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Section 7
Techniques on Living Without Disclosure of Childhood Sexual Abuse

CEU Question 7 | CEU Test | Table of Contents | Child Abuse
Psychologist CEs, Social Worker CEUs, Counselor CEUs, MFT CEUs

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On the last track, we discussed four parts of childhood sexual abuse related to: body, emotions, mind and spirit and how these provide a Window into the Past. We have also seen how Dialoging with the Body can help your client gain a better understanding of his or her feelings, emotions and memories.

On this track, we will focus on a technique I have found successful in helping clients who are living with the secrets of sexual abuse in regards to the Releasing of Emotional Energy held in the form of pain.

As you may know, it doesn't matter what kind of sexual abuse has been encountered - physical, emotional, or both; pain and trauma of sexual abuse is generally centralized in the pelvic area. Do you agree?

For Sara, age 18, the abuse of fondling and oral sex began at the age of four by her father and continued until she was nine. Whenever Sara tried to talk about this sexual abuse, she experienced a severe cramping in her pelvic area, just above her pubic bone. If you recall from a previous track, Gina suffered from constipation and occasional rectal bleeding and I used the Dialoguing with Your Body exercise. However with Sara, I felt the Releasing of Emotional Energy to be more appropriate. I used Dialoguing with Your Body exercise with Gina and Releasing of Emotional Energy with Sara.

As I explained to Sara, "Since the energy of the pain of sexual abuse has been held in your body for such a long time, it can be considered toxic." As you are aware, the secrets held by this toxic energy can be unexpressed anger, rage, fear, terror, grief, loss and sadness, as well as shame and guilt. Healing energy on the other hand as you know, is unrepressed, free-flowing and is often experienced as feelings of joy, peace, happiness, or contentment.

I felt in order for Sara to release this toxic pain, she had to learn how to allow her body to discover and release her emotional energy. I used four techniques with Sara; the fetal position; anger release with a bat; color visualization; and directing healing energy.

The Fetal Position Technique
The following dialogue occurred during a Survivors of Sexual Abuse group session. Sara stated that she wanted to work on her inability to express her feelings about being sexually abused. I gave Sara the choice to do this exercise either by standing or sitting on the floor curled in fetal position in the center of the circle. As we began, I asked her to tell us, "What are you experiencing right now?"

Sara stated, "I have that same old cold, black knot in my stomach."
I asked, "Are you having any emotional experiences?"
Sara replied, "No…uh…..Yes, fear I think. I'm starting to feel sick to my stomach."
I asked, "Can you focus on the knot?"
Sara cried (shaking), "Yes, I'm getting scared."
I asked, "Do you want to stop? It's okay if you do."
Sara replied, "No, I want to keep going."
I stated, "Okay, keep focusing on the knot and tell me what you experience."
Sara stated (with her band balled into a fist), "I feel cold and scared."
I asked, "What would your hands like to do?"
Sara replied with a childlike voice, "Hit him, rip him apart, punch his face. I'm scared". (She clutched her belly with her hands, rolls over onto her side, and begins to sob and cry. This lasted several moments; then subsided.)
I asked, "Sara, do you want to continue?"
Sara replied, "Yes. The knot feels like it's on fire."
I asked, "What is the knot trying to say?"
Sara screamed, "No! It's trying to say, "No! Stop, you're hurting me. No! No!"

Anger Release With a Bat Technique
Deciding to use a second technique, I asked Sara if she wanted the large foam bat. She began to hit the large stack of pillows placed in the middle of the circle with the bat. This lasted for about three minutes, and then she began to sob and cry again. After a few minutes, Sara stopped crying and asked to be covered with a blanket. Her shaking had stopped, and her breathing had become deep and even.

Sara continued, "The knot's gone. I feel empty and peaceful at the same time."

Color Visiualization Technique
Flowing into the third techniques, I decided to use the construct of a color visualization.

Because Sara had previously indicated that she saw her energy as various colors, I asked, "Is there a color that represents healing to you?"
Sara replied, "Yes, purple."
I asked, "Use your inner vision to draw purple energy into the place in your body where you experienced the knot, and where you now feel "empty." Draw the purple energy up from the earth and fill your pelvic region with that purple energy of healing. Tell me what you feel?"
Sara described, "I feel light, and powerful. I can feel an energy in my body. It tingles…I keep getting fuller and fuller. I feel great! I've never felt like this before….I feel warm and open….I think I'm done for now."

Sara had used the "standing" posture to release her anger and rage. She found that she was able to "push" the held energy away from her body by hitting pillows. As you know, grief and loss are often released through curling up the body and sobbing, crying and sighing.

Directing Healing Energy
The next step was for Sara to direct healing energy into the "empty space" left by the release of energy associated with the abuse, which she did using the color purple.

Since Sara's belief system encompassed a certain level of spirituality regarding sending and receiving of positive and negative energy, she was receptive to the concept of directing healing energy by using the color purple.

However, for another client, George, a 47 year old electrical student, I explained this concept to him by indicating emotions can create positively or negatively charged particles and that he might envision atoms with plusses around them filling the spaces where atoms with minuses around them existed.

Think of your Sara. Would a more spiritual or scientific visualization fit her best?

Sara agreed to visualize drawing the purple energy up from the earth into her body three times every day for the following week. At the next group meeting, Sara stated, "I have been feeling very relaxed and powerful. It is like my body feels different and I have had a major healing experience." Sara had enjoyed doing the visualizations, and she continued doing it once a day throughout the next year. When she left therapy, Sara told the group that she felt this was the most important and lasting piece of work she had done.

On this track, we have discussed the technique of Releasing Emotional Energy to relieve the pain of childhood sexual abuse.

On the next track we will look at the use of "leaning into", empathy and taking a one-down position to assist in building rapport in potentially volatile sessions with a sexually abused child or their parent.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
London, K., Bruck, M., Ceci, S. J., & Shuman, D. W. (2005). Disclosure of Child Sexual Abuse: What Does the Research Tell Us About the Ways That Children Tell? Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 11(1), 194–226.

Somer, E., & Szwarcberg, S. (2001). Variables in delayed disclosure of childhood sexual abuse. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 71(3), 332–341.

Stolzenberg, S. N., & Lyon, T. D. (2014). How attorneys question children about the dynamics of sexual abuse and disclosure in criminal trials. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 20(1), 19–30.

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 7
Depending upon the client's belief system, frame of reference, and life history what are two visualizations you might use to facilitate releasing painful emotions? To select and enter your answer go to CEU Test.

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