I did a podcast this week with childhood sexual abuse as the topic and highlighting my books. It was a strange experience to talk so openly about my past and about how others can help understand survivors of sexual abuse. I realized how difficult it is for survivors of sexual abuse to explain and help others understand how it feels to have been perpetrated. Fortunately, there aren’t many words for it.
We discussed how friends and family members of survivors can help make the person feel normal by treating them like they would any other person. Also, listening is a huge key, while taking the time to develop a relationship with the survivor so that they can discover what works best and what can trigger a survivor. On a broader perspective, I mentioned that the Church and every other organization must not shy away from discussing this topic. You don’t have to talk about the act of sex in order to talk about sexual abuse. All of this to say that as a survivor, I hope to be treated just like any other person would be treated.
Yet, that really isn’t the case, either. As much as I want to be normal and I want to be treated like everyone else, I want people to be careful with who I am and what I’ve been through as a victim. Sometimes, some friendly teasing can be hurtful to me because it brings back so many awful memories. Intimacy is so difficult, so I have to be careful with relationships. I never learned boundaries very well and I struggle so much with what brings others in and keeps others out. Therefore, I also wanted to be treated with care and compassion.
But I don’t want people walking on eggshells around me either. Which means that I need to grow up some when it comes to others. Of course I’m going to get hurt by someone else, and I should act appropriately when that happens. I should continue to work with my therapist so that I understand what good boundaries are with all of the various levels of friendships I have. And I should also be fun, enjoy life, and show kindness to everyone that crosses my path. I’ll never know when I’ll meet the next survivor.