At least one in four girls will experience sexual abuse before they turn eighteen. Many of these women hold onto this trauma for their entire lives. One woman, Jan, shares her story, saying it wasn't until she was 64 years old, did she forever change her life. She attended The Haven Retreat, a treatment center for childhood sexual abuse survivors.
Jan shares she spent most of her life feeling, “ashamed, embarrassed, dirty, contaminated, undeserving, unworthy…” Jan tried therapy and self-help but could never move past her childhood sexual abuse. Once she went to the retreat, she received a different type of treatment. To help explain, The Doctors are joined by the clinical director of Haven Retreat, Gordon Bruin.
Gordon shares the retreat aims to create an environment of safety and to help these women reclaim their power. “What childhood sexual abuse and adolescent abuse does is it takes a person’s power away,” Gordon says. He shares that while talk therapy is helpful, it doesn’t address the area of the brain where the trauma is stored called the limbic system, which is the survival part of the brain.
He says at the retreat they do a lot of somatic release, engaging the body, and using it to find strength and power and release a verbal voice. They help educate these women about the brain and how the frontal lobe and limbic system differ. “There’s fight, flight, freeze, and with childhood sexual abuse, they freeze and they can’t fight back,” Gordon explains. They help survivors put the past where it belongs and make it just a part of their story.
Jan now says she is able to be the person she would have been if the trauma never occurred. She encourages other survivors to seek this type of help, no matter how old they are.
The Doctors are also joined by psychotherapist Dr. Mike Dow to further elaborate on therapy that can focus on that emotional, limbic center of the brain. He explains how the brain attaches visceral memories to very positive or negatively charged emotions. The brain stores not so much in words on the left side of the brain, but in the limbic system, and the right side, in images and sense memories. This other part of the brain is going to go off all the time thinking you’re in danger, if those other visceral memories are stored. Check out the video below to get a better understanding of bilateral therapy, a treatment used for this type of trauma.
Amazingly, this retreat is offered free of charge. Find out more about it at Youniquefoundation.org. For more resources on sexual trauma visit the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, or, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673).