The best books for pathways to healing from sexual abuse

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a writer and advocate for survivors of sexual abuse. Since 1998, I have encouraged them to find their voice and use it through my organization, Time To Tell. Being isolated is foundational to our experience, and our culture perpetuates the isolation by often refusing to address it, acknowledge it, or expose it, as well as not listening tonor believing–survivors. This forces us to remain silent. I am certain that telling is healing. I lead writing circles for survivors to experience community and get support and encouragement. I recommend all these books not only for the wisdom offered but also the direct experience of not being alone in the reading.


I wrote...

Healing My Life: from Incest to Joy

By Donna Jenson,

Book cover of Healing My Life: from Incest to Joy

What is my book about?

My book is a powerful narrative of one woman’s journey of healing, a deeply personal story exploring how I recovered from the sexual violence done by my father and my family's refusal to acknowledge the abuse. I recount the many ways healing happened for me.

In chronicling the psychological, physical, and spiritual steps I took to reclaim my life and peel away the layers of damage done by incest, I share the complexity and rewards of my quest to heal. One grand reward was building a family of choice to support and encourage me. Though the subject is deeply serious, I write with my sense of humor firmly intact, reminding readers that joy is possible even in the face of great pain. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence--From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror

Donna Jenson Why did I love this book?

This was by far the most essential book in supporting my healing. Reading it at age 45, eight years into my recovery, so many times Herman described the exact thing I was either going through or had to go through to recover.

Explaining that being abused in a family was like being a prisoner of war blew my mind. Like a POW, seven-year-old me couldn’t escape. She helped explain so much of my trauma, my reactions, and my struggle and gave me a mountain of hope to climb!

By Judith Lewis Herman,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Trauma and Recovery as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When Trauma and Recovery was first published in 1992, it was hailed as a ground-breaking work. In the intervening years, Herman's volume has changed the way we think about and treat traumatic events and trauma victims. In a new afterword, Herman chronicles the incredible response the book has elicited and explains how the issues surrounding the topic have shifted within the clinical community and the culture at large. Trauma and Recovery brings a new level of understanding to a set of problems usually considered individually. Herman draws on her own cutting-edge research in domestic violence as well as on the…


Book cover of Soaring Above the Ashes: Thriving Beyond Childhood Sexual Abuse

Donna Jenson Why did I love this book?

I love this book because every chapter is about a survivor, with a large black and white photo of them. Seeing real faces put to their stories was so helpful and encouraging, showing me I am not alone.

In between the survivor stories, the author reveals both her own survivor story AND her wisdom as a therapist working with survivors. Thank you to Dr. Samuelson for all the survival strategies she affirmed and understood. I don't know a lot of therapists who have disclosed they're survivors–this one does, and with great clarity.

By Emily Samuelson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Soaring Above the Ashes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It is Possible to Heal from Sexual Abuse

A diverse group of extraordinary survivors of sexual abuse tell their stories in their own voices. In Soaring Above the Ashes they give their names, share their stories, and show their faces in arresting black and white portraits, defying the perpetrators who can no longer shame or threaten them into silence.

These men and women are proud of who they have become. They describe the journey from helplessness to empowerment, from isolation to connection, from grief to joy. Together they create a virtual support group that you are invited to join. Moreover,…


Book cover of Writing as a Way of Healing: How Telling Our Stories Transforms Our Lives

Donna Jenson Why did I love this book?

Writing, journaling, writing my memoir and play, and writing morning pages (handwriting three pages as soon as I wake up) have all contributed greatly to my healing.

DeSalvo's book has helped me again and again when I get stuck and need a boost to get back to writing. Most pages have highlights I've made in blue marker that jump out at me, reminding me to write, such as "recover the person or self we lost." Amen! 

By Louise Desalvo,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Writing as a Way of Healing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this inspiring book, based on her twenty years of research, highly acclaimed author and teacher Louise DeSalvo reveals the healing power of writing. DeSalvo shows how anyone can use writing as a way to heal the emotional and physical wounds that are an inevitable part of life. Contrary to what most self-help books claim, just writing won't help you; in fact, there's abundant evidence that the wrong kind of writing can be damaging.

