Talking About Our Abuse Stories
Putting Words to The Abuse:
Drawing can be a good first step to allowing thoughts to be externalized. Music and dancing even can be a way to communicate the way the body and subconscious carry trauma in a way that words don’t always understand.
Journaling is often a good way to start to be able to share your story. Just putting words to the experience and emotions really helps. Just a few associations with the thoughts that come. This can help with the way trauma breaks down the verbal communication functions of our brain.
Then saying it out loud to yourself can be useful too. Verbalizing just “I was sexually abused” alone can help break the feeling of not being able to speak.
For Telling Therapists:
So one of the best first steps is to write out things about your abuse and trauma you want to talk about. Some more freestyle journaling can be a good place to start.
It can be hard to know what you want to say or even what words match your struggle. So figuring out what words work and what is the most pressing is good. you can write and re-write a few times before you have to structure it.
But then when you have some words to put to experience writing a letter of sorts can be good. You can type it or handwrite it’s up to you. Even just putting it in the notes app of your phone is fine.
- What happened no graphic detail has to happen but using words like rape or molestation is important.
- Who did it if you know and want to share
- When it happened if you know, even if it’s vague it’s good to know
You don’t have to include any details that feel invasive. And it doesn’t have to be incredibly long or detailed.
It doesn’t have to be a formal letter, but the basic format is good to organize your thoughts. It’s also useful to understand it as a communication, and easier for the other party to understand.
In therapy, you can read it to your therapist, email it or hand it to them. Having it pre-written will stop you from being super tongue-tied to start the conversation. If you also think you might get lost, dissociate or similar then handing the physical letter is probably the best option.
In a session when they start and ask what you want to talk about/how you’re doing you can let them know you have a letter you want to share. then you can read or give it to them.
For Talking To A Loved One:
Fear of how people will react to sharing stories of abuse is really common. Sharing our histories and reaching out for help is extremely hard, but that’s normal. But it is healing and important to tell people what happened to move forward and find the support you need.
A good place to start is making it real to ourselves. Writing about it or saying it to ourselves is helpful, knowing we have the words to verbalize what we know of what happened and how to ask for what we need is really helpful. I’m a huge fan of writing about feelings in general, knowing where we are with ourselves allows reaching out to be easier. Having at least a starting understanding is important. This process continues after telling someone.
How To Have The Conversation:
Two ways to talk is to write something to them an email, a letter etc. or a face-to-face conversation. I do consider conversations had in sign language, with a pic board or text-to-speech machines as verbal/face-to-face conversation. I don’t recommend phone calls, you have the worst parts of both options.
Letters, it is great for those of us who struggle with verbal communication, it allows the start of the conversation to not be impacted by verbal or auditory communication deficits. it’s easier and it allows you to write something thought out. Think about what you want to say, but don’t put things off forever holding it in forever makes the sending of the letter harder. A negative is waiting for the response.
Face-to-face conversations are good because they are immediate responses and you can have instant comfort and the emotions are more visible. A negative if you have intense struggles with verbal communication it can be frustrating to get the information across. It is also a very overwhelming experience and can be off-putting.
You can write something and then read it out loud this can help with having things planned out. It can give you some helpful ability to have some words chosen ahead of time to start the topic.
Either way, before you have the topic please think about what you are willing and not willing to share. You never have to include graphic details of an event. What parts of your story are for others over at any moment is up to you. Your story is yours you own it.
Handling Worries About The Reaction:
Things almost never go as good as we hope or as bad as we fear. The conversation will likely be overwhelming and/or emotional so you do have to plan for and understand it. There can also be a few different reactions that can seem out of the blue within ourselves. Like you might go completely blank and talk like a robot to handle the stress, you might feel blurred and confused from dissociative symptoms, or get insanely angry. Those are just as valid as fear and grief. Feeling like you can’t even speak, or feeling choked is common, fear can cause that along with abusers can plant the idea talking cannot be done.
There is always the possibility they react horribly. Completely shutting you down, calling you a liar, calling you misguided or acting like it doesn’t matter. I can’t tell you this won’t happen, but I can say you will survive. There will be people who believe you and we are some of them. It’s discouraging and horrific but you will survive.
Also remember that our worst judgments of ourselves, shame, poor self-esteem and self invalidation is warped by the abuse. We are often some of the most judgmental people of ourselves, how our abusers treated us makes all of the worst thoughts and messages we receive take a real stronghold. This is important because it can help us feel after telling the story.
Some Dos and Don’ts:
- Do: Choose a time when you don’t have a strict time limit.
- Do: Bring notes to a conversation if it helps.
- Don’t: Have a conversation when other stressors are going on.
- Do: Create a calm space, bring water or tea.
- Do: Understand that sometimes some unconventional things might help. Like having a conversation in the car as it puts you one-on-one.
- Don’t: Feel the need to share every detail.
- Do: Feel proud for taking this important step.
- Do: Know any emotions you have are fine and valid.
- Don’t: Feel pressure for this conversation to be the big end all be all.
- Do: Know we think you’re amazing for doing this.