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Dear Dr. Robert,

I'm a 27 year old woman from South Africa. I was molested from the age of 4 up to Grade 6 by various men, mostly family and friends of my grandmother. None of my family knows except my husband. I couldn't find it in my heart to tell my grandmother because it will kill her. I only started speaking about it when I finished school.

My problem is that I have forgiven all the men that did this to me but it's getting harder to forget what happened. It's starting to affect my love life. My husband is very supportive and is very gentle but I'm at a stage that I don't want to make love with anyone.

I was think about going to see a psychotherapist/ hypnotherapist but I'm too scared to find out what really happened to me because I blocked it all away in my mind.

Please give me some advice.

Thank you,

Herschell Wilton

Dear Herschell--

I am so sorry to hear that you were abused in this way. Such abuse always leaves wounds that need to be healed so that the abused person can go on to lead a happy and healthy life. At this point, psychotherapy could provide you with a lot of help in healing those wounds, and I urge you to begin therapy as soon as possible.

Now you say that you are afraid to find out what really happened to you, but you already know what happened: you were sexually abused by various men, some of them family members. Perhaps in therapy you will remember some details which will be unpleasant, but, compared to your present and continual suffering, remembering those kinds of things will not be nearly as bad as you now imagine. Anyway, the details are not so important. By remembering that you were abused, you already have made a good start. Now it is time to get some trained and competent help. Good therapy will relieve your mind and help to heal your wounds so that you can return to a normal married life, sexual and otherwise, with the good man you have now.

I do not think much of hypnotherapy. I believe that hypnotherapy has the potential to do a lot more harm than good, and I discourage anyone from submitting to it. I much prefer a kind of therapy in which you remain awake and aware, simply carrying on a normal conversation with your therapist. Possibly you will pass through various emotional states--some of the quite powerful perhaps--but you will be aware of everything, and, with a good therapist, your hand will be on the "volume control" of remembering. In other words, you will remember and speak of these things only if and when you feel ready.

By the way, despite what many people believe, the best kind of therapy for childhood sexual abuse is not so much a question of remembering all the details, but instead lies in developing a supportive relationship with a skillful therapist who can help you to accept what happened, learn to be kinder to yourself, and find a way to move on in life.

Please write to me again when you have begun therapy and let me know how it is going for you.

Be well,


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page last modified January 22, 2008

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