What to do if your partner has been sexually abused

You suspect your partner has been sexually abused

9 jan (10)You’re in love. He/she is the most amazing person you’ve ever met. You’re on top of the world. Every minute you’re together you want to touch, to be as close to each other as humanly possible.You make plans together. A weekend trip, then maybe meeting the family, and then…
And then…

You notice certain changes

After a while things start to change. When you put you arm around your partner’s shoulder he/she jerks back. An intimate touch is met by a cool response. Your partner has moodswings. He/she can combust for no apparent reason. Her/his family relations are vague. He/she hates someone and won’t tell you why.

You suspect sexual abuse

One out of every four girls and one out of every six boys are sexually abused before the age of 16. With numbers like that it’s not a far stretch to think your partner may have a history of sexual abuse. You pay attention and the more you see, the more you suspect child sexual abuse.

How do you talk about sexual abuse

You could of course confront your partner: “You act like you’ve been sexually abused”, when your partner resists intimacy. That’s not a very tactful or supportive way to go about it. After all, he or she may just not be in the mood to be touched, without ever having been sexually abused. The important thing is to let them know they can talk to you about it if anything is bothering them.

Difficult discussions

Sexuality is a hard topic to talk about for the best of us. Let alone, when an abuser has always told you to keep it a secret. Still, it helps any relationship, to open up to each other and let the other know what you like/expect and where your boundaries are.

Don’t talk about it in the bedroom

The best place to talk it over, is where there’s no expectation of sex. Like when you’re having coffee at the kitchentable and your neighbors walk by hand in hand. Or something about sexuality is on the tv. Find a time when it’s a neutral topic. When there’s no ‘threat of sex’ in the air.

Don’t make it a huge deal…try to be comfortable about it

This is your sweetheart, you are in love. You can share these things. At the same time don’t push it if your partner feels very uncomfortable. Let them know you’re there and they can bring it up whenever they want to. Take the time to listen if they talk or when there’s just silence, allow that to be.

Take care of yourself

Just as important as feeling comfortable telling a personal story, is how you react to the story. It’s definitely not easy to hear someone you love has been sexually abused! It’s okay to tell them: “Look I truly appreciate you telling me all this. I need to get my head around what you told me so far, can we please leave the rest for another time? I love you but I love myself too and I need time to process this first.” That is just taking care of yourself and incidently, it’s a good example of how to set healthy boundaries.

So now I know. My partner was sexually abused. Now what do I do?

Now you can start the healing journey together. You can help look for the right therapist/therapy. Inform yourself about the long term effects of child sexual abuse. But, just as important, keep talking, keep listening. Keep talking about what triggers, about setting and maintaining healthy boundaries. Talk about what feels good and what you’re comfortable with as well as what is off-limits.

Healing from sexual abuse is possible

It’s not easy. There will be times when you both will feel discouraged. There will be lots of ups and downs. Are you prepared to take this difficult path together? If you do, don’t forget to take care of yourself. Buckle your seat belt ’cause it’s gonna be a bumpy ride. You’re going to need all the skills you can muster.

Make clear where your boundaries are and stick to them

You’re in this together! You have a say in it, too. Just because your partner has been abused doesn’t mean he/she gets to misbehave at will. All too often people make allowances for their sexually abused partner, that they wouldn’t stand for in any other people. While that may seem kind, it’s really not helping at all. In fact it’s very disempowering to have someone make allowances on account of you having been abused.

 

For more information about the long term effects of child sexual abuse and how to heal from them, buy the book ‘I Thrive. Healing child sexual abuse’ at Amazon.com

Real Hunks – male survivors of child sexual abuse

For the real hunks out there

0011This is for all you guys out there.
I’ve coached quite a few men who were healing from sexual abuse. Men usually suffer from blame and shame even more than women: ‘I should’ve fought back, I should’ve knocked him in the you know whats, I’m probably gay because my body responded…’

Our society and our myths about men

  • Real man are tough
  • You’re a wimp when you cry

oh and how about this one:

  • There’s three things men think about: sex, sex and sex….

There’s a lot of misguided notions about what it means to be a real man. Media is a great way to enforce this myth. The biggest hunks always get the fastest cars and the prettiest women. As long as you drink gallons of beer and enjoy sex you’re IT.

Fortunately society is changing. Slowly

It doesn’t matter how many people still believe in those things:
Forced sex is never, ever enjoyable!
Not for women, not for men.
EVER.

Then how come my body “betrays” me?

Truth is it doesn’t.
It just responds the only way it knows how. Naturally.
Does your mouth water when eating a tart apple? Yep.
Does your mouth know whether you chose that apple or whether somebody forced it down your throat?
Heck no…

Male survivors and how to ‘help’ them

A lady once asked me how she could “help” her ( sexually abused) partner.
In my book “I Thrive” I’ve included a letter from a male survivor. His answer is very clear and very personal. He describes how he would like his partner to deal with his past.
The letter was written at the end of his healing process. It took him a while and it took courage and effort.

