Incest survivors support.
For incest survivors, recovery can feel like an isolating and challenging process. There are individuals and organizations prepared to protect you, accept you, and accompany you through your healing journey. There is no one way to recover, so explore the various options and choose what's best for you. If you're in need of direct services, reach out to an organization in the Incest AWARE Alliance. We're here to support you in your journey healing from incest.
Recovery Ideas for Incest Survivors.
Many incest survivors and advocates have been down the recovery road and back and have valuable suggestions to offer those just starting their healing journey. Here are some helpful practices, methods, and strategies from survivors on to support you in your journey healing from incest. Each person’s recovery journey is uniquely their own and what works for one person may not be helpful for another. The key is to find your own way to health and well-being.
Build social support. Incest survivors can feel isolated and alone while healing from incest. Take steps to build your social network with people who feel safe to you and people you feel good being with. Often this includes people outside of your family circle. Consider building relationships with other sexual violence survivors. Think about joining an online support group so you can converse with others who share similar experiences. Survivor-moderated, private social media groups can help build your virtual support network, as can in-person groups running in your area. See our page on Personal Support Options for links to safe resources.
Find a skilled and experienced therapist who has worked with survivors of incest and sexual abuse. If possible, take time to meet with several therapists to find the best fit for yourself, and select a therapist you feel you can trust and with whom you have rapport. Some therapists have special training to support incest survivors. Your therapist should be fully focused on and engaged with you throughout your therapy session because if they’re not, this can trigger old feelings of being overlooked and de-prioritized and prompt you to try too hard to make things right. One of the key goals of trauma-informed therapy while you're healing from incest is to create a safe therapist-client relationship that is a refuge - a secure relationship for healing and growth - instead of harm. If the therapeutic relationship isn’t working, find another, but try to end any nonproductive therapy in a manner that leaves you feeling proud of yourself.
Many sexual assault organizations offer free and confidential counseling to incest survivors. Consider alternative incest therapy methods, for example, trauma-informed, equine-assisted therapy. The human-horse connection and human-beloved animal connection allows some survivors to experience emotions, such as love, through entirely safe, nonverbal communications. This can be particularly effective with teens for whom traditional therapy doesn’t work well. Whatever counseling method you pursue, it is best if possible to find a therapist who has training and experience in trauma and is credentialed and highly ethical.
Psychology Today’s website has a “Find a Therapist” directory of therapists, psychiatrists, and treatment centers located throughout the US that is searchable by city or zip code. Explore the list to find the right person to support you as you're healing from incest.
Since the body is the site of abuse for incest survivors, however the abuse occurred, learning to care for and nurture your body is often central in the healing process. What this means specifically can vary from one survivor to another. For one person, this can be learning to get enough sleep, for another healthy food, for another exercise, for another dance and improvisational theatre, for another not abusing substances. The key is to learn what activities help you feel healthy and happy. Explore music or art therapy, exercise or yoga, meditation or spiritual activities, time in a swimming pool or in nature - any and all physical activities that help you feel at home in your body. Learn to observe and identify what feels healing for you. Each person’s healing from incest journey is truly uniquely their own path.
Write in a journal. Articulating your feelings and hardships doesn’t have to happen interpersonally. Journaling can help incest survivors to process emotions and experiences in a way that’s completely private and personal to you while you're healing from incest.
Explore books and podcasts about recovering from sexual trauma. One book that survivors of incest have found helpful is The Courage to Heal by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis, which has an associated workbook for males and females healing from the effects of child sexual abuse. The combination of checklists, writing and art projects, open-ended questions, and activities in the workbook guides readers through the healing process as incest survivors. (See our page on Books, Articles & Podcasts for more resources.)
Remind yourself often of your worth and value, and surround yourself with people who support incest survivors through healing. Remember that the abuse was not your fault, that your life is precious, and that you have worth. Exploring the resources in our Books, Articles, & Podcasts page can be a good way to start learning about building self-esteem and worth.
Make choices that keep you safe from emotional, financial, and other forms of abuse from family members with whom you continue to have a relationship. Toxic family members abuse their power to control incest survivors’ emotions, self-esteem, and choices. Distancing oneself from abusive family members is a choice that some incest survivors find helpful for healing and rebuilding self-esteem and self-worth.
