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The Sexual Healing Journey: A Guide for Survivors of Sexual Abuse

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  474 ratings  ·  37 reviews
Considered a classic in its field, this comprehensive guide will help survivors of sexual abuse improve their relationships and discover the joys of sexual intimacy. Wendy Maltz takes survivors step-by-step through the recovery process using groundbreaking exercises and techniques. Based on the author's clinical work, interviews, and workshops, this guide is filled with fi ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published February 20th 2001 by William Morrow & Company (first published June 19th 1991)
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Oct 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
(CW for sexual assault and child sexual abuse)
This book is really interesting and helpful for the most part but there were a few moments that were utterly bizarre or inaccurate. I think in some regards it hasn't aged well at all since it was published in 1991:
-Maltz endorses the use of hypnosis as a means of restoring "lost" memories. Oh boy. If you want to read a little bit more about that whole phenomenon I'd recommend starting here or here.
-She says that survivors' use of S&M/kink is inherent
May 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book has changed my life. I was definitely reading it at the right time, a time when I was ready to face what happened to me and find healing. There are so many ripples in my life now that I didn't realize were related to the waves of abuse that happened over 20 years ago. I let go of a lot of burdens while reading this. Highly recommend it.
Aug 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
I have found very few books for survivors of rape & sexual abuse that talk about sex specificaly with much detail. So frustrating since (almost) every survivor wants to talk about sex & healing! I love some of the exercises and suggestions in this book. The only complaint I have is it's sometimes a bit too text booky & it feels like "wait, i couldn't actually say that to my partner. i don't talk like that at all!" ...more
Jun 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Wendy Maltz and Sexual Healing Journey are on the list of required readings for those working with sexual trauma and for those who have experienced sexual trauma. This book is very readable, comprehensive, and is for individuals and couples.
The problem lies more in the details than anything else. Maltzs position on pornography is sex negative ("erotica is okay, pornography is not", Her book "The Porn Trap", etc.) and her inclusion of terms like sex or pornography addiction are controversial
Jaclyn Goss
Nov 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Victims of sexual assualt
A very well written book about sexual healing Do not read if you do not have a lot of time on your hands! It gave me to access blocked memories, which I hadn't remembered. So when I say time, I mean emotional time. Definately a book you will revisit, and one you should buy rather then check out or borrow, due to it's nature to emotionally shock you. Plan on reading this slowely, I bought it four years ago, and I still haven't finished it. Healing takes time.
Chapter on learning possitive touch is
Nov 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This should be a bible for people who have been through some sexual trauma. I was sexually abused as a child by my grandfather, rapes by my boyfriend at age 17, and later raped by friend at age 25, and this book covered almost every confusion, thoughts, emotions and behaviors I've ever had (and have). Very helpful tips on how to re-learn healthy sexual life.
Jun 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
A great resource for those that are in a relationship, but may still suffer from past sexual trauma. This can be read by those not in a relationship, but the focus really is on healing a relationship. I recommend this highly.
Aug 11, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: healing
I decided to pick this book up when I was ready to confront what had happen to me... I had reached a really low point, was more depressed than I wanted to admit and didn't think I was worthy of anything. This book helped me tremendously. It helped me realize that I really needed to become aware and learn to love myself. It taught me awareness and techniques that have been working to help me better cope with intimacy. For awhile, even the idea of a man touching me scared me. I pushed men so far a ...more
Hester Rathbone
Jun 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: my-office
I read this book for work, obviously, but I honestly loved every minute of it. As odd as it is to say, the basis of it isn't so much sexual relations (although that's certainly part of it), it's getting people to learn to pay attention to their own needs and levels of comfort or discomfort, as well as practicing communicating those needs to the people in their lives - a skill which we all struggle with from time to time. I think that this book is so well written that even people who have never e ...more
Oct 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: counseling
Such a great, valuable read. From beginning to end, Maltz (thoroughly) covers the topic of reclaiming your healthy sexuality following sexual abuse. While this book is certainly most useful for survivors of sexual abuse, their partners, and the clinicians who work with them, her discussion of healthy sexuality should be a must-discuss in every sex-ed classroom. Too frequently when we talk about sex and sexuality, we only focus on the mechanics and negative consequences of unhealthy sexuality. He ...more
Maggie Millar
Oct 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes part of healing is learning that we are not alone and the things we feel are normal things for us (as survivors) to feel.
I wasn't going to add this book to my reading list because I wasn't sure I wanted my friends to know that I've read this. I soon realized how hypocritical that was of me. I'm a survivor and I am not ashamed. That is what this beautifully written book helped me realize.
