I have read and reread this book over the years of my practice and each time I read it, I am drawn in by the warmth and wisdom that Wendy Maltz shares in her book. The trauma of sexual abuse has far reaching long term effects that bring people to individual counselling such as low self-esteem, poor relationships, low self-worth, poor boundaries, shame, fear, depression, anxiety, flashbacks, nightmares, sleep disorders and the list can go on and on. One of the most shameful long term impacts of sexual trauma, is how sexual abuse can change and negatively impact one’s sexuality and sexual life. Wendy Maltz’s book, The Sexual Healing Journey is a comprehensive book that guides readers through healing the shame attached to sexual intimacy after sexual abuse. What is captivating at first, is that this book is written for survivors of sexual abuse and uses easy language for the reader. The book is broken down into three main parts: Part 1: Becoming Aware; Part 2: Making Changes; and Part 3: Creating Positive Experiences.
In Part 1, Wendy is gentle in her writing and helps the reader understand that sexual problems after sexual abuse are NORMAL and can be changed. “Sexual concerns are hard to face. They’re personal and embarrassing. When we have a sexual problem, we may try to deny it or hope it will just go away by itself…..sexual issues can surface when we begin acting in strange ways that we can’t deny and don’t understand” p. 17. Stories of survivors are shared by the author to create a connection for the reader and helps normalize their experiences.
In part 2, Wendy discusses the sexual abuse mind-set where “sex is seen as bad and dangerous, something to avoid or to pursue secretly and shamefully….it cripples a survivor’s ability to change his or her sexual behaviors or improve a sexual relationship with a partner” p. 82. I find that this section is the most helpful to survivors as it helps the reader step out of their experiences a little bit and see the whole picture of sexual abuse and how it has psychological impacts on how they view the world and their sexual safety in the world.
Finally, in part 3 Wendy engages the reader to create positive experiences by re-exploring touch and how to enjoy sexual experiences. She openly explores different ways in which a partner can be involved in this healing process which helps partners feel involved and engaged in the sexual healing of a relationship. And, she also writes to those who are not in a relationship and how to reconnect with touch in a safe and healthy way. “To touch and be touched intimately means exposing my underside like the belly of a porcupine. I feel vulnerable. Step by step, I’m learning to replace the pain of sexual abuse with the joy of being alive and a sensual person” p. 241.
This is a fantastic book for survivors of sexual abuse and their partners. It’s an eye opening read into the lived experiences of survivors and a step by step guide to healing of the sexual self. The book contains an abundance of stories and examples to create safety and connection to the reader. Overall, I would highly recommend this book!