Telling Our Family, Friends and Acquaintances About Our Abuse
Deciding to tell another living being that you were abused is a difficult part of the healing process. The dark secret lurks within us, bring shame and pain to our shattered lives. The hurt builds up like a huge weight on our chests making us feel like we are gasping for our life’s last breath. We are ashamed but sometimes that little thought creeps into our heads “If only someone else knew, I wouldn’t feel so all alone” It is this thought and the need to release this dark secret that compels many of us to tell. The question is..”How do I tell such a horrible secret?” and “Who can I trust to tell?”
Who to tell….
Sharing your experience is an important and possibly anxious moment for you in your healing. Choosing whom to tell is a big step for everyone. The feeling of safety in the person you are telling is a good start. Questions will race through your mind like “Will they believe me?” or “Will they hate me for what happened?” or worse yet “Will I be blamed for what happened?” You can answer these questions before you even share your experience by asking yourself these questions…
1. Has this person been supportive to me at other times in our relationship?
2. When I observe this person interacting with others, is there a degree of compassion and understanding they show to others?
3. Do you know this person to be non-judgmental and accepting of different points of view?
4. Have you ever known this person to make statements like “I told you so” or other accusatory comments?
Upon weighing the answers to just one or more of these types of questions…you can relieve some of the anxiety of telling. There are many different scenarios about how people acquire the knowledge of your abuse. An unfortunate truth at times is that others know because of being reported to the authorities. That’s when things can get messy and it seems that EVERYONE knows your business. This tends to create a great deal of shame for the survivor and you just wish you could crawl under a rock and be forgotten. Alas that does not feel like it is ever going to happen and you feel even more dis-empowered than ever before. But, there is hope here too. Now you know who knows…you’ve seen their reactions to the news…they know the facts about your abuse, but they don’t know your feelings…use the above criteria for choosing someone to talk to, then take the time to discuss your feelings and you’ve taken another step on your path to healing.
Choosing how you will tell…
After you have determined who a safe person is for you to share your experience with…it is time to choose how you are going to tell. There are many different ways to tell that involve a number of medias or good old face to face contact. When I speak of different medias I am mostly talking of writing letters by phone, or the old fashioned postal service or by electronic mail. There of course are video tapes and audio tapes if you care to make use of these medias. The use of these the different types of medias may have a few disadvantages to face to face contact…first you do not see the initial reaction of the person, secondly, the person you sent the media to will more than likely want to talk to you about your experience in person…this leaves you wondering when they will call or show up on your doorstep…you may find it more empowering to be able to choose when to talk about things when you are prepared instead of sitting around wondering when you will be approached by others.
Choose how you want to tell by whatever method feels most safe to you. Telling becomes more comfortable after you have told more than once. You might want to try calling your local abuse crisis center to tell for your first time. You are not required to give your name or any other personal information about yourself..i.e. where you live, how old you are, etc. The advocates at a abuse crisis center are not there to judge you, make fun of you, or call the police on you…they are there to listen to you and all you say to them is confidential. Also, when you speak to a trained advocate you can even ask many of the questions which have been racing through your mind and the advocate can help you to figure out the answers to your questions. An advocate can help you to think of ways to tell others too. If calling a abuse crisis center is not your cup of tea…you could try rehearsing what you are going to say to the safe person you have chosen by either talking to yourself in a mirror or setting up a stuffed animal or doll as your audience. Your real life listener will probably have questions for you. You may want to write down as many of the questions you think they may ask and try to answer them before you are in face to face contact with them.
When you have gotten together your courage and what you are going to say, choose a safe place for you to meet with your safe person. A nice cup of tea for both of you many help you feel a little more relaxed or you may want to have an object that feels safe to you close by or in your hand (i.e. grandma’s locket that is very dear to you and brings you a feeling of warmth) before you begin. You may want to tell your listener that you would like them to listen to all you have to say before they respond to you or you may invite them to ask questions when you pause between the things you have to say. You should let them know that what you are about to say is difficult for you to tell and could be difficult for them to hear. This will clue your listener in on the difficulty and importance of what you are about to tell them. You may tell your listener as much or as little about your attack as you feel comfortable in sharing. If your listener asks questions that you are uncomfortable in answering, tell them that at the moment you are unable to answer this question.