I think the First Step in healing from past sexual abuse is acknowledging the effects that may be lingering in your life right now. It is not uncommon for sexual abuse survivors to be easily triggered. And unfortunately, if you are not looking through the proper lens- what I believe is Step Two- it can catch you off guard and you may not know how to respond.
There are lots of resources where you can research how past sexual abuse may be affecting you now. Though it may be overwhelming, it can also be incredibly eye opening!
My repressed sexual abuse memories returned 14 years into my marriage. My body started reliving the abuse and I started having a sense of foggy memories. I surrounded myself with sources of healing for me and my husband and we spent the next 12 years figuring out how to now make our relationship work in light of this new information.
So many things made sense now!
I got creepy crawlies when my husband and I were cuddling and he started rubbing my leg. NO WONDER.
When my husband came up behind and put his hands on my shoulders when I was doing dishes, I would get so startled and then get angry at him and he was just trying to show me his love. NO WONDER.
I have learned to describe it like this: You know how when you are in a large body of water, you see a boat and it makes a wake behind it? Well, I never “saw the boat go by” but there is “evidence of a wake” so I know “a boat” went by.
When my memories came back, one of the abusers was a date rape who I never saw again, one was dead and when I confronted the other, he said, “I never did anything to hurt you, or anyone else for that matter. And If I did, why would I admit it?” Hmmmm. He was in a lawsuit for sexual harassment at the time. Hmmmm.
So, what does your wake look like? Whether your memories are clear or not, If you look at your life, your marriage through the lens of a sexual abuse survivor, what do you see? What makes more sense?
Are you easily startled…maybe because you may have been caught off guard by the abuse?
Do you have a hard time trusting anyone in authority…maybe because those in authority abused you or didn’t take care of you or protect you?
Do you carry a lot of shame…maybe because of what happened to you or what you heard in your household about sexual abuse?
Do you tend to blame yourself for everything bad that happens…maybe because maybe you thought the abuse was your fault or you did something to cause it to happen?
Are you a perfectionist? Do you tend to control things…maybe because those things that happened to you were when you were younger were out of your control so you won’t let that happen again?
Do you have to sleep on a certain side of the bed…maybe because you were abused on the other side of the bed when you were younger?
Do you think feeling good in your body is bad…maybe because your body had a reaction during the abuse that felt good but you knew that abuse was bad so it caused all sorts of confusion?
Do you sometimes watch the clock with your partner, waiting for it to be over…maybe because you dissociated during your abuse and you don’t feel safe “staying in your body” now?
What does your wake look like?
1 in 5 women may be dealing with these scenarios, and much more.
But I would like of offer HOPE!
While I still deal with triggers every day, they are mild and sometimes non-issues. So believe that it can happen for you too!
I invite you to have the courage and wisdom to see the effects of the past trauma and work with each, one by one, to look through the lens of a sexual abuse survivor and then brainstorm all the possibilities of how to handle the situation.
I’ll share a story of a trigger that I didn’t even know I had. My husband and kids enjoy watching crime shows like CSI and Criminal Minds, and others like that. When Tom and I would be gone and would come home to that playing on our TV, I started acting very irritable and would slam cabinets and move quickly around and then begin to isolate myself in our tiny house.
I finally looked at that behavior and realized that it was the content of the shows that were hitting too close to home for me. I couldn’t handle hearing what was going on. So, my husband and I talked about it, and understood that I can’t have the shows playing while I am in earshot. As a sexual abuse survivor, it doesn’t work for me.
I saw the situation for what it was, gave myself permission to create a parameter and my husband who loves me and supports me, helped me brainstorm what to do about it. Now, my husband and kids know that if they want to watch those programs, they do it in their own room or when I am not home. If I do come into the room when one of those shows are on, the TV gets paused. No shaming. No begging. It is what we do in our home. Not it is a non-issue. And yes, I feel a little bad about it. But I also would rather we troubleshoot how to eliminate triggers for me than to make myself do something that is so uncomfortable for me that pust me in such a negative state.
And by making those choices, I am a much happier person for me and my family too!
Which would you rather have?
It is possible for you!
It is worth the effort!
In case you don’t know how to start, my husband and I have created a simple course that you can go through, to help you gain connection, hope and intimacy in your marriage. We intentionally designed it for you to go through in the privacy of your home at your own pace. Tom and I both share what has helped us go from wanting to take the rings off and walking away to now having an EXTRAORDINARY MARRIAGE and
WE WANT THE SAME FOR YOU!!
It is designed for just wives or just husbands or both to go through.
Check it out here: https://app.mastermind.com/masterminds/27523