens the doors to that beauty.
If you as a bystander are trying to help someone to move on after a traumatic experience, you can start saying something like “Yes, it wasn’t fair. It shouldn’t have happened. You shouldn’t have been treated that way."
Then add on, “Now, you deserve to live a life beyond abuse—so let's focus on the choices you can make today to have a bright future.”