Author shares essential steps to recovery

Part 2 of an interview with Crystal M. Sutherland,
Author of Journey to Heal

Survivors of childhood sexual abuse often feel like the walking wounded. They feel alone and afraid, unsure of where to start in their search for lasting healing. It becomes far too easy to believe lies that say they’re worthless and true recovery is impossible.

Crystal Sutherland—a survivor herself—knows that a simple formula for healing from such a painful past doesn’t exist. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible. For adult female survivors who want to progress from simply coping to living abundantly, Journey to Heal (Kregel Publications) guides readers through essential steps to recovery found in Scripture. Though candid and open about her personal journey, Sutherland avoids triggering descriptions. Instead, she offers stories of hope form other survivors and practical wisdom to lead you down a new path toward discovering the life of wholeness God desires for you.

Q: How can Journey to Heal be a tool for those who want to find emotional and spiritual freedom?

Journey to Heal is a practical and comprehensive guidebook for survivors of sexual abuse.  It’s a road map to recovery — a travel guide for the journey, based on what God has shown me to be true in my own life. It takes readers through a series of essential steps of recovery, founded on Biblical truths and practical wisdom, providing a clear pathway to healing. Readers will be led to process their stories, reject shame and discover God’s love for them.

Q: How did you incorporate other survivors’ experiences into Journey to Heal?

The stories I share from other survivors are ones I came to know through mentoring several women through my Bible study for survivors. These stories are shared with their permission. I selected stories I felt would help my readers most and would illuminate certain concepts in the book.

Q: What role does faith play in recovery?

Sexual abuse leaves a soul wound that only God can heal. There are no quick fixes or one-size-fits-all solutions. Through my own experience I’ve discovered there are essential steps we can take and biblical truths we can apply to our lives to heal fully. Ultimately, I believe complete healing only happens when we place our hope in Christ.

Q: Why do you think it’s so critical to write down specifically what happened during the abuse?

I encourage readers to start a truth journal and to document their journey of recovery: not only their stories of abuse, but also the truths God reveals to their heart and the revelations they experience during our study together. Specifically, writing down their stories helps to capture all the facts and feelings involved with the abuse. It enables the reader to put all the pieces of their story together in a safe place where they can ultimately process and release the painful emotions involved. It is a very healthy way to acknowledge their story of abuse and prepare their hearts for the next steps in their journey to heal.

Q: A child is never responsible for being exploited, but why do survivors often feel so much shame and guilt? Do those feelings ever go away?

It’s complicated. There are layers upon layers of words spoken, lies believed and circumstances that can lead victims to believe they were at fault. Everyone is different too. I have mentored survivors who immediately accept they are not to blame for their abuse, but then there are those I’ve met who find it very difficult to overcome their deep feelings of shame. I think it often depends on the circumstances, the length of time throughout which the abuse took place and if there was justice or validation involved. I do believe, with God’s help and through actively processing their story, survivors can overcome feelings of shame and guilt.

Q: You write in Journey to Heal that you keep a photo of yourself on display that was taken shortly before the abuse began. Why do you do that, and why do you recommend other survivors do it as well?

I display the photo simply to remind myself I am not to blame for the abuse that took place in my life, no matter how I might feel in the moment. As odd as it sounds, adult survivors (myself included) often blame the child they were for not speaking up or taking control of the situation. Doing so leads to feelings of guilt and shame that are often fortified by the lies we believe and the things that have been said (or not said) by friends or family members. It’s important for survivors in recovery to see themselves as the children they were, and not as the adults they are today. It is from that perspective we better process our stories of abuse and reject feelings of guilt and shame. One of the best ways to remember who we were as children is through our childhood photos.

Q: What would you say to someone who is holding this secret right now, afraid to reach out for help?

I would tell them they are not alone, they are not to blame, and they are deeply loved. I would add there are well more than 42 million adult survivors of sexual abuse today, many of whom are on their own journey to heal. I would encourage them to read my book and seek out a Christian counselor or pastor whom they can share their story with and begin the healing process.

Learn more about Journey to Heal and Crystal M. Sutherland at, Facebook (Crystal.Sutherland) or Twitter (@cryssutherland).