A Few Common Questions
Q. My abuse has been secret for many years. Will anyone believe me now?
A. Child abusers are protected by the silence of their victims. To keep victims silent, abusers often convince them that no one cares and no one will believe them if they tell. May perpetrators are skilled at convincing their victims that abuse is the victim’s own fault. That is the biggest lie of all. Most people know that child abuse and molestation are among the most destructive and serious crimes of all, and that the children are not the guilty party.
Q. I’m just beginning to realize that my problems may have something to do with having been abused as a child. Is that unusual?
A. It is quite common for many years to pass before an abuse survivor recognizes that her or his emotional issues stem from the abuse. Low self-esteem is an almost universal effect of child abuse, and that results in many survivors blaming themselves and not their abusers, for the pain in their lives. moreover, recognizing the effects of the abuse may require a painful confrontation with memories that the abuse survivor has spent years avoiding. it is easier to try and forget–until it becomes impossible to hide from the pain. Many survivors are in their 30’s or older before they gain this insight.
Q. As a teen, I ran away from home to get away from abuse. I was living on the street and supporting myself through prostitution and shoplifting. If I disclose the abuse, I am afraid the rest of my past will come out.
A. Your situation is quote common. Many abused teens find the strength to run away, but then find themselves ill-equipped to support themselves. Prostitution, criminality, drugs and pregnancy often define their new life. Although you may have many regrets, you should also be proud of yourself. Breaking free from your abuser took courage. Shame is a great silencer, but you can’t heal secret wounds. Even if some people judge you harshly, you will also find support, understanding and the comfort of knowing other survivors whose stories are similar to yours.
Q. Why do you use the word ‘survivor’ instead of ‘victim’?
A. A person who was abused as a child is clearly a ‘victim,’ but that term also suggests hopelessness and helplessness. You have survived to this point, and that took great strength. The term ‘survivor’ honors that strength. To merely survive, however, is too modest a goal. You deserve to thrive. You can be more than a survivor.
Q. My partner is an abuse survivor, and our relationship is troubled. How can I understand what he or she feels?
A. Abuse survivors often have a difficult time building satisfying intimate relationships. People abused in childhood tend to distrust others and true intimacy requires trust. Your survivor-partner may be suspicious and misread your motives. Building trust takes time. Be supportive and nurturing, and be willing to listen sympathetically. Most of all, be trustworthy; say what you mean and mean what you say. Love can be nature’s own psychotherapy, but healing is a gradual process. Trying to ‘fix’ your partner usually backfires. Try to avoid feeling rejected if the power of your love fails to cause the walls of distrust to quickly dissolve.