Healing from Sexual Abuse through Spirituality
“Phoenix Rising: Healing from Sexual Abuse through Spirituality” is a book for those who want to know the whole truth about sexual violence and begin a self help sexual abuse strategy. The author, Helen Papadopoulos, has penned a confronting, educational and inspirational autobiography written in the form of a self-development/self-help book. She explains what it took for her to heal from childhood sexual abuse by exploring the darker aspects of this type of trauma. Helen describes the depth of pain that needed expression in order for her to become a whole and empowered individual. This ultimately leads her to a brand new and unconventional understanding of healing and spirituality specifically in relation to this type of abuse. Unlike other ‘memoirs’ which focus on lengthy descriptions of people and places, Helen hones in on her journey of recovery in a self-analytical, realistic, artistic and philosophical manner. Her writing style reflects her beliefs about healing which are epitomized in the following quotes: “All healing is self-healing” and “The only way to heal is to get real.”
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Just Trying to Survive Here the author describes the abuse she experienced throughout most of her childhood. This is THE most confronting chapter in the book.
Arrested Development Helen goes into detail about the negative aftereffects of the abuse as they were experienced in her childhood and well into her adult life. The topics covered are the following: trust, relationships, out-of-body-experiences, body memories, suicide, guilt, body image, secrecy, powerlessness and coping mechanisms.
Holy Healing Helen! This contains a lengthy description of the author’s therapeutic experiences beginning at the age of seventeen all the way through to her mid-thirties. She outlines the types of modalities she implemented as well as what can go wrong within a therapeutic relationship, all within the backdrop of what was happening in her life when she needed professional assistance. The importance of reclaiming the power that abusers take from their victims is highlighted in this chapter.
Heal Thyself The beginning of this section is the only place that contains cursing in the book as it is absolutely relevant here – all about getting real. Helen begins with a very unusual definition of self-healing that applies specifically to victims of sex crimes. Then she goes on to cover the main emotions that need healing: anger, grief and fear. The other themes and techniques discussed in this chapter include: writing, dreams, Art as therapy, self-care (i.e. nurturing the body with natural remedies and a good diet; alone time; boundaries), integrity and self-forgiveness.
Real Justice is Healing Here the author discusses the importance of justice in the healing process. She focuses on three types of justice: Western (criminal and civil); Peacemaking (Navajo or Restorative Justice) and Karma (Cosmic Justice). She elaborates on the problems associated with each approach except for Karma since no-one can mess with God’s handiwork. She also discusses each category in relation to her experiences.
Spiritual Awakening In this chapter Helen gets all philosophical about her life’s experiences in order to understand and accept the fact that she has had such a difficult life. In other words, she attempts to make sense of or find meaning in, all that she has been through. The subjects covered here include: Life as the Great Healer; Fate and Free Will; Karma and Dharma; the spiritual/psychological importance of the ego (especially in relation to coping with trauma); true power/spirituality; false power/abuse and the true spiritual nature of sexuality. In the sections about ‘power’, the author articulates why sex crimes – especially in relation to children – are so prevalent on the planet.
Epilogue Helen draws some conclusions based on her experiences of healing from, and learning more about, sexual abuse over the years: women sexual predators are far more prevalent than most people think and they operate in the same way as men; boys and girls are equally at risk of sexual violence simply because they are easy to overpower; infants have no way of protecting themselves – not unless they are around caring and vigilant caregivers; sexual predators never heal; the effects of sexual abuse never really go away…but a point can be reached where the symptoms are manageable and survivors can then become thrivers.
Resources There is a comprehensive list of organizations and Facebook pages from Australia, the UK and USA which may be of assistance to anyone who needs it whilst reading the book. This directory is also listed at the end of this webpage.
Sexual Abuse Therapeutic Resources
Centre against Sexual Assault (CASA) www.casa.org.au
Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria (DVRCV) www.dvrcv.org.au
Into the Light www.intothelight.org.uk
The Counselling Directory www.counselling-directory.org.uk
The Survivor’s Trust www.thesurvivorstrust.org
United States of America
I survive www.isurvive.org
Male Survivor www.malesurvivor.org
National Association for Adult Survivors of Child Abuse (NAASCA) www.naasca.org
Rape Abuse Incest National Network (RAINN) www.rainn.org
Sexual Abuse Resource Network (SARN) www.sexualabuseresourcenetwork.com
Sidran Institute (Traumatic Stress Education and Advocacy) www.sidran.org