It has been said that time heals all, but unfortunately, the same can’t be said with victims of sexual abuse. The wounds of sexual abuse never truly heal; they remain exposed always. Treatment for survivors of sexual trauma and childhood sexual abuse is an incredibly niche field, but is no less important. Sexual abuse is often one of the most damaging forms of abuse because it distorts the way we see ourselves. It is both mentally and physically crippling in more ways than most people could imagine. However, there are remedies and methods out there to sooth the wounds. Massage therapy for victims of sexual abuse is a rising form of therapy for people who are struggling to deal with their traumatic experiences. Massage has a range of health benefits, but is especially therapeutic in situations like these; please allow us to explain why throughout this post.
Defining sexual abuse
Sexual abuse is of any kind is defined as non-consensual sexual contact. Sexual abuse can happen to any man, woman, child or pensioner; essentially, anyone of any age or gender. Sexual abuse by a partner can include derogatory name calling, deliberately causing harm, refusal to use contraception or deliberately passing on sexual infections using anything. It is defined as the intent to cause pain or humiliation. Sexual abuse is also referred to as ‘molestation’ and is often undesired sexual behaviour by one person to another. Sexual abuse can be committed through both mental and physical force; blackmail and threat.
Child sexual abuse
Child sexual abuse is a particularly sensitive subject for obvious reasons. Some describe it as the worst form of sexual abuse (not that you can put sexual abuse into a hierarchy) because children symbolise innocence. Child sexual abuse is defined as “any sexual act with a child performed by an adult or an older child.” This includes a number of acts, some of which we have stated for you:

  • Penetrative sex. This includes penetration of the mouth
  • Sexual touching of any part of the body; either clothed or unclothed
  • Intentionally engaging in sexual activity in front of a child
  • Showing pornography to children or using a child to create it
  • Making a child engage in prostitution
  • Encouraging a child to engage in sexual activity; this includes masturbation

Sexual abuse statistics
Official statistics attempt to record the amount of sexual abuse cases that are recorded by authorities every single year. However, the reality isn’t that straightforward. Sadly, most crimes of this nature are not reported nor disclosed, so the number of victims is believed to be much higher. It is said that:

  • 1 in 20 children in the UK have been sexually abused
  • Over 3,000 children were identified as needing protection from sexual abuse in 2016
  • 1 in 3 children abused by an adult did not tell anyone
  • Over 90% of sexually abused children were abused by someone they knew
  • Nearly a third of sexual abuse is committed by older children
  • 13% of contacts to the NSPCC helpline last year were concerning sexual abuse
  • The NSPCC helpline responded to almost 7,000 contacts about sexual abuse last year
  • Rape crisis member centres in the UK responded to 171,000 calls in just 12 months
  • 95% of all service users were female
  • 23% of users were identified as disabled
  • Approximately 85,000 women and 12,000 men are raped in England and wales every single year. That’s around about 11 rapes (just adults) every hour.
  • 1 in 5 women aged between 16-59 have experienced some kind of sexual violence since the age of 16

