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  • Writer's pictureAlex Houseknecht

Choosing Embodiment (Part III)

This is the third and final post on sexual abuse and embodiment. You can read the first post here, and the second post here.

The drama of perversion takes place on a stage that isolates the adult survivor of sexual abuse from truth, healing, and relationship. Through embodiment, the survivor actively moves into the reality of abuse, which assists them in disentangling perversion from beauty; out of representation and into actualization. They erupt from the stage, and through safety and mourning begin to return to ordinary life, integrating the drama into their body not as the perpetrator’s distorted narrative, but as a meaning-filled tragedy. This is when we can truly begin to understand how the inward movement of embodiment moves outward.

The emergence of the body’s truths unleashes a surge in which more truths become evident. For example, in the process of disentangling, the concept of personal boundaries arises. This has the potential to shift the survivor from the question: “What do I need to do to survive?” to “How do I want to create meaning?” This is not to say that we are helpless in the face of revelation, we always have the choice to turn our attention away from the truth. Rather, we begin to see that the ability to heal is bound in our capacity to be honest. The revelation of truth increasingly reveals our humanity, which is inversely correlated to the dehumanization that occurs in the act of harm.

When the humanity of the survivor is revealed, the stage of the perpetrator is ruptured, exposing the humanity of the perpetrator. The act of revelation erupts the truth from perversion, thereby exposing the fallacy of the drama and simultaneously inviting the perpetrator to participate in his own process of embodiment. If this path is chosen, he will rightly feel the shame and anguish that have been so desperately needed to reveal the perverse strategy, and in the end, the truth of his own trauma narratives.

New potential is birthed into the life of the survivor, as embodiment allows them to prophetically engage with the stories of individuals in their community. The light shed from the survivor’s humanity falls upon their relationships, and there is a warm invitation into the journey of truth-seeking for those who wish to engage their own stories of harm. For the survivor, this furthers their own embodiment as they are reconnected with ordinary life.

The process of embodiment reveals a structure and context that is reflective of how other dehumanizing systems work. In essence, a part is substituted for the complexity of the whole, and the humanity of the individual is eclipsed for the sake of ideology.

Systems of oppression diminish and attempt to destroy humanity, but when we bear the truth of our stories, the revelation of humanity simultaneously exposes and opens up the possibility of dismantling these systems.

In the end, for the survivor of sexual abuse, healing is not only possible, it births the potential to bring about communal and systemic restoration. Friere (2000) says, “Dehumanization, although a concrete historical fact, is not a given destiny” (p. 44). The revelation of truth reveals our humanity and draws our attention toward the ways in which we can create meaning in our lives. This can expand exponentially and become a light rapidly enveloping oppressive darkness, in order to reveal truth and beauty, and bring about flourishing in the world.


Freire, P. (2000). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum.

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