DeSalvo's program is based on the best available and most recent scientific studies about the efficacy of using writing as a restorative tool. With insight and…


Book cover of Wild Hope: Healing Words to Find Light on Dark Days

Donna Jenson Why did I love this book?

Doing the work to heal from the trauma of sexual abuse is arduous and definitely not linear. We go in and out, up and down, finding and retracing our feelings, remembering’s, beliefs, and judgment.

This book is a fantastic antidote to the poison we’re purging. More than half the page's top corners are turned down, so I can quickly go anywhere in Ashworth’s uplifting offerings and get a dose of light and even laughter, like her poem titled, Rest Here Awhile. Just reading that phrase helps me take a deep breath.  

By Donna Ashworth,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Wild Hope as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Find Hope and Solace in Inspirational Poetry from Scotland’s Poet Sensation and Sunday Times Bestselling Author

“Beautiful and uplifting” —Davina McCall
“So inspiring, so heartfelt ... the way Donna writes is beyond beautiful.” —Lisa Snowdon

#1 Best Seller in Love Poetry, Poetry by Women, and Emotional Self Help

Wild Hope is Donna Ashworth’s powerful new collection of wisdom to help us find comfort, hope, peace, self-acceptance, and inspiration when we feel worn down, helpless, or sad.

Find solace in Ashworth's eloquent verse. Through contemporary poetry, Donna explores the human condition. This inspiring poetry collection brings comfort and guidance, offering a…


Book cover of Beginning to Heal: A First Book for Men and Women Who Were Sexually Abused as Children

Donna Jenson Why did I love this book?

It wasn't until I believed healing was possible that I started to heal. It's a huge step, and this little book was perfect for helping me to start believing. It's very short but packed full of wonderful ideas, exercises, and tips. I love their list of things to do to express your anger.

Reading it gave me the first glimpse that I had a right to my anger—what a gift! The second part has stories from other survivors and how they got to healing, which are very inspiring. 

By Ellen Bass, Laura Davis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Beginning to Heal as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

There's nothing as wonderful as starting to heal, waking up in the morning and knowing that nobody can hurt you if you don't let them.

Beginning to Heal offers hope and guidance for all survivors starting the healing journey. No matter how great your pain today, you can not only heal but thrive. Based on the authors' bestseller The Courage to Heal, this Revised Edition of Beginning to Heal takes you through the key stages of the healing process, from crisis times to breaking the silence, grief, and anger, to resolution and moving on. It includes inspirational highlights, clear explanations,…


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A Beggar's Bargain

By Jan Sikes,

Book cover of A Beggar's Bargain

Jan Sikes Author Of The Edge of Too Late

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Avid reader Lover of Music Astral Traveler Tarot Reader Grandmother

Jan's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Historical Fiction Post WW2.

A shocking proposal that changes everything.

Desperate to honor his father’s dying wish, Layken Martin vows to do whatever it takes to save the family farm.
Once the Army discharges him following World War II, Layken returns to Missouri to find his legacy in shambles and in jeopardy. A foreclosure notice from the bank doubles the threat. He appeals to the local banker for more time—a chance to rebuild, plant, and harvest crops and time to heal far away from the noise of bombs and gunfire.

But the banker firmly denies his request. Now what?

Then, the banker makes an alternative proposition—marry his unwanted daughter, Sara Beth, in exchange for a two-year extension. Out of options, money, and time, Layken agrees to the bargain.

Now, he has two years to make a living off the land while he shares his life with a stranger. If he fails at either, he’ll lose it all.

A Beggar's Bargain

By Jan Sikes,

What is this book about?

A shocking proposal that changes everything.

Desperate to honor his father's dying wish, Layken Martin vows to do whatever it takes to save the family farm.

Once the Army discharges him following World War II, Layken returns to Missouri to find his legacy in shambles and in jeopardy. A foreclosure notice from the bank doubles the threat. He appeals to the local banker for more time-a chance to rebuild, plant, and harvest crops and time to heal far away from the noise of bombs and gunfire.

But the banker firmly denies his request. Now what?

Then, the banker makes an…


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Interested in sexual abuse, childhood sexual abuse, and PTSD?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about sexual abuse, childhood sexual abuse, and PTSD.

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