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Working with Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse

Important Note: This article was written prior to 2010 and is now outdated. Please use my newest advancement, Optimal EFT. It is more efficient, more powerful and clearly explained in my free e-book, The Unseen Therapist™.  Best wishes, Gary

Hi Everyone,

Here are some quality thoughts on this prevalent issue by Jayne Morgan-Kidd, an EFT specialist on this issue.

Hugs, Gary

By Jayne Morgan-Kidd

Whenever you get a new client, there is always a possibility that their problems may be related to a history of childhood sexual abuse.  No matter the similarities involved in abusive experiences, each person will react or respond in very personal and individual ways.  However, there are some trends that may be worth looking at.  Below are some suggestions and phrasing that could apply to various symptoms as described.  This is NOT a blueprint for a session.  It is intended to expand your knowledge and repertoire of ideas about working with sexual abuse issues.

Building Trust and Rapport

Some clients will be very open from the beginning.  Others may take some time before disclosing the painful and often secretive feelings they have held for years that are related to their abuse experience.  Give your client the time needed to make their connection with you comfortable.  Helping your client become familiar with this strange and wonderful technique, EFT, is a good way to begin. 

Often clients are nervous or anxious about what will happen during the session or at the thought of having to talk about their past.  They may have had traditional ‘talk’ therapy and will likely remember how painful it was to talk about the abuse.  Address how your client feels just being at the session and any anxiety or fear about bringing up these upsetting events.  Use EFT to ‘take the edge off’ these fears or anxieties.  The tapping will gently diminish the fear (anxiety, disgust, whatever) of the thought about talking about the incidents.  In this way you are ‘sneaking up on it’ as Gary says.  And it’s a wonderful way to demonstrate how EFT works as you help your client relax and feel more at ease.

Feelings and Behaviors

Clients who have suffered sexual abuse during childhood often have symptoms which may include any or all of the following:

-- Feelings of guilt

-- Low self esteem

-- Depression, anxiety, anger, fearfulness

-- Self-destructive behaviors

-- Eating problems (including eating disorders such as bulimia or anorexia)

-- Feeling different from others

-- Relationship problems

-- Physical problems, including chronic problems such as headaches, stomach or other digestive problems, vaginal or urinary problems, problems in the reproductive organs, other

-- Substance abuse, other addiction or addictive behaviors

-- Avoidance behaviors related to anything (thoughts, activities, people, places) associated with the trauma

-- Feeling powerless and incapable of asserting self

-- Controlling behaviors

Looking for Layers

Find out what their reactions to memories are and how they cope with these upsetting feelings. 

 “What happens when you start to think about …?”

 “What makes you feel better when you are having those reactions?” 

This may open the door to talking about the coping mechanisms the client uses.  These may include self-abusing behaviors such as overeating, substance abuse, cutting, and others.

“Even though I numb my feelings with (by)…”

Keep tapping as you reframe the behavior.  Use something such as “That is how I have learned to cope with my feelings (cover up, escape, numb my feelings) about what happened to me.  It’s how I survived.  It has served a purpose.  It doesn’t serve me any longer.  Maybe I don’t need it anymore.”  Tapping with these reframes is more powerful than simply saying them.

Ask about feelings of fearfulness.  People who have been sexually assaulted as children often have a fearful view of the world. 

“Even though I feel afraid of the world (or men or women or all people or certain places or whatever)…”

Victims of sexual abuse which occurred during childhood sometimes respond to the premature sexualization by ‘acting out sexually’.  Some clients report having been promiscuous.  Clients will have enormous guilt about this behavior and even use it to justify the abuse.  I view and reframe this behavior as the client’s best attempt to ‘normalize’ the event or sometimes chronic abuse and his or her feelings about it at the time. 

“Even though I had sex with multiple partners, I deeply and completely accept myself.  As crazy as it sounds, it somehow helped me cope with the feelings I was having at the time.  I love and forgive myself.  I was doing the best I could at the time.”

Another problem that victims of childhood sexual abuse may have is difficulty being in a relationship that would generally include sex.  They may try to:

1)     find ways of avoiding sex as much as possible;

2)     find a partner with whom sex is generally not necessary, not possible, or not expected; or

3)     submit to sex because they want to be perceived as ‘normal’. 

“Even though I don’t like sex…”

“Even though I don’t want to have sex…”


“Even though I hide my feelings about sex from my partner…”

“Even though I hide my feelings about sex from myself…”

All of these are likely to lead to deeper feelings and more aspects to tap on.

Once you identify the client’s sexual attitude and their means of coping with it, use EFT to neutralize the feelings they have developed about themselves.  As these feelings are released, more normal feelings will begin to show up.

Ask about general feelings such as guilt, fear, anger, sadness, shame, etc. related to the thoughts of abuse.

“Even though I feel angry (sad, guilty, ashamed) about what has happened to me…”

Using EFT in this general way will often take you to deeper layers and/or specific events.

Special notes about GUILT and SHAME:

People who abuse others often blame the victim for their behavior and may threaten and intimidate the victim into silence.  Survivors later feel ashamed and guilty about not doing something to stop the abuse or they continue to feel responsible for it.  Self-blame creates guilt and shame and can add years of suffering. 

Because sexual abuse can occur in pleasure zones, the body can respond automatically to stimulation.  Pleasurable physical sensations, lubrication or even orgasm can occur.  The survivor’s emotional reactions and physical responses were not in sync which will cause confusion and intense negative feelings.  The person ends up feeling guilty or ashamed because they experienced some good feelings at some point during the assault or molestation.  This is often the most difficult area for the client to work on and most clients do not bring it up.  Most likely, you will need to approach the possibility of this aspect.  You can begin by talking about other survivors who experienced moments of pleasurable sensations amidst the act of violence.  Hopefully this will open the door to doing some tapping around this very difficult emotion.

Specific Events

There may be one event or many.  You may collapse the problem with one story or it may take several.  You can reassure your client that if there are dozens and dozens of incidents, you will not have to go through every single one.  As most of the incidents are likely to be related to a general theme, they will have some connection with each other and as one is resolved, others will resolve with it.  Sometimes you will come to this specific event in a spontaneous and/or unexpected manner.  Other times the client will choose to confront the memory at a specific session.  Use tapping to take the edge off before going into the story whenever necessary.  Begin tapping on very general issues or address the specific issue in a very global way.  Listen to the client’s language and use it in your phrasing. 

Do many rounds of tapping on generalities to reduce the discomfort of facing and remembering the details which may be coming. 

“Even though I don’t want to face this memory…”

“Even though I don’t want to talk about this…”

“Even though I feel upset at the idea of talking about this memory…”

Techniques to handle the specific event

Use EFT techniques to neutralize the traumatic event(s).  If you haven’t done so, familiarize yourself with the Tearless Trauma Technique at

 the Movie Technique at

and the Tell the Story Technique at

If you have  a history of childhood sexual abuse, I strongly suggest that you resolve your own issues before working with anyone else who has this history.  You can be re-traumatized by other people’s stories and you will almost certainly not be as effective as you otherwise could be for your client.

Best wishes,

Jayne Morgan-Kidd


Explore our newest advancement, Optimal EFT™, by reading my free e-book, The Unseen Therapist™. More efficient. More powerful.