You are a real hunk

By now he left his trauma behind and he is in a steady, loving relationship.
He’s a real HUNK.
And so are you!

 

For more information about the long term effects of child sexual abuse and how to heal from them, buy the book ‘I Thrive. Healing child sexual abuse’ at Amazon.com

10 reasons to talk about sexual abuse with your children

Talking about sexual abuse with children

madeliefjeParents often find it very hard to discuss sexual abuse with children.
They might think the child isn’t ready for the “sex-talk”, yet. That’s not what this is about, though. Talk about sexual abuse to bring the message to your children: ‘Your body is yours! You have the right to choose your boundaries.’

Top 10 reasons to talk about sexual abuse to your child

  1. Statistically one out of every 4 girls and one out of 6 boys will be sexually abused by the age of 16.
  2. It happens near you. Whether you’re rich or poor, catholic or protestant, black or white, It happens in all parts of society at a fairly equal rate.
  3. The abuser is almost never a stranger. 93% are either familymembers or friends of the family.
  4. Even babies can be victims. Around the age of three you can start teaching your child that certain parts of their bodies are private.
  5. You don’t have to scare the child. When you teach your kid not to cross when there are cars on the road, it won’t be afraid of roads. It will just be careful not to cross when it’s dangerous.
  6. When you talk about sexual abuse regularly with your child, he/she will confide easier if something happens,
  7. When you practise of such private talks, you will likely find out at an early stage if your child is abused.
  8. It’s not just adults! Kids abuse kids. Teach your child what’s (un) acceptable in touching others. That way you will keep your child safe from abusive children …or.. from becoming an abuser.
  9. You don’t give them any ideas. There’s no reason to think your child will be more susceptible to fantasies about sex, just because they are aware of the dangers.
  10. It can actually happen to your child. Child sexual abuse happens. Often.
    Parents of abused children never thought it could happen to their child either.

OK- I’m convinced…. But how do I talk about sexual abuse to MY child?

Talking to your child about this is easy. We all know the term ‘Stranger-danger’. Most abuser aren’t strangers, so you should find another way to talk about sexual abuse to your child. Here are some suggestions.

First of all, it’s not about sex. It’s about owning your body

Teach your child: The parts that are covered by a bathing suit are yours and yours alone! Except for medical tests and personal hygiëne (which is easily explained to a child) nobody should touch your private parts and you need to respect other people’s privates. You have the right to say NO and when anyone wants to share “a little secret” with you, it’s not OK. When in doubt talk to mommy or daddy. Or to your teacher, or to anyone you trust.

Start today! Don’t delay.

Start this conversation at an early age and repeat it throughout childhood.
That way your child will know he/she can Always, Always, Always talk to you about anything, even when it feels a little awkward.

 

For more information about the long term effects of child sexual abuse and how to heal from them, buy the book ‘I Thrive. Healing child sexual abuse’ at Amazon.com

Child sexual abuse is todays and tomorrows problem

DSC_0211Todays problem

Children are being sexually abused at alarming rates. While the world looks and points the finger at India, we fail to look at what’s happening in our own homes. One in three children is sexually abused and most of this abuse takes place in their own bed. Half of these children are abused by a parent, another staggering 30 percent by someone else in their family (older brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, grandparents, etc).

Child sexual abuse is not going to stop unless we stop looking away

Untill we start to realise and let it sink in that child sexual abuse is everywhere, is happening in your street, in your classroom, in your immediate circle of influence, we’re part of the problem.

Talk about child sexual abuse, esspecially if you are not a victim

Talking about child sexual abuse is going to help people come out about what has happened to them. Creating a society where we’re not afraid to tackle this tabu subject and bring what we think and feel about it out into the open will take concerted effort from everyone. In particular people who have not been abused as it is less difficult for them to talk about it.

Tomorrows problems

It’s not just the children we need to worry about and protect. Everyone who falls victim to child sexual abuse is at enormous risk of developing problems later on in life. As many as 50% of victims of child sexual abuse end up having serious mental health issues. The cumulative effect of child sexual abuse in combination with other problems in childhood is huge. You only need to look at the ACE study to know we can’t afford to ignore child sexual abuse happening now, to prevent problems in health care in the future.

The huge numbers of people who have been sexually abused

It may seem like there’s an explosion of sexual abuse at this moment, with big cases coming to light, it seems like every week. In terms of media attention, this is certainly the case. However, the hidden suffering is still many times greater than what these big cases imply. For every ‘Jimmy Saville’ who victimizes a large number of children, there’s at least 100 times as many children being victimized by someone within their family, and there has been for years. Earlier it was reported that possibly 11.000.000 English people have been a victim. The numbers are huge and the effects are devasting.

