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In my book I have identified three primary stages of healing for the sexual violence survivor.  Reorganization is the first stage.

The brain is an amazing thing.  just like your body goes right to work to heal a bruise or a cut, so the brain seems designed to naturally heal itself.  So, no matter whether sexual violence just recently happened or whether much time has passed, your brain has been busy trying to reorganize itself.  It wants the ‘wires’ reconnected to help you begin to cope and function as best you can.

Now here is the deal.  In breast cancer, or other diseases, the disease is so invasive, the body cannot generally heal itself.  The body’s natural design to heal itself itself is not enough.  Some women learn to radically change their eating and lifestyle habits and are helped by these.  Most women, however, turn to traditional western medical treatments.  Both of these options are still treatments, and require an Intentional Choice to do them.  Few women just let the cancer take it’s natural course with the certainty of early death.  Outside help is needed.

Sexual violence is a type of cancer to the brain, heart and soul.  Just as in breast cancer, many factors will affect the prognosis.  These include the type of sexual violence, where it occurred, who the abuser was, how often it happened, how long it has festered inside after it happened, the quality of support received, your family situation, childhood history, and so on.  Your family’s response can either be helpful or more destructive.  All these qualities affect the reorganization of your brain. 

Another impact on your reorganization is whether the sexual violence is a secret that you’ve never told anyone, or anyone who could really hear you.  If so, your brain reorganization has made new connections to cope with that secret; the results are probably not helpful to you.  In fact, it may affect your brain as an infected wound that needs to be drained, or a cancer that is killing part of you emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and/or in relationships with others.

Another factor to brain reorganization is something we therapists call pre-morbid functioning.  All that means is that if someone is raped but up to that point has not suffered any other trauma, if they have had a loving family history and support system, and they get help right away, the prognosis is excellent for healthy reorganization in a relatively short time.  There are situations where this has been the case with treatment call EMDR (to be discussed later), and the survivor needed only three therapy sessions to improve.  But this is rare.  Usually the reorganization stage of a survivor’s recovery is about six months in the best situations.  In other cases, it may take years.

Children who were not protected from sexual violence and who endure repeated assault grow mentally disorganized.  Their coping strategies usually do not serve them well.  Their prognosis is still good, but treatment is likely to be longer and more difficult.  Children who are fortunate enough to be believed and then protected from the abuse, then taken to therapy are the most fortunate ones.  The earlier the diagnosis and the earlier treatment, the better chance that effects of sexual violence will have minimal impact on later life. 

Just like in medical diagnosis, there can be miraculous healing. And we must never forget that our good God does on occasion decide to heal a situation miraculously.  Why He does what He does, why He does not do what we want Him to do, is part of the huge mystery of Him and Who is.  We are told in scripture that we only have a small of idea of who He is here on earth.    So, as in medical traumas and diagnosis, the same applies to the wounds of sexual trauma.  There can be a miraculous healing.  Usually, we either stay damaged and suffer even more than necessary, or we decide to take the Unintended Journey (not one we would have chosen were it not for the sinful decisions of others) of healing our brains, hearts, and souls.


  1. As I read this particular chapter, I can only thank God for the great gift! It was also clear to me the importance of seeking help in order to be able to heal. It just never occured to me that the brain has to go trough a healing process as well (I have thougth that it was more of a emotional healing). Noteworthy the fact that the healing process is intentional, I find it quite encouraging. Thank you for the awareness.

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