Archive for December 5th, 2008

One of the biggest hurdles that child abuse survivors face is whether or not to tell their friends about their history of child abuse. On the one hand, it is hard to feel close to another person when your friend does not know anything about your history, which has influenced every aspect of your life. On the other hand, it is a huge risk to trust another person with your story.

How do you decide who to tell, when to tell, and what to tell? This will be the focus of my next few blog entries.

Let me start by sharing my own story … I had repressed all of my memories of the child abuse until I started having flashbacks when I was in my mid-thirties.

The first person I told was a “Stephen Minister” from my church, which is a layperson who receives training in providing basic counseling to members of the congregation who seek it out. Their role is to listen and pray with you. My Stephen Minister knew that my issues ran well beyond the scope of what she had been trained to handle, so she referred me to a therapist. Good call.

After that, the first person I told was a friend named E. I knew that she was extremely guarded herself, and she did not laugh at me when I had a panic attack over telling her that she was becoming a good friend. So, I figured that she would be a good risk.

The only reason I told her anything was that I needed her help. I needed her to babysit my then-two-year-old son while I went to therapy sessions. If I had not needed this assistance, I doubt I would have told her a thing at the time. Sometimes, telling your story arises out of necessity.

I next told a friend who I had known since high school. I knew that she had been sexually abused herself, so she was a safe risk. She is the one who told me about the book The Courage to Heal, and I am so grateful to her for that.

The next person I told was a much bigger risk because we had not known each other long. My intuition drove me to share much more than I was consciously ready to share, but she was great about it all. I strongly suspect that she has been through similar stuff because she understood me far better than she should have, all things considered.

Not every “telling” went as well as these first few. I will get into that in my next blog entry.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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