Learn to say “No” with confidence, kindness, and firmness. Incest survivors of abuse, especially when this occurs in early childhood, have been exploited for another person’s needs. Survivors who become high functioning and successful adults can give too much – too much energy and too much of one’s precious time – in loving support of others. Even when the other’s cause or request is pressing, remember that protecting one’s own body and energy needs to come first, and this means saying “no” at times to requests or invitations from others.
If it’s right for you, you may choose to tell your story. Some incest survivors have found healing in sharing their stories, whether one-on-one with supportive people in their lives, or more publicly through a storytelling forum. For more on this topic, visit our Tell Your Story page.
Be patient. Healing from incest takes a long time. It’s a journey, not a destination. Remind yourself that each day is a step forward in your recovery. If you want to survive and thrive, you can and will do this!
Organizations to Support Incest Survivors.
For incest survivors having a hard time or wanting to embark on a path to thriving, supportive groups and communities can be a lifeline. The following support groups and directories are designed for incest and other abuse survivors and those who support their healing.
Support Groups for Incest Survivors:
1 in 6: This organization sponsors free and anonymous chat-based support groups for male survivors of sexual abuse seeking a community of support. Sessions are offered Monday through Friday. These written chat (no audio or video) groups focus on education and mutual support for males and are facilitated by a counselor.
bIRch House: The bIRch House is dedicated to healing for female adult survivors of incest and childhood sexual abuse through programs, resources, education, and advocacy.
Empower Survivors - Sibling Sexual Trauma and Abuse Support Group: A peer-led support group and safe space for individuals to gather support, learn and grow. EmpowerSurvivors is a nonprofit that serves those sexually abused in childhood. We believe in bringing survivors of this crime together to support one another through the healing process, share, and learn.
HelpRoom: HelpRoom is an anonymous online group chat option that allows members of the community who have been affected by sexual violence to connect with one another. Trained staff facilitate group discussions to ensure a safe environment for all visitors to discuss topics and experiences related to sexual violence.
Hidden Water Circle: This organization has groups meeting weekly — either in-person or online — that are designed to enable participants to find the growing edge of their healing alongside others who have had similar experiences with childhood sexual abuse.
Isurvive: Isurvive is an online abuse survivor support group. Their forums/chat rooms are open to adult survivors and their loved ones seeking to heal from all forms of abuse, including sexual, physical, verbal, emotional, and ritual.
The Lamplighters: This organization is dedicated to recovery from incest and child sexual abuse. They have chapters located throughout the US that organize groups for survivors.
National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse: NAASCA’s website has a list of recovery groups and services worldwide for adult survivors of abuse, including incest. Their online daytime recovery meetings are an open discussion forum about child abuse trauma and recovery and are hosted by volunteer members.
Sexual Assault Advocacy Network (SAAN) Facebook Group: SAAN was founded to support the people who support sexual violence survivors. Their active Facebook group connects survivor-advocates who are working to support other incest and other sexual abuse survivors, change policy, and raise awareness.
Survivors of Incest Anonymous (SIA): SIA is a 12-step recovery program for adult survivors of incest. They offer a range of peer-support groups, including virtual, phone, and in-person - all free of cost. Their website contains other resources and information of interest to incest survivors.
StopSO: This organization’s Support for Families Online Group is designed to be a safe and supportive space for family members of a sexual offender or for family members of someone who is worried that they may cause sexual harm. (This organization also provides services for those at risk of offending and concerned about their thoughts or behavior.)
Tail of the Bell: Geared toward adult survivors of incest, Tail of the Bell will soon be offering peer-to-peer incest survivor facilitated groups called YANA. Participants will become members of small groups of 6-8 survivors maximum who will meet weekly in a virtual space to offer mutual support and guidance.
Triumphant Trauma Tribe: Started by an experienced therapist, this is a virtual group support meeting for trauma survivors gathering several times per week. The format is a combination of sharing and group support. If you have something you're going through, they encourage you to talk about it and others can give feedback, support, or just general encouragement. There is a screening process to get into the group; this ensures that the membership is appropriate for this setting.
In-person services in your local area: If you are looking for services in your local area, the Me Too organization has an excellent directory for sexual assault services and organizations that is searchable by location, community, need, and abuse experience.
Resources for LGBTQ, people of color, and undocumented survivors: Survivors who are LGBTQ, from communities of color, and/or undocumented can face unique barriers when accessing services and finding providers and groups that understand their needs.
The LGBTQ National Hotline refers to over 15,000 resources across the country that support LGBTQ individuals, and coordinates weekly chatrooms for gay and trans youth.
