How to talk to someone or be close to someone who went through childhood sexual abuse
Probably each person who went through childhood sexual abuse has a different approach to this topic and has different needs and wishes regarding how other people relate to their trauma.
These are my wishes and thoughts about this:
1 Give empathy! There was a time when the person was in a situation where he or she received 0 empathy and 0 care from another person, the perpetrator. He or she experienced a tremendous amount of pain but never got any empathy. After the person discovers about the trauma, in order to heal it will be essential to receive empathy from many different people in many different ways.
2 Be curious, don’t be distant! To me it was very important to have conversations that are open and where we can talk about any aspect of my life that was impacted by the trauma. It was also important to me to share my healing journey, especially my most freeing and beautiful moments. In many of my conversations the other person shared something in their life or added something to my healing and I think moments like that can be really really precious.
3 Don’t underestimate the trauma! Any kind of sexual trauma has very serious consequences, please be aware of the significance of it.
4 Don’t connect the person to the abuse! It is very important to know that the person who experienced the abuse never chose about it in any way. The trauma will have many consequences and it will impact the life of the person, but the fact that she or he was abused says nothing about her or him.
5 Don’t put the person in a box! Probably everyone has an idea about what a person would look like or act like who was abused at some point in their life. In many cases these assumptions are just not right about that specific person.
6 Don’t make predictions! I think it’s natural to make predictions about someone’s healing path or time or needed therapy methods or to try to predict the challenges they will face. But every trauma is different and every person is different and I think these kind of predictions can be incorrect and harmful.
7 See beyond the trauma! Yes, a trauma is a very significant part of a person’s life, but it’s not the only thing about him or her. Probably there are many things about the person that has nothing to do with the abuse and that’s him or her too!
8 Let us speak! I think this is the most natural human behavior: if something happens, we talk about it and we have feelings about it. We do these when the event that happened was significant, insignificant, good or bad. Just as any other person about any event we deserve the same way to talk about our trauma whenever we want to, whatever we want to and in whatever form or way we want to.
9 Be patient and understanding! There can be many situations, social, sexual, work related, etc. where the person who experienced the abuse in the past is not able to participate in something, be fully present or accomplish something because of the trauma. Please understand that in these situations the person is not unmotivated or neglectful, but at the moment he or she doesn’t have the ability to participate in the situation.
10 Include us! Someone who was never abused can be very shocked when the person shares his or her abuse story. I think it’s a natural first reaction to think in a distancing way of the person telling about the abuse: to think that the person has a very different life and a very different life path and it can seem very difficult or impossible to connect with someone who seems so far away.
I think it is a very different life and very different life path, but there are so many things that people – with or without abuse in their pasts – can have in common. And it is possible for people with different pasts become close.