Survivors Need To Feel Trust and Safety.........
Loving someone or being in a relationship with someone who has been sexually abused as a child can be challenging. Trust and safety are major issues with adults who have been sexually abused and building trust will be a large part of the work that your partner will need to do. It may be difficult to understand why your partner can’t trust you, especially if you’ve been together a long time. If you have been a partner with someone for a while and they've just confided in you that they’ve been abused, it may come as a shock and may cause changes or difficulties in your relationship, particularly with sexual intimacy as your partner begins his/her journey of healing. But in most relationships, the difficulties may have already been present therefore the news may come as a relief; finally all the behaviors that you’ve been questioning make sense: fear of intimacy, sexual intimacy issues, trust issues, distancing, depression, addiction, etc. Sexual abuse can affect every area of an individual’s life because it distorts one’s perceptions of the world creating a fearful reality that people who haven’t been abused don’t understand or live in.
It is important that you learn to take care of yourself as your partner will most likely be very focused on his/her own needs. There will be times when the work becomes so fragile and intimacy seems to disappear from the relationship. Patience and knowing that healing sexual abuse is a process can be helpful. It may feel very unfair that this happen to your partner and now is affecting not only your relationship but your family as well. There is no argument that sexual abuse is unfair and that the victims have to carry the repercussions of the abuse for many years after. There are books for partners that can be helpful during this process to better understand that which is very difficult to understand if one hasn’t been through it themselves. Don’t think that you have to know how to help your partner on your own. Often it is advisable to seek help from a professional with experience in dealing with these issues.
It’s also important to know that if your partner does not want to get help (many don’t seek help) that you can still get help for the difficulties that come with being with a partner who has been affected by sexual abuse. It can be a long journey to heal from such horrific events and it takes a lot of courage to face some of the devastating acts that many survivors have endured and that is why we believe that many don’t seek help.
Believe What Your Children Are Telling You.........
It does not matter if your child is 5 or 55 when he/she tells you about the sexual abuse, it is most important that you believe what your child is telling you. It is unlikely that a child, and even less likely that an adult would make up an incident of sexual abuse. There are only a few reported cases in which a child lied about sexual abuse and these cases were most often linked to a parental custody battle.
While it is devastating to learn about such a tragedy happening to your child, when the perpetrator is a member of your family or someone your family trusted, the issue can become even more complex. In this case, sometimes as a parent your first instinct may be to protect the integrity of the family by minimizing or denying the abuse. A parent who outwardly responds in this way, revictimizes the child who has already been victimized. Your child is coming to you because you are their parent and they have probably been suffering alone with the abuse before coming to you. You may be the very first person they have trusted with this horrible secret and they need you to believe them. If your child is not in present danger, you don't have to do anything with the information right away; you can just listen and support your child.
* It is not uncommon for sexual abuse to occur across generations. You yourself may have been sexually abused and have never dealt with it. The news of your child being sexually abused may make it all the more difficult to accept. Your child, no matter what age, needs a parent in this moment. As well as you are able, support your child and if you need to, afterwards speak to another adult or a professional about what emotions have been triggered in you. This conversation is not appropriate to have with your child at the time.
When Mom or Dad Are The Survivors......
Often individuals who are sexually abused and haven’t sought treatment experience difficulty with parenting. Parenting is a difficult job. Sexual abuse memories, pain and other effects combined with raising children may make it impossible for your parent to be available to you the way you need. If you are reading this you may have a parent who has been unexplainably angry, depressed, alcoholic, distant or cold. It may be relieving for you to learn that your parent had been sexually abused as a child because it may help you understand that their confusing behavior was more the result of the sexual abuse that they have carried for years than it was about you. It may take some time but it’s important to make that distinction. It’s also important to know that if your parent does not want to get help (many don’t seek help) that you can still get help for the difficulties that come with being raised in a family who has been affected by sexual abuse. It can be a long journey to heal from such horrific events and it takes a lot of courage to face some of the devastating acts that many survivors have endured and that is why we believe that many don’t seek help.