If you are undocumented and don’t feel safe reporting abuse or getting help, the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence’s Immigration page is chock full of links to assistance for immigrant survivors.
If you are a survivor of color, there are online resources and information that are well worth exploring. This article covers the topic of self care for people of color following trauma. The Me Too organization has an extensive healing resource library, guidance (written for survivors of color in particular) seeking help and advice but not knowing where to start, and tools and tips from leading experts on healing practices. For those identifying as female seeking a tight-knit community and leadership development opportunities, the National Organization of Sisters of Color Ending Sexual Assault (SCESA) is a great resource. They create space, opportunities, training, and support for women of color to enhance their personal and professional development goals while building community and sisterhood in the anti-sexual assault movement. The Women of Color Network has similar programming, running a leadership training institute and ally trainings, among other initiatives.
Psychology Today’s website has a “Find a Therapist” directory of therapists, psychiatrists, treatment centers, and support groups located throughout the US that is searchable by city or zip code.
RAINN’s “Find Help Near You” database connects incest survivors to information about centers located in their region that may offer support groups and other local resources.
NSVRC has compiled a list of websites and resources offering support and help for incest survivors, which includes links to support groups. It can be accessed here.
Helpful Resources for Incest Survivors.
For many incest survivors, coping with the effects of incest - and learning how to feel fulfilled in life - takes a community. Incest survivors benefit tremendously from services and groups that represent their unique identities and understand the families and places from which they come.
Additional programs and resources appropriate for all incest survivors: Survivors of incest have found these additional programs and resources helpful for connecting with others in healing environments, sharing experiences, and learning more about sexual violence.
After Silence: After Silence’s message board and chat room was created to let sexual assault survivors know they are not alone, not broken, and can heal. These forums provide space for survivors to come together in a mutually supportive and safe environment.
The Firecracker Foundation: This organization offers no-cost therapy and other free services to black boys who have been victims of sexual violence.
Girls Fight Back: Survivor experience can dramatically alter feelings of safety in the world. Girls Fight Back’s seminars empower young women to learn violence prevention and self-defense. They make the dual topics of preventing violence and fighting back approachable for everyone - in particular students, who can opt for sessions on Students Fight Back and Fight Back on Spring Break.
Hope Thrives: For those seeking a spiritual healing experience, this organization organizes weekend retreats throughout the year and one-day conferences for adult female survivors of childhood sexual abuse at their retreat center in George to reflect, connect, and heal in a Christian environment.
MaleSurvivor: MaleSurvivor’s moderated discussion boards and private, real-time chat dialogue spans a broad range of topics relevant to male survivors, including recovering from sexual trauma, LGBTQ+ survivor issues, military survivors, and more.
MenHealing Weekend of Recovery Retreats: WOR Retreats in the US and Canada provide support for adult male survivors of sexual trauma. The environment recognizes the safety needs for male-identified survivors, and seeks to acknowledge and honor the authentic diversities of attendees at each WOR (racial, ethnic, class, spirituality, sexuality, gender, etc.). Alumni of WOR retreats report the experience contributed to easing their suffering, enabling higher functioning, facilitating healthier relationships with friends, partners, and children, inspiring activism, and diminishing the cycle of victimization.
Pandora’s Project: This organization provides peer support to sexual abuse survivors through their online forum Pandora’s Aquarium. Their message board and chat room is moderated by a diverse group of survivors.
Perpetually Healing: This website is a compilation of poetry and writings authored by survivors of sexual abuse and offers the Perpetually Healing podcast series, designed to redirect the shame of childhood sexual abuse.
Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN): RAINN is the nation’s largest organization devoted exclusively to sexual violence, including incest. RAINN created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline in English and Spanish and carries out programs to prevent sexual violence, help survivors, and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice.
Sibling Sexual Trauma: A website devoted entirely to the topic of sibling sexual abuse, with resources, information, help, and guidance on one of the least talked about forms of incest abuse.
The Younique Foundation Haven Retreat: Three weeks each month, The Younique Foundation hosts female survivors of childhood sexual abuse at The Haven Retreat, located in Utah and Georgia in the US. This multi-day experience is geared toward survivors ready to learn, reflect on their experience, and rejuvenate. Participants engage in group and individual activities at no cost to them with one aim in mind - to help survivors heal from the trauma of sexual abuse.
“As different and isolated you may feel, unfortunately there are far too many of us that do understand and get it. You are not alone (YANA). Surround yourself with people that believe you and in you.”
- Nancy Allen