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Often times when someone learns someone they care about has gone through CSA it can feel overwhelming. They go through a lot of emotions and can struggle to understand what to do next. If you’re in that situation, or you are a survivor who has someone in your life you want to help support you this post will hopefully make that easier.
If you are a loved one of a survivor and feeling the drive to help them and support their recovery, then you have already made the first step. Just not victim blaming and wanting to care for them enough to look for how to do it is important. Many survivors have never had support before either because they never reached out, or when they have in the past they were met with a cruel response. I sincerely hope you are willing to keep supporting them because you love them and it’s what they need.
So Here is Some Advice:
- Make sure you understand that this is not their fault. Any Kind of asking what they did before or anything of that kind is wrong. I understand this what we are often taught to do, so think through comments you want to make and try and understand if it could be victim blaming.
- Talk to them about how they are feeling. Asking someone semi-regularly how they are doing can help remind them you are there for them.
- Don’t force them to talk about trauma. Let them come to you as they feel they can.
- Ask them what they need from you when they experience symptoms. Like flashbacks, panic attacks, nightmares, sensory overload, suicidal thoughts, self-injurious thoughts or something else it’s a good idea to ask what they need when your not in that crisis moment. It’s best not to ask what you can do, there might not be something they can think of. What they need can include just sitting there or nothing at all.
- Try not to use blaming statements. “You do X all the time” or“Why are you like this” and invalidating statements, make sure you know their emotions are okay and that even if something seems trivial it’s not them. When you talk about how your feeling use I statements
- Avoid platitudes. Vague positive statements or directions tend to make people feel much worse, not better.
- Respect that no, you probably don’t understand. If you haven’t experienced CSA you don’t understand.
- Don’t tell them to “just move on” because they can’t. Trauma changes the brain physically, and it makes sense if something really impacted their life they are going to think about it, and maybe talk about it. It might seem like a good idea to just let it go, but the process is long to move on don’t push it. Let them talk about it.
- Don’t tell them to “stop being a victim”. Accepting they were a victim at that time might be part of the healing process, because at least now they don’t feel responsible.
- Keep up general good communication. Be open and honest, talk about what you feel (Not about their trauma but about life in general), your relationship is still important and normal healthy things do apply.
Actions You Can Take:
- Take care of your mental health. Seek support if you should need it, remember to take time to care for yourself, and understand sometimes it’s okay to not feel up to deep conversations at one time.
- Help them practice good self-care too. Doing self-care together is really good getting on good schedules with each other, eating regularly, hydration and rest (if applicable). Taking care together helps it not feel like you are patronizing them and improves relationships in general.
- Include them in all the normal stuff you did before (unless you learn it’s triggering or unwanted). Knowing you still view them as a whole person and someone who is more than trauma It can be scary and worry your loved ones will see you as lesser or only broken, knowing they don’t is important. It is okay if you do change your view on them somewhat like you might have a kind of “oh” moment because something makes sense now. Or maybe you’re angry at the person who hurt them. But they are still the same person you love, you just know more about them now.
- Learn about if they have any triggers. it might be hard to talk about it but it’s important for you to support them in dealing with these. The trigger might seem weird, but it’s very real for them and helping them manage them is a super cool thing for them to do.
- Help them reach out for support. Support groups, professional support to other forms. Understand that there are many limitations on what might be possible because of still being in an abusive situation and financial situations and other factors.
- Make new good memories. Do things with them, learn new skills, have fun! This is still a relationship with someone you love they want to be with you and live life.
- Educate yourself on trauma, and any mental health disorders your loved one has. Know of course this is always different for each person, but having some kind of understanding beforehand it can help make things feel less confusing.
- Work to understand mental health disorder, and combat the prejudice you might have against mental illness, and specific less common disorder. Common mental health disorders CSA survivor experience include: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD/PTSD), Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), Other Specified Dissociative disorder (OSDD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Reactive Attachment Disorder, Panic Disorder, Eating Disorders and Depression. (please note survivours can have other disorders as well)
- Learn about coping skills. It helps them so you can do them with them, and it can help you to in your struggles as a bonus.
Keep In Mind:
- Your loved one is not going to be “fixed” anytime soon. Trauma takes a lot of time to work through and heal from. You are going to be a support block as they go through it, this might be a lifetime. As well as mental health issues, in general, take a long time to heal as well.
- Remember you are not responsible for fixing them. So you don’t need to take on that guilt, as well as you not their white knight. You can’t just come in and love them better, you love each other through struggles not to make the struggle go away.
- Know emotions can be mixed and confusing for them. It might not make sense to you, or even them, but that’s part of what trauma is like. Work with them even if you don’t get why they might still love someone who hurt them.
We hope this has been helpful for you, and that you can move forward to be supportive of your loved one and continue to have a good relationship that fosters love and growth.
Wishing you the best,
-Admin 1 & 2