BREAK THE CONNECTION BETWEEN STRESS AND ILLNESS
Take Responsibility for Trauma Healing
by Alexis Acker-Halbur
I physically survived trauma, yet I was always sad, hurt, and angry because of the years of emotional I endured. I wanted a person to blame and hold responsible for my feelings and pain. I wanted the individuals responsible for the abuse to apologize; but I learned amends rarely happen. This denial is the most upsetting part of healing from abuse trauma. Victim-blaming attitudes reinforce what perpetrators have been saying all along – it is the victim’s fault! It is neither the victim’s fault nor their responsibility for the abuse; it is the perpetrator’s responsibility. By engaging in victim-blaming attitudes, our society allows perpetrators to be excused from domestic abuse, sexual harassment, and/or sexual assault, and avoid accountability for their criminal actions.
For years after being abused as a child, raped as a young woman, and sexually exploited by a therapist, I carried around the feeling that I was at fault for these traumatic events because I was not smart to know better. In therapy, I was shocked to learn that none of these traumas were my responsibility. My faulty belief was the furthest from the truth. Victim-blaming attitudes marginalized me as a woman and made it harder for me to report the abuse. If society continues blaming individuals for the abuse, survivors will never feel safe, and reporting it will never happen.
When people are led to believe that they are responsible, their immune systems are severely weakened – disturbing the mind, body, and spirit with stress headaches and muscle tension, depression, and fatigue. The blaming-thinking I did was actually more harmful to me than the abuse itself. In my own life, taking responsibility for the abuse resulted in illness after illness – from diabetes and depression to sleep apnea and colon cancer. People need to understand the truth: survivors are not to blame for physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological abuse. The responsibility is, and always will be, on the perpetrator(s).
How did I stop blaming myself for the abuse? I began to fully believe the abuse was not my fault – I am not to blame. I am, however, responsible for seeking therapy and healing from the abuse. This sounds easy, but it was difficult for me – yet, I have found therapy life-changing. When I was convinced that I needed to take responsibility for my healing, I did so assertively. I reported the rape and the sexual exploitation to the authorities.
Healing started the moment I took responsibility to tell the truth despite society’s lack of support and despite the lack of acknowledgement from my family. Survivors of abuse must be strong to withstand disbelief and need a strong support system to reinforce their truth. Trauma survivors can heal the sadness, hurt, and anger by taking responsibility for healing, not blaming themselves, and strengthening their immune system before their health deteriorates. I strengthen my immune system through meditation, yoga, deep breathing exercises, and believing in my inner, astute truth – I am not the blame for the abuse I have experienced!