I have probably read at least a dozen books about sexual abuse. How to be a survivor. How to be the spouse of a survivor. How to forgive. How to live. How to have a sexual life after being sexually abused. How to heal the wounded heart. Each book has been an essential tool in my own healing journey. However, none of those books has articulated the actual process from the perspective of a sexual abuse survivor. Until now. Crystal Sutherland, a CSA survivor, has written a book just for survivors. Journey to Heal describes seven essential steps to recovery from Childhood Sexual Abuse. I was given the opportunity to review the book. I’ve read it twice and going through it now a third time and highlighting the best parts. That process is taking me a long time…I’m only on chapter 3! I am absolutely, enthusiastically endorsing this book. I could write this book. THIS is very close to the process I went through.
Each step she discusses with a mixture of personal anecdotes and practical ways to implement the steps. Don’t worry, this isn’t a memoir. AND she handles this subject without graphic or triggering phrases or situations. For the woman just beginning their journey this is a safe place to start. Plus the chapters are short, sweet and the book can be read in a short matter of time.
One statement she made that I greatly appreciated…and needs to be said to anyone who knows a CSA survivor…”…addressing the past is not a matter of dwelling on it as much as it is a part of the process of sorting through it.” I cannot tell you how many times I ended alone in a bathroom crying because some well-meaning person told me “You shouldn’t dwell on the past. You need to let it go.” OH how I wish it was that easy! OH how I wish I could just say, “Past be gone” and it works. It may work on some things, but childhood sexual abuse recovery is a complex, tedious and painful process. It’s long and messy and uncomfortable. It requires patience, love, mercy, grace and a whole lot of perseverance. It’s a JOURNEY, not a single step.
The book is a journey and on the journey Crystal encourages the use of a journal. The journal is where the CSA survivor commits to the journey, releases the memories and the pain and finds healing and strength for each new step. For those who need help journaling there are Journey Essentials at the end of each chapter. They include a question related to the step, a prayer, scripture verses to read, specific journaling assignments and skills/traits to develop.
Step 2 I found to be challenging, even with all my healing. “FACE THE TRUTH”. She encourages the survivor to not minimize what happened in any way. This may be the most painful step of the journey as the assignment is to write the story in detail. I made myself try to speak aloud the moment the boy changed my life. It’s only the second time I spoke what I write so easily on the computer. And it’s still hard…I still feel the icky, disgust. The abandonment. Hopelessness. Fear and confusion. I fought against curling up in a ball. But I do this. Because I have to fight against the control that memory has over me. This journey…this book…is about healing. I can’t heal unless I face what I don’t want to face. And that’s the point of this book.
She addresses issues like sharing your story (when and where and who to share it with), settling the unresolved issues between people, including letting go of the anger toward the perpetrator, wrestling with God’s role in this and dealing with unresolved anger, fear and doubt, forgiveness, finding identity or discovering for the first time and hope for intimacy and sex.
The book is written from a very Christian perspective. God and a belief in Jesus Christ is absolutely essential to her process. As she describes, sexual abuse is a soul-wound and souls can only be healed by God. I do agree with her on that. However, as someone who has ALSO endured physical, mental and severe spiritual abuse I found some of her words triggering. Instead of being offended or angry, I chose to note the wounds as areas that I need to work on and address when I feel safe enough to do so.
Even if you are angry and bitter and pissed off at God and the world, the principles of these 7 steps are absolutely beneficial. It is possible to glean the process from this book. If you have to do it without leaning into God, it’s still possible to heal because these steps are true whether one believes in God or not. The way she describes the process, the steps of journaling, facing the truth of what happened, putting the blame where it belongs, forgiving ones self and others and finding a new identity, whether in Christ or not…those steps are absolutely true.
If you are interested in this book, click here to find more information and read additional reviews.
If you are a male CSA survivor check out Naming Our Abuse by Andrew Andrew Schmutzer, Daniel Gorski, and David Carlson. Again, this is written from a Christian perspective and I have not read this book.
Journey to Heal: Seven Essential Steps of Recovery for Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse (Kregel, April 2016)
A path of hope and healing for survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
A woman who was sexually abused as a child is confronted with many internal questions: Am I worthless? Will I get past the pain? Do I matter to God? These and similar questions can carve a deep hole in an already wounded soul. Too often, the lies of worthlessness are believed, the pain becomes too much to handle, and survivors find themselves making choices that lead to more heartbreak. With over 42 million survivors (both male and female) in the United States alone, the need for a clear path to healing is great.
Crystal Sutherland—herself a survivor of CSA—knows that while the recovery process is complex, healing is possible with God’s help. For women who want to progress from simply coping to living abundantly, Journey to Heal guides readers through seven essential steps to recovery found in Scripture. Candid and open about her personal journey of healing, Crystal comes alongside her reader as a friend who understands. Infused with biblical truths, stories of hope from other survivors, and practical wisdom, this book leads women to discover the life of wholeness God has for them.
Purchase a copy: http://bit.ly/25CIk1C
Crystal Sutherland is a writer, speaker, and friend to survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Her passion is to encourage women in their journey of faith, and lead them to the hope and healing that can only be found in Jesus Christ. Crystal holds a MA in Theological Studies and has over eighteen years of ministry experience, including women’s ministry, youth ministry, worship, and Bible teaching. She as written and led a women’s Bible study for survivors of sexual abuse. Her work can also be seen on her blog and lifelettercafe.com. Crystal and her husband Wes have three children, and two grandchildren. They live with their youngest son, Isaac, in Wilmington, North Carolina.
I received a copy of this book from Litfuse Publicity Group for review purposes. This fair and honest review contains my own opinions and do not reflect the views of the author, publisher or any other third-party. I have received no other compensation for this review. This is disclosed in accordance with FTC guidelines.