Healing is possible. You can heal from any manner of abuse with the help of the Savior through His Atonement.
When you have been hurt, the idea that the pain you carry could be replaced with peace may be almost impossible to believe. Your wounds may go unnoticed and unrecognized for years. Others may not know of your pain because you mask the hurt by smiling and living life as if nothing is wrong.
While the Prophet Joseph Smith was imprisoned in Liberty Jail, he wrote an epistle to the Church, which included the “duty of the Saints in relation to their persecutors” (see Doctrine and Covenants 123, section heading). In the epistle, he did not tell the Saints who had suffered persecution and physical injuries to keep their hurt to themselves and pretend like nothing happened. Rather, he instructed them to gather the accounts of their suffering and present them to authorities.
Likewise, you do not need to hide or pretend like nothing happened. You may feel helpless, powerless, confused, lonely, or isolated. Whatever you might think or feel, know that you are of infinite worth and you are loved (see Doctrine and Covenants 18:10).
The Healing Process
Healing will help reduce your pain. It is a process that takes time, but it is possible with the help of the Savior Jesus Christ because of His atoning sacrifice on our behalf.
The healing process includes the following steps:
- Acknowledging and grieving loss
- Sharing your burden with others
- Recognizing the impact of abuse in your life and seeking professional counseling if needed
- Understanding that your abusive experience does not define you
- Trusting in God’s capacity to heal
Ask yourself the following as you work through this process:
- How has abuse impacted my life?
- Where am I in the healing process?
- What can help me move forward?
Consider comparing the emotional healing process with that of caring for and treating a physical injury. Suppose that when you were young, you broke your leg. Rather than going to the doctor to get it set, you hobbled along until the deep pain was gone, but there is always a slight pain with each step you take. Years later you want the pain to go away, so you go to a doctor. The doctor must reset the bone, clean away any buildup that has grown, cast it, and send you to physical therapy to strengthen your leg.
When seeking healing from abuse, you must first recognize that the pain is real and that something can be done about it. This includes acknowledging what happened and allowing the feelings of being hurt, scared, and sad to be validated. Often it is helpful to work with a professional counselor experienced in this healing process. (Check with your bishop to learn what LDS Family Services resources are available in your area.)
As you work through healing, your memories of the abuse might remain; however, the intensity of the emotions and the negative impact these experiences have on your life will diminish and may eventually become almost nonexistent.
Whether or not you have access to professional help, it will help to pray, study the life of the Savior and His Atonement, get support from others, and seek spiritual help from a Church leader (see “Where can I turn for support?”). Church leaders may help ease your burden, and they can receive inspiration to help you understand your divine worth and relationship with your Father in Heaven and the Savior.
Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles declared: “I solemnly testify that when another’s acts of violence, perversion, or incest hurt you terribly, against your will, you are not responsible and you must not feel guilty. You may be left scarred by abuse, but those scars need not be permanent. …
“Understand that healing can take considerable time. Recovery generally comes in steps. It is accelerated when gratitude is expressed to the Lord for every degree of improvement noted” (“Healing the Tragic Scars of Abuse,” Ensign, May 1992, 32).
As you work through the healing process, you can, with the Savior’s help, develop the capacity to forgive those who have harmed you.
Part of healing is getting to a place where you can let go of how the offender is held accountable for his or her actions. Whether or not a person is held accountable by civil authorities, every offender will one day have to stand before God (see Doctrine and Covenants 137:9).
Regardless of when or how the offender is held accountable, you can be assured that when anyone “exercise[s] control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:37; italics added). See “Is it possible to forgive?” for more help.
Community and Church Resources
(Some of the resources listed below are not created, maintained, or controlled by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While these materials are intended to serve as additional resources, the Church does not endorse any content that is not in keeping with its doctrines and teachings.)
- “Healing from Sexual Abuse,” Chieko N. Okazaki, BYU devotional, Oct. 23, 2002 (PDF) (video)
- “To Be Free of Heavy Burdens,” Richard G. Scott, Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2002
- “Bridge to Hope and Healing,” Nanon Talley, Ensign, Apr. 2017
- “Healing the Tragic Scars of Abuse,” Richard G. Scott, Ensign, May 1992
- “The Atonement Covers All Pain,” Kent F. Richards, Ensign or Liahona, May 2011
- “The Master Healer,” Carole M. Stephens, Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2016
- “Overcoming Trauma,” Elizabeth Smart, The Daily Goalcast