As a sexual abuse survivor, dating terrifies me. Abuse taught me that a relationship meant losing all of my agency and performing sexual acts I didn’t want to — “no” wasn’t an option. Subsequent relationships have been mixed at best, from the partner who got mad when I froze during sex, to the dates when I could barely squeak out what my job title is because I was so petrified. Survivors like me are not rare, especially considering the statistics. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, every 98 seconds an American is sexually assaulted, including both male and female victi .
The case of a patient with dissociative identity disorder follows: Cindy, a 24-year-old woman, was transferred to the psychiatry service to facilitate community placement. Over the years, she had received many different diagnoses, including schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, schizoaffective disorder, and bipolar disorder.
Dissociative identity disorder was her current diagnosis. Cindy had been well until 3 years before admission, when she developed depression, "voices," multiple somatic complaints, periods of amnesia, and wrist cutting.
Her family and friends considered her a pathological liar because she would do or say things that she would later deny. Chronic depression and recurrent suicidal behavior led to frequent hospitalizations. Cindy had trials of antipsychotics, antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and anxiolytics, all without benefit. Her condition continued to worsen. Cindy was a petite, neatly groomed woman who cooperated well with the treatment team.
She reported having nine distinct alters that ranged in age from 2 to 48 years; two were masculine. Cindy’s main concern was her inability to control the switches among her alters, which made her feel out of control. She reported having been sexually abused by her father as a child and described visual hallucinations of him threatening her with a knife. We were unable to confirm the history of sexual abuse but thought it likely, based on what we knew of her chaotic early home life.
Nursing staff observed several episodes in which Cindy switched to a troublesome alter. Her voice would change in inflection and tone, becoming childlike as ]oy, an 8-year-old alter, took control. Arrangements were made for individual psychotherapy and Cindy was discharged. At a follow-up 3 years later, Cindy still had many alters but was functioning better, had fewer switches, and lived independently.
She continued to see a therapist weekly and hoped to one day integrate her many alters.
best dating sexual abuse survivors - National Resources for Sexual Assault Survivors and their Loved Ones
One night during my junior year of college, I found myself sobbing in the closet of my dorm room. In the middle of coming to terms with a childhood of sexual abuse and recent date rape, I was full of intense emotions that were often visceral and always intense. That night, I refused to come out of my closet, and was crying too hard to speak. My roommates were concerned, so they called my best friend. Derek* showed up at my dorm right away. He asked me if I needed anything.
And then he started doing his physics homework. It was the 100% perfect response. Eventually, I calmed down, and when I was ready, we talked about what triggered my intense emotions that night.
A few hours later, we were laughing and joking, wrapping up our assignments for the night. A few months earlier, Derek wouldn’t have known what to do — which is why he asked to meet my therapist. He came with me to an appointment, and in her office, we sat and talked about what it was like to be a survivor of sexual trauma.
He shared how helpless he felt when I was sad. He asked what he could do to fix it. “You can’t do anything to fix it,” my therapist said to his surprise. “It’s not something that is fixable.” “Well, then what do I do?” he pressed “You can just be with her.” I don’t think Derek really believed her at first, but figured she was an expert in such things so he might as well give it a try.
He also thought that being with me seemed pretty doable. It turned out that his loving presence — his being — was exactly what I needed to heal from sexual abuse and assault. His constant presence, reassurance, and acceptance transformed my life and my relationships.
Through our friendship, I also learned a lot about what sexual violence — and sexual violence survivors — look like in men’s eyes. Too many men find themselves in the position of supporting a friend or girlfriend through sexual violence without having the skills they need.
Loving a survivor of sexual violence — as a friend or as a romantic partner — teaches you many important lessons about yourself, about women, and about the world. 1. There Is Nothing You Can Fix You can’t make it so she wasn’t raped. You can’t personally bring the rapist to justice. You can’t feel her feelings for her.
You can’t make her stop hurting herself. These are all things she has to do on her own. By empowering her to chart her own healing pathway, you are giving her back control she didn’t have as a victim. You can offer resources, support, referrals — but she has to be ready to do the work it takes