Sexual Healing: The long road after abuse

American Sexuality Magazine, Volume 3, Issue 1
By Sarah Edelstein

The classic ballad "Sexual Healing" may inspire visions of swooning romance, but for many survivors of sexual abuse, sexual healing evokes a much more complex set of emotions. Healing Sex: The Complete Guide to Sexual Wholeness, a new DVD by Staci Haines, eloquently explores the repercussions of such abuse and the steps one can take toward healing.

Our society rarely handles sexuality in general, in a frank and positive manner. Adding betrayal, violence, shame, and fear to the discussion only complicates matters. Yet, into this picture steps Haines with her message, "You are more powerful than what happened to you." With a sex-positive approach and therapeutic expertise, Haines brings hope to those faced with the often overwhelming challenge of healing sexually after abuse.

Haines is the author of the acclaimed book The Survivors Guide to Sex. She brings fifteen years of experience as a sex educator and mind/body therapy practitioner to her work with survivors. She also survived childhood sexual abuse. Her experiences motivated her to help others to heal, so that they can make a life of their own choosing, rather than live one determined by harmful and traumatic experiences. Haines' Healing Sex DVD proves an excellent resource for this intensely difficult but deeply rewarding journey.

Healing Sex is a well acted, documentary-style drama that follows several stories of men and women who are healing from past sexual abuse. The characters come from different ethnic, class, gender, sexual-orientation and relationship backgrounds, emphasizing the widespread nature of this problem. Interviews with real survivors heighten the intensity of the DVD. Haines explains the normal post-traumatic stress reactions of fight, flight, and freeze, which often continue to impact the survivor's sexuality. Utilizing somatics, a mind/body therapy that can be effective in working through trauma, Haines illustrates techniques for releasing trauma and exploring new ways of defining oneself. Through this work survivors are able to make choices based on their own desires, a vital aspect of healing.

"Part of what we need to re-learn is pleasure, all the way from physical or sexual pleasure, to just having ease and hope and joy in life," explains Haines. Often this has been left out of sexual abuse recovery work, yet it is essential. The need for connection and intimacy informs our humanity. For those who have suffered violations in this realm, sexual expression begets inner battles as well as opportunities for transformation.

The visual impact of showing people grappling with the repercussions of sexual abuse is remarkably powerful. The look of someone checking out during sex; the confusion of a partner who wonders "Is it me?"; the pain of feeling bad about something that is supposed to feel good—these experiences are so seldom explored onscreen. For the majority of viewers who have experienced sexual abuse or know someone who is a survivor, these images are a revelation. Finally we can talk about sexual abuse and healing, see these experiences reflected, and do something about it.

Healing Sex: The Complete Guide to Sexual Wholeness provides abundant education, guidance, and inspiration for sexual healing. Viewers are left stunned by the magnitude of the problem, but also uplifted by the resilience of the human spirit and the promise of healing.

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