Helping people heal from child sexual abuse

My book helps people find a way to heal from child sexual abuse. It helps people who have been victimized to understand what they are dealing with in terms of the long term effects of child sexual abuse. It helps people who have not been a victim understand more about what the long term effects are and how they can help. We need all hands on deck for this one. We need to learn and educate ourselves and each other about child sexual abuse.

 

For more information about the long term effects of child sexual abuse and how to heal from them, buy the book ‘I Thrive. Healing child sexual abuse’ at Amazon.com

Have I been sexually abused?

gras2Have I been sexually abused?

Since I published my book, one of the most frequently asked questions in my e-mail is ‘Have I been sexually abused?’ or ‘Have I been molested?’ Quite often the answer is yes, but the reason people ask the question is very telling about the myths we still have about child sexual abuse. Just a few of the more common misperceptions:

‘I did not say no. Have I been sexually abused?’

As a child you are below the age of consent. This is so for a reason, the law protects children against adult sexuality. A child is all too easy to influence, dominate, manipulate or control. From a very early age children are taught that the adults have all the power and that they don’t have the right to say no to anything anyway. So not having said no doesn’t mean you weren’t sexually abused. It just means that you had no power in the situation and took the only option available to you: acquiescence. And yes, that means you’ve been sexually abused. In fact, this is the most common form of child sexual abuse there is. Most children don’t say no, don’t feel they have any other option. They feel trapped and unable to escape.

‘He did not go all the way, have I been sexually abused?’

Child sexual abuse is not limited to penetration. In fact, it can be very harmfull to a child to be looked at in a lurid manner. The essence of child sexual abuse is that you’re used for someone elses sexual gratification. This may include, but is not limited to, touching, fondling, taking pictures, having the child watch sexual activity (either live or on video/photo’s), sexchatting with a child (both live and online) and a myriad of other ways in which perpetrators get their jollies.

‘He was the same age as me. Have I been sexually abused?’

Strictly speaking, there is such a thing as ‘childs-play’, horsing around and discovering each others body. Was it? What makes you wonder if this was sexual abuse? Was there violence involved? Did he have undue influence on you? Did he threaten you in any way or make you keep quiet about it? In particular that last one, making you keep it a secret, is a red flag for child sexual abuse. If you’re just playing around, there’d be no harm in telling about it would there?

‘Others had it so much worse, does it even count as child sexual abuse?’

Oddly, variations of this question has been asked me by people who have suffered, in my mind anyway, horrendous child sexual abuse.

  • My brother the med-student examined my vagina with a speculum
  • My dad licked my ears in front of everybody
  • My aunt regularly sucked on my penis when I was 8.
  • I was made to ride on grandpa’s lap, rubbing against his chrotch.
  • I was ‘only’ raped a few times by my 25 year old boyfriend when I was 16.
  • He tried, but I was too small to be penetrated.
  • My mom showered with me till I was 16, frequently washing my penis.

If you have any doubt: all of these count as child sexual abuse and are very damaging to a child. In the case of child sexual abuse, ‘Who had it worse?’ is a mute question. The impact of child sexual abuse is huge, no matter how ‘small’ the infraction.

‘I have only vague memories. Have I been sexually abused?’

This is a difficult one. Quite often people ask me for advise on how to find out if they have indeed been sexually abused, thinking perhaps to get some hypnosis or regression therapy. I generally advise against using those therapies for this particular purpose because of the risk of creating false memories (these therapies can be very useful for healing child sexual abuse, but not for truth-finding). Whether you’ve been sexually abused can be much better accessed by jogging the memory. There are many ways of doing that, including going back to the places of your youth and having someone question you about your childhood in an open, exploring manner. Neutral questions about ‘Where did you sit at the dinnertable?’ or ‘What color was your favorite dress?’ can help you find back memories. Also, some of us may never know for sure. The trick then is to find a way to live with that and move beyond it. Healing is possible without knowing the details.

Questions to ask yourself if you think you’ve been sexually abused:

If you have taken a look at the self-test and find yourself thinking you’ve been abused, here’s some common sense questions that can help you think about it.

  • What makes you think you’ve been sexually abused?
  • Which circumstances in your past give rise to this possibility?
  • If you’ve been abused, at what age do you think it happened?
  • Do you have a possible perpetrator in mind?
  • Are there other possible explanations?

If you need help, please feel free to contact me. I offer online coaching and I specialize in helping people heal from child sexual abuse.

 

For more information about the long term effects of child sexual abuse and how to heal from them, buy the book ‘I Thrive. Healing child sexual abuse’ at Amazon.com