How to deal with sexual abuse?

Ask A Therapist OnlineHow to deal with sexual abuse?
Brooke asked 12 years ago

How am I supposed to deal with sexual abuse? Why did I let it happen constantly and for so long? How come I can’t stop thinking about it?

1 Answers
Insight Psychological Staff answered 2 years ago

Thank you for reaching out and your courage for asking for support. I’m sorry that you had this experience.

We want you to know that what happened was not your fault, that we believe you, and that you are not alone.

The definition of sexual abuse is any unwanted sexual contact without voluntary consent. It can feel like a person has let it happen for a long time, however, it is not your fault.

Consent includes 5 important elements:

  1. Clear (understanding what you’re consenting to)
  2. Voluntary (you must agree to the interaction or act)
  3. Sober (you must be fully sober – not under the influence of alcohol, or prescribed or recreational drugs)
  4. Ongoing and act-specific (you must consent to the specific act and continue to give consent for the entire duration of the act)
  5. Mutual and enthusiastic (consent is not given under duress or fear-based but be genuine)

Statistics show that 45% of Albertans have experienced sexual violence. When breaking the statistics down, 2 in 3 women and 1 in 3 men have experienced sexual violence.

Dealing with sexual abuse can take time and the healing process can be painful. One of the options to support the process is therapy. Attending therapy can help deal with sexual abuse through processing memories, acknowledging difficult feelings, improving relationships, shifting perspective, dealing with future problems, as well as other parts of healing. Regardless of age and gender, the impact of sexual violence can take a toll on a person. The trauma of sexual violence can lead to struggles with self-esteem and in relationships with others. In addition, it may contribute to struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, or other mental health struggles. The emotional toll it can take on your life can feel heavy but it is possible to move forward in a healthy way by learning and practicing healthy coping strategies.

Sexual abuse is something that is out of your control, and you did not “let it happen”. Often those who perpetrate sexual violence may use coercion, manipulation, force, threats, or injury that are beyond your control. Sexual abuse can also occur without the knowledge of the person harmed because of age, cognitive disability, mental illness, incapacitation due to substances, and a variety of other reasons.

Thinking about sexual abuse can be due to the lasting effects of trauma that lead a person to experience negative effects. Sometimes flashbacks, triggers, or other trauma symptoms can be present for days, weeks, or even years. This may feel extremely invalidating and frustrating, however, this does not mean that healing is not occurring. Trauma can cause the brain to be in a state of hypervigilance and it may feel as if you are in a constant state of feeling strong emotions. Healing from the effects of trauma can take time as it can affect several parts of the brain at once. What you may be experiencing is a normal reaction to trauma and the feelings you have are valid. The brain has its own way of reprocessing these experiences because of something called neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to create new connections and changes to overcome difficulties and challenges. The healing process allows for new pathways in the brain, increasing the functions of certain parts of the brain, and re-learning.

When noticing that trauma memories or symptoms are starting to become a barrier for everyday life, this could be a sign that more support is needed. Therapy is a safe, non-judgmental space to work through the challenges you may be experiencing. At Insight Psychological, there are many therapists that can support you with this. Please feel free to give us a call at any time for more information. There are many forms of trauma therapy that we offer to best suit your needs.

If you are in immediate danger or there are concerns for your safety, please call 911.

In addition, you can utilize other support lines such as:

  • Alberta’s One Line for Sexual Violence at 1-866-403-8000 (text and chat options online)
  • Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton Support & Information Line at 780-423-4121
  • Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse (CCASA) 24-hour crisis line: 403-237-5888 or toll-free 1-877-237-5888

I hope you can find the peace and healing you deserve – we’d be honoured to support you on your journey.



Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services. (2020, January 29). Summary of Key Findings Prevalence of Sexual Assault and Childhood Sexual Abuse in Alberta.

An estimation of the economic impact of violent victimization in Canada, 2009. (2021, December 14). Government of Canada.