Many adult survivors of sexual abuse go to their grave with their secret of sexual abuse. Most often because they are sure that people will not believe them, or that they will receive even more rejection than what they had carried on their shoulders all of their lives. The most unfortunate thing about it, is that too often this is very true. People who share disclosure about the sexual abuse that they endured, are often not believed , and more often than not ; they are told that they are liars and that they did not experience what they are sure that they did experience. Not only is this an overwhelming contradiction and very confusing reaction to the victim, it is the ultimate betrayal to the vulnerable heart of the victim who has come to a place of courage to finally admit what has happened to them. This disclosure brings the victim to a very difficult place and it becomes a very sensitive situation.What are the effects of sexual abuse for adults, there are both short term and long term effects, both of which include these concerns:
–Guilt, shame, and blame. You might feel guilty about not having been able to stop the abuse, or if your own body reacted to what was happening to you. It’s important for you to understand that it was the person that hurt you that should be held accountable -not you.
–Self-esteem. You may struggle with low-self-esteem, which can be a result of negative messages you received from your abuser(s), and from having your personal safety violated or ignored. Low self esteem can affect many different areas of your life such as relationships, your career, and even your health.
–Intimacy and relationships. It’s possible that your first experiences with sex came as a result of sexual abuse. As an adult intimacy can be a struggle at times. Some survivors experience flashbacks or painful memories when under similar pressing, embarrassing or other unsafe situations. This can be true even while engaging in situations that may be safe but have triggers that bring a guise that there is a lack of safety.
–“This doesn’t change how I think of you.”Some survivors are concerned that sharing what happened will change the way other people see them, especially a parter. Reassure a survivor that surviving sexual violence doesn’t change the way you think or feel about them. Continued support is important once the sexual abuse has been disclosed.
HOW TO RESPOND TO A SURVIVOR
“I’m sorry this happened.” Acknowledge that the experience has affected their life. Phrases like:” This must be really tough for you, ” and , I’m so glad you are sharing this with me, ” help to communicate empathy.
“It’s not your fault.” Survivors may blame themselves , especially if they know the perpetrator personally. Remind them that they are not to blame for what happened to them.
“I believe you.” It can be extremely difficult for survivors to come forward and share their story. They may feel ashamed, concerned that they won’t be believed, or worried they’ll be blamed . Leave any “why” questions or investigations to the experts-your job is to support this person. Be careful not to interpret calmness as a sign that the event did not occur-everyone responds differently. The best thing that you can do is believe them.
“You are not alone”.Remind the survivor that you are there for them and willing to listen to their story. Remind them that there are other people in their life who care and that there is help out there for them.
These facts (all rights to RAINN) and other very important pieces of information are available on the RAINN website: Rape, abuse, incest, National , Network. You were not to blame for what happened to you, and if you were the survivor of sexual abuse, there is no shame on you. Shame on those people who try to place shame on you and who are insensitive to your pain.