In Anger and Sexual Abuse (3), we looked at how 35-year-old Jenna had been sexually abused by her stepfather as a child and was now taking out her rage at this injustice on the world at large. She had just lost her job as a lawyer and had come for counseling.
Jenna had never told her mother of the abuse as she was too frightened to do so as a child and now as an adult, she didn’t see the point in raking up old wounds. Yet Jenna was in enormous pain. She couldn’t maintain long-term relationships due to her anger problem and she was temporarily out of work for the same reason. It was time for change.
During therapy Jenna let out her unfocussed rage at me, simply because she had to aim it somewhere. Her anger was completely unfocussed. This is basically what she had been doing since she was a teenager and had worked out that what her stepfather had done was wrong. The abuse had even influenced her choice of career – the law. She wanted justice, but in letting this free-floating anger control her life she was only causing herself more unhappiness.
Fortunately for Jenna, her perpetrator was still alive. She had a chance to confront him personally. Jenna fought this idea as she didn’t want to hurt her mother, she wanted to protect her. This is a very common phenomenon among victims of sexual abuse (see Victims of Sexual Assault Protecting Others). However this act of protection was not only ruining Jenna’s life, but it had almost destroyed her relationship with her mother anyway.
Jenna decided to confront her stepfather. She gave him the ultimatum that if he didn’t tell her mother, she would. Just in taking this initial step, Jenna’s rage subsided considerably. She decided she was no longer going to wear the guilt and anger that truly belonged to her stepfather.
Her stepfather told her mother and her mother went into a state of shock. Her stepfather became defensive but he also was placed in a position of being powerless against the women in his life. Jenna’s parents went into counseling themselves, but Jenna was not really interested anymore in the outcome of that counseling. She had taken control of her life for the first time and she felt a sense of peace that she hadn’t known since before the assault. Her mother ultimately ended the marriage, thus heralding a closer relationship between mother and daughter.
At last, with the rage out of the way, Jenna could begin the road to complete healing beginning with grieving her lost childhood.
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