14 things that can help if a loved one has become a victim

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14 things that can help if a loved one has become a victim
14 things that can help if a loved one has become a victim

What to do and what not to do if your partner or other loved one has been a victim of sexual abuse and shares it with you

As more and more women share the fact or story of their victimization on social media, we can all come face to face with the fact that this kind of thing can happen to anyone. And it happens. We can convince ourselves less and less that sexual abuse, harassment or abuse are things that can only happen to other people. Every single meetoo post reminds us that in the scary statistics there are also the stories of our immediate environment, relatives, friends, and acquaintances. And, of course, this is only the tip of the iceberg, the cases that sufferers take on in front of a larger public. Not everyone dares, not everyone is willing, but not everyone wants to expose themselves so widely. Following the stories that appear on social media, there are also those who report the abuse they have suffered only to their closest circle, or even to a single person.

Just as disbelief, victim-blaming or disinterested comments are terribly harmful on social media, similar expressions can do a lot of harm face-to-face. American journalist Bridget Phetasy, who herself experienced sexual violence, wrote some tips about this. You can get an answer from these on how you should relate to if your partner respects you with his trust, if he shares with you the story of his victimization. The most important thing is to always be aware that what he is saying is not about you. Not your story, not your business, not your trauma. If he tells you, listen and let it be about him. It won't be easy.

shutterstock 254789563
shutterstock 254789563

Don't defend yourself! - Experience shows that one of the first, visceral reactions to stories about sexual abuse is often "but not everyone, not all men are like that". The collective defense of "not like that" men is mainly characteristic of online sharing, but the line "I would never do that to you" can also appear in personal conversations. However, the story is not about you. No one accuses or suspects you, and your partner doesn't wonder what kind of person you are either. What he is wondering about is whether you are the kind of person who understands him. Of course, it is not difficult to feel touched when some organizations throw around the term "male violence" in the background. However strong the urge is to distance yourself from this as a man, to stand up for the fact that even though you are a man, this does not apply to you, think that right then and there it is all about your partner. And let it be about him!

Don't take it upon yourself! - We all live in a society where this kind of thing can happen, in fact, we ourselves create this society, this system. There is a place for taking more responsibility for change, but that is not there and not when a victim shares their story with you. Then pay attention to him! And other times, to do what you can to prevent it.

Believe him ! "Perhaps it doesn't even require a special explanation why it can be terribly harmful if someone honors you with their trust and tells you what they've been through, and you lie." However, you can similarly increase his suffering with other variations of unbelief. Examples include relativization ("it's not so bad for that") or answers starting with "and what about…" ("and what about those who just make this up to discredit or blackmail their boss?"). Obviously, there are such cases. Even if it's just a tiny bit. But how does this relate to what your partner is saying?

Educate yourself on the topic! - Before asking questions such as "Why now?". If you are aware of how difficult it is for victims to open up after such trauma, perhaps you will be less surprised. In general, it is terribly difficult to share what happened in itself. Especially if you live in a society where victims are stigmatized, shamed, accused, blamed and lied to. Even after years or decades, it is extremely difficult to tell about such an injury and to relive it - partially. Especially like this. Glad you told me. Absolutely.

Make you aware of how much you can get away with! - By being born a man. According to Phetasy, living as a woman, walking on the street as a woman is actually like constantly walking around as a potential prey. That you never know if the man who whistles after you will go after you, if he will follow you home. There is no doubt that a patriarchal social system confers many privileges on men, just as many forms of sexual harassment and violence are primarily suffered by women. Phetasy's statement definitely needs so much correction because childhood sexual traumatization occurs at a particularly high rate in men's lives as well. In addition, similar to female victims, a large part of the abuses committed against men also sinks into eternal obscurity, so the rate is probably higher here than what the statistics show. Disbelief, blaming and stigmatization of victims is often exacerbated by homophobia. Of course, that doesn't make being a woman any safer, and empathy doesn't make it any less important when it comes to how difficult it is for her when, even as an adult, so many people can only see her as a sexual object.

You don't have to work out! - A common first reaction is for the woman to share her story with her partner, who suddenly becomes vengeful. Who was that? We go there and I kill him. Now. With my two hands. It is understandable and completely justified if you feel angry, but you must not forget that your feelings are not what is really important right then and there. The moment you start freaking out, you only make it harder for your partner to open up. After all, in that case, he no longer has to be able to express his own feelings, but he has to be able to manage your feelings somehow. Give it to him so that his own revelation can be about him.

Don't question me! - Be happy about what he says. And that is all. He tells as much as he can tell there and then. If he can take more, he will take more.

Do not speak as a father! - Neither as a brother nor as a husband. Be present as a person. On the one hand, you don't need a daughter, a sister or a wife to see that sexual abuse is a terrible thing. On the other hand, no matter how close you feel to your partner, they are not you. And he should be respected not because he belongs to certain men, but because he is also a man. It sounds like an old cliché, but the expressions that carry this message are less common.

shutterstock 29021329
shutterstock 29021329

Don't silence me! - They've been silenced enough. In the socialization of girls, raising them to be good girls is still a widespread guiding principle. A good girl is quiet, doesn't make a mess, doesn't fight. He doesn't raise his voice, and slowly he won't. On the other hand, it is not much easier for those who raise their voices, and they often don't have the energy to single out everyone, one by one, according to their merits, who yell at them on the street, then whistle or comment on them at work. So when a woman shares a story like this, many times a lot of repressed emotions are released at the same time. And you have to be able to handle this.

Keep quiet! - It's hard to be alone with your feelings. You want to help. You feel guilty. Would you clarify that you are not like that. Whatever the reason, it won't help if you ramble on about what he probably has to say with great difficulty. Don't interrupt!

Listen! - Actively, intelligently. Being active still does not mean commenting on what was said, but rather being there. Help him endure the tremendous tension that fills the space between the two of you. Help her feel safe.

Ask well! - Essentially, there is a good question: "How can I support you?" - writes Phetasy.

Empathize! - When someone dies, you don't tell the relatives to "get over it" or that you are "overreacting". Don't do it now. Be compassionate. No need to overdo it. All you have to do is pay attention to how you could make these moments better (less bad).

“I'm sorry you went through this. I can't even imagine how hard it must have been. I don't know what to say, but I'm here with you and I support you.”

Ask for help! - Someone else. It's understandable if everything he says really bothers you. It's understandable if you're angry, and it's also understandable if you're sad. But remember: in this situation you are supporting him and never the other way around. If he shares with you all that he had to live, he doesn't want to experience you falling for him too. That's why you should try to ask for help from someone who can support you in being a supporter. Be it your family, a friend, a psychologist. Just not him.

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