I would recommend it to anyone and everyone who has either been sexually abused or anyone who is c
Reita Jackson
Jun 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This remains perhaps the best book on sexual healing for survivors of sexual abuse ever written. Written by a therapist who had, at the time of writing the book, seen hundreds of clients with damaged sexuality, this book addresses the topic few other authors tackle. It is best saved for the latter stages of healing, after the initial ground work and safety issues have been addressed. Sexual Healing Journey will likely have triggers, and is best used in conjunction with a skilled therapist. This ...more
Jamie Hill
May 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
An excellent resource for people who experience any degree of childhood sexual abuse. I would highly recommend reading this only while under the supervision of a licensed therapist due to the emotional turmoil one might experience but the contents of this book are extremely helpful and aid in healing and sexual reconnection.
Jun 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: survivors of any kind of sexual abuse
Shelves: healing, sexuality, abuse
There aren't very many helpful books about wounded sexuality in this world. This book is the most helpful I have ever found. Maltz has done her research and writes in a validating and encouraging tone.
Nov 12, 2010 rated it liked it
If I was just rating on how helpful it was, I might give it five stars, but I can't say that I loved it. Hardest book in the world to read!
Jul 14, 2012 rated it liked it
Caused a lot of AHA moments that explained behaviour of mine. Wish it delved deeper into certain topics as well as more instructions for non-dating singles.
Nov 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Full of good information for friends and family of survivors as well as abuse survivors.
Jun 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
i read this book because a lot of the people i work with who have eating disorders also have a history of sexual abuse/trauma. this book was really helpful to me as a clinician for learning how to incorporate some of the sexual trauma work into the eating disorder work. i honestly would not recommend this book to someone unless they were working with a therapist and the therapist had approved them to read it. it's really intense, super detailed (ie: graphic), and could be extremely triggering if ...more
Apr 27, 2015 rated it it was ok
I had trouble getting into this one and did not finish it. Not due to the 'heaviness' of the subject matter or my emotional responses to it. Rather, it was more the tone of the author. She comes across as fairly priggish and judgmental and often condescending. It often seemed as if any thought someone might have outside of vanilla heterosexual couplings we 'wrong' and must be avoided. Her repeated admonishments about eschewing masturbation and porn were also really unhelpful and judgmental (yes ...more
Nicole Perry
Feb 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: psychology
One of the things I appreciated most about this was the step by step instructions on reclaiming sex after sexual abuse. It's also a topic that I think gets overlooked when we work with people who have experienced trauma. I'm a big believer in healthy sex as an important part of life and this book provides a powerful way forward.

At times it's difficult to read, but take it in pieces, take care of yourself while you read, and it's well worth it. Helpful for partners as well.
Dec 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Excellent resource and guide for sexual abuse survivors who are struggling with intimacy with their partners when the mind and body tells them otherwise..Step by step precedures on how to ground and establish safety with partners...I recommended it to clients who had done therapy work on PTSD and were ready to take the next step on establishing healthy boundaries with their partners...A classic.
Hannah Reinbeck
A great resource for victims of sexual abuse that helps them to reclaim a part of themselves as it relates to a sense of intimacy with their partner. I highly recommend this to those that may want to start their self-healing journey and to the partners of victims so they can better understand what they are going through.
Angel (huge fan of all things Totoro)
For anyone that has been sexually abused, whether as a child/teenager/adult, please read this. It is so worth getting.
Buzz H.
Nov 07, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
Useful, but very hetero-centric.
Apr 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wow! Much like The Body Keeps the Score, this is a book that took me a long time to get through because it was so dense with information. I've learned so much and it's made me question things I took for granted about sex. There's a big questionnaire in the beginning to see where you are at in your relationship toward sex and I cannot wait to share it with my friends. It's a difficult book because of the subject but the author really tries her best to make it palatable. There are exercices for he ...more
Jul 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Read this book for a sex therapy class research project. This is a very readable, well organized text, accessible to the layperson. The author has done extensive work on the long-term effects of abuse and has really useful suggestions for exercises & activities, as well as a very wise perspective on unhealthy sexual behaviors, which are often symptomatic of unresolved abuse issues. She uses examples drawn from case studies and her own life. I would recommend this to laypeople as well as all type ...more
As a trauma therapist working with many people who have survived sexual trauma I highly recommend this book to survivors, partners of survivors and those who provide therapy. This book had good insights, exercises, and survivors stories. Such a great book about a really difficult challenge in many people’s lives. Very insightful.
Jul 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: survivors of sexual abuse & anyone drawn to re-evaluating what healthy sexuality is
A necessary book not only for survivors of sexual abuse but I feel for many people confused about what healthy sexuality is. Sadly sexual abuse imagery and language is so prevalent and normalized in today's society that you don't have to be a survivor of sexual abuse or harassment to have your eyes opened and belief-systems challenged by this book.
shelly marise splinter
The truth...

