Denial is recognizable by a survivor saying, "it didn't happen.", "I must be making it up.", "After all how can I be sure anything actually happened?", and "What if I'm wrong?", "It probably didn't happen!" or "It couldn't have happened."
In my experience, some denial even as an adult can be helpful. Denial can help slow the process down. We know denial helps a child to survive. We cannot expect someone to simply abandon their hard earned coping strategies even if they are safe now. Safety is not only an external reality it is an internal one as well. Many survivors do not feel safe and may need some denial to cope with how they feel.
Too much denial leads to all sorts of problems as the abuse is not addressed. This kind of denial is harmful and is fuelled in part by the denial of the "False Memory Syndrome" Foundation and other parts of society who would rather deny than face the reality of child sexual abuse.
Suvivors need to protect themselves from the truth of the situation, after all someone they trusted, and perhaps loved, hurt them very badly.
Rationalization is when a survivor explains the abusive behavior away--"he didn't know what he was doing, he was abused himself as a child, he thought he was showing me love, she was really messed up, she didn't mean to hurt me."
The survivor is trying to protect her/himself from the horrible truth of the situation.
Survivors are confronted with overwhelming pain. In order to cope with extreme and intense emotions, the details of what happened, and who hurt them, they may try to convince themselves "it wasn't so bad", "it didn't really hurt", "others have been hurt much more" etc. This is a form of self-protection. It did hurt, it still hurts but it may be too hard or scary right now to face it all.
As a form of self-protection, minimizing may help slow the process down which may be what the survivor needs from time to time. As a constant way of coping however, minimization leads to self-blame and self-hatred which is not helpful and hurts a great deal.
Healing Our Past Experiences
Self-help and support services for adult survivors of childhood and or adult sexual abuse
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