These are just a handful of statistics from across the country, but the reality is even more severe. The reality is; as harsh as it may be, is that a lot of people are victims. More than most people realise. Although it is crucial to support these victims, there are methods out there with proven success rates; one of which, is massage therapy.
Massage therapy and the ‘good touch’
The clue is in the name- massage can be therapeutic. Victims of sexual abuse tend to repress their experiences and disassociate themselves with reality. Survivors often feel ‘empty’ or vacant, and often seek ‘wholeness’ as a primary therapeutic goal. Working on the body can be a valuable tool. The key aim of massage therapy for people who are victims of sexual abuse is to help teach positive association with the body. Victims often associate sexual touch or just touch in general with their trauma- for obvious reasons. The gradual integration of touch allows victims to break their connection with trauma through touch. Eventually, touch becomes a good thing as opposed to a bad thing, and massage offers survivors a chance to be touched in a non-abusive way.
Masseuses play a big role in the process because they are responsible for earning the victim’s trust. The masseur is essentially asking for permission to touch the client- something which is highly traumatic for the participant. Putting trust in a stranger is hard for anyone, but it is especially challenging for a victim of sexual abuse. When performed gradually and responsibly, massage therapy can be an important healing force in a client’s life and personal development. Learning to trust someone again is essential for victims of sexual abuse if they want to overcome their trauma as much as possible. Displaying continuous reservations to people merely heightens the sense of fear; it ultimately controls their life. Masseuses give victims the chance to reconnect with their bodies in a non-sexual way. This is imperative.
A safe place
When victims enter the salon, they all attempt to establish personal and psychological safety; the therapist being the first point of call. A relationship can then build upon this experience. A healthy and safe body-work environment is an opportunity for survivors to establish an environment where he/she can feel safe with their physical body and emotions. This experience can offer a safe refuge to be touched with dignity and respect and is a non-judgemental and non-sexual environment for participants to feel safe and accepted in.
The rebuilding of boundaries
Massage therapy can be helpful in the rebuilding of personal boundaries. These boundaries were shattered by the trauma and abuse; bit can be re-established in a safe and comfortable environment. The massage isn’t just about the client; it’s about working together as a team in order to establish the best routine possible. It’s a progression for both victim and masseuse. For example, but instructing the masseuse where to touch and where not to touch, the client sets important boundaries every session and therefore gains a sense of control. Each session empowers the victim because they set the rules and they make the boundaries. They are the subject, yet the power is in their hands.
Pleasure through non-sexual touch
Non-sexual touch that is neutral and pleasurable supports building blocks for a changed experience of the body. Once safety is established through regular positive body-contact, victims usually begin to perceive the masseurs touch as neutral. And in time, they will eventually be able to experience this touch without disassociation. This is when clients are able to experience pleasure in a non-sexual way. Overcoming sexual abuse through massage therapy isn’t just about learning how to dissociate, it’s also about learning how to be touched again. Most people, especially those who have experienced it from a young age, can only relate to sexual, inappropriate touch. Being introduced to non-threatening touch gives victims the chance to relax and to establish relationships once again. Touch is a basic human instinct, and can be an incredibly intimate display of affection. Learning to ‘trust’ touch again is important for victims if they want to rebuild their lives and potentially form trusting and perhaps even romantic relationships with people.
Memories and the ‘self’
When working in conjunction with a psychotherapist, massage therapy can assist victims in locating hidden memories and integrating them into their present life. Abusive trauma often becomes repressed in the minds of the victims as a way to protect themselves from further harm. It is essentially a defence mechanism. This trauma can cause victims to dissociate from their body, but the memory often resurfaces when the victim is touched. Although massage may trigger the recall of these memories, it offers a pathway to integrate bodily sensations back into the victim’s life. Positive body experiences help victims to rebuild a sense of self where the body is connected to their thoughts and emotions. As victims begin to connect with their bodies in a positive way, they experience improved body image and less shame. Often, victims tend to look after their bodies more as the therapy continues. This is a sign that they are learning to love themselves again.
The benefits of massage therapy
It reduces anxiety - One of the key emotions experienced by a sexual abuse victim is anxiety. However, the identifying cause of anxiety is often hard to find. For sexual abuse victims on the other hand, the cause of anxiety is easily identified. The loss of bodily autonomy, combined with the fear of a recurring attack can manifest itself into extreme anxiety. Some people may develop agoraphobia whereas other may suffer from panic attacks. Massage therapy is renowned for its resolution of anxiety, and the reasons are clear. Massages are incredibly relaxing, and give people the chance to either open up their emotions or just totally switch off. It allows victims in this case to escape from their reality and experience peace. Massages teach people to access their chakras (energies) and rid themselves of the negative ones.
It reduces depression - Most victims of sexual abuse suffer from depression at some point in their lives. Some experience chronic depression for most of their lives, while others have spouts sporadically. However, depression is a serious condition that can control people’s thoughts, emotions and actions. It can diminish a person’s self-worth, motivation and aspirations whilst increasing the feelings of emptiness, hopelessness and despondency. Massage reduces depression in clients for many reasons. As with anxiety, massage therapy is spiritual and therapeutic in its ability to help individuals to ‘let go’ of issues that are consuming them. Similarly, massage physically encourages the production of hormones in the body; oxytocin and serotonin which are responsible for making us feel happy.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) - During a traumatic event, various things happen in the body in an attempt to preserve the body. This is known as the ‘fight or flight’ response, the name given to the instinctual bodily process whereby we spring into action during moments of heightened stress, trauma or fear. Although this is a natural response, the aftermath of such an occurrence can have a long-lasting effect on individuals. Massage is useful in dissolving the effects of PTSD through the use of calming, gentle touch. Kind human touch stimulates positive feelings and the body is able to relax. For someone suffering from PTSD, the long-held stress patterns can begin to vanish.
Tantra for sexual trauma victims -
Abuse victims are not limited to a single massage style, there are many out there with just as many benefits as the next. Oriental massage isn’t often sought out by victims, because most styles incorporate sexual stimulation. Naturally, this is a terrifying concept for most victims. However, some oriental styles can be healing for sexual abuse victims for many reasons. Tantric massage is an oriental style of massage that is highly spiritual and emotionally evoking. Tantric masseuses believe that the body is made up of a series of energies, all of which determine our moods, actions and emotions. Tantric massages looks to seek a holistic balance of these energies in order to achieve a more stable equilibrium.
Why it is healing
Generally speaking, abuse victims hold negative emotions such as anger, mistrust, fear, rage and shame in their whole body, but particularly in their genital area. Tantric massage helps people to accept their abuse by evoking certain emotions, and gives them the opportunity to forgive their abuser(s) and release stagnant energies. Essentially, Tantric massage forces abuse victims to face their fear head on in an extremely safe and controlled environment. People learn to overcome their fear and negative association of sex but slowly easing it into their lifestyle. Through Tantric massage, victims are able to associate sex with pleasure, as opposed to fear, trauma and anxiety.
Help is there for you
Of course, massage isn’t the only form of therapy available to victims of sexual abuse. These treatments include:

  • Exposure therapy which works well when the individual has a specific fear.
  • Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing therapy (EMDR) uses subtle eye movements to help to rewire the brain and change the way victim’s process abuse.
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) teaches survivors to abandon maladaptive approaches.

However, a lot of victims often use trial and error to see which method benefits them the most. Massage is most effective when practiced alongside psychotherapy, and offers victims the chance to overcome their fears from the root. If you are a victim of sexual abuse and are looking to move forward with your life, approach a doctor or an abuse charity to seek specialist care.
If you’re interested in exploring oriental massage as a form of therapy, call or email us on the details below and schedule in with a trained professional today.

Author's Bio: 

Alice is a massage specialist at with an experience of over 7 years.