I liked the honesty and hope this book has to offer. Nothing candy coated.
I sincerely felt very alone prior to reading this book . Finding out others suffer and heal was rewarding and inspiring.
Jay Roberson
Apr 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic book for clients coping with childhood abuse and it offers healthy exercises for couples as they attempt to be sexual in the face of trauma triggers. These exercises are in addition to the typical sensate focus work of Masters and Johnson and help to build trust with clothes on.
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Wendy Maltz LCSW, DST is an internationally recognized author, speaker, and sex therapist. Her books include The Porn Trap, The Sexual Healing Journey, Private Thoughts, Passionate Hearts, Intimate Kisses, and Incest & Sexuality. Wendy’s highly acclaimed videos are Relearning Touch and Partners in Healing. In 2014 she received the prestigious Carnes Award from the Society for the Advancement of Se ...more

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14 likes · 7 comments
“She was interviewing one of my favorite television actors, Don Johnson of Miami Vice. As he reclined on a couch in his lovely home, Don told Barbara about the joys and difficulties in his life. He talked of past struggles with drug and alcohol abuse and work addiction. Then he spoke of his relationships with women—how exciting and attractive he found them. I could see his energy rise and his breath quicken as he spoke. An air of intoxication seemed to fill the room. Don said his problem was he liked women too much and found it hard to be with one special partner over a long period. He would develop a deep friendship and intimacy, but then his eyes would wander. I thought to myself, this man has been sexually abused! His problems sounded identical to those of adult survivors I counsel in my practice. But then I reconsidered: Maybe I’ve been working too hard. Perhaps I’m imagining a sexual abuse history that isn’t really there. Then it happened. Barbara leaned forward and, with a smile, asked, “Don, is it true that you had your first sexual relationship when you were quite young, about twelve years old, with your seventeen-year-old baby-sitter?” My jaw dropped. Don grinned back at Barbara. He cocked his head to the side; a twinkle came into his blue eyes. “Yeah,” he said, “and I still get excited just thinking about her today.” Barbara showed no alarm. The next day I wrote Barbara Walters a letter, hoping to enlighten her about the sexual abuse of boys. Had Don been a twelve-year-old girl and the baby-sitter a seventeen-year-old boy, we wouldn’t hesitate to call what had happened rape. It would make no difference how cooperative or seemingly “willing” the victim had been. The sexual contact was exploitive and premature, and would have been whether the twelve-year-old was a boy or a girl. This past experience and perhaps others like it may very well be at the root of the troubles Don Johnson has had with long-term intimacy. Don wasn’t “lucky to get a piece of it early,” as some people might think. He was sexually abused and hadn’t yet realized it.   Acknowledging past sexual abuse is an important step in sexual healing. It helps us make a connection between our present sexual issues and their original source. Some survivors have little difficulty with this step: They already see themselves as survivors and their sexual issues as having stemmed directly from sexual abuse. A woman who is raped sees an obvious connection if she suddenly goes from having a pleasurable sex life to being terrified of sex. For many survivors, however, acknowledging sexual abuse is a difficult step. We may recall events, but through lack of understanding about sexual abuse may never have labeled those experiences as sexual abuse. We may have dismissed experiences we had as insignificant. We may have little or no memory of past abuse. And we may have difficulty fully acknowledging to ourselves and to others that we were victims. It took me years to realize and admit that I had been raped on a date, even though I knew what had happened and how I felt about it. I needed to understand this was in fact rape and that I had been a victim. I needed to remember more and to stop blaming myself before I was able to acknowledge my experience as sexual abuse.” 2 likes
“Pornography can be harmful to sexual healing in many ways. It conveys the idea of unlimited sexual access to women, children, and men. Pornography exploits the people who act in it as well as the public who buys it. It uses sexual stimulation to make money, reinforcing the commodity view of sex. Pornography evokes strong emotions, such as fear and shame, and encourages sexual arousal to abusive ideas and images. Pornography often depicts sex from the perspective of someone who has unsafe, impulsive, compulsive, and extreme sexual interests. It frequently perpetuates destructive and false impressions about sex. People are reduced to objects that are used for stimulation and that can be controlled by other people. Staged scenes in porn can make sexual violence and humiliation appear pleasurable, increasing our tolerance of coercion in sexual relationships. The sex in porn is typically devoid of genuine affection, respect, responsibility, and connection. And without these pillars of healthy sex, it tends to reinforce a type of sex that can never fully satisfy.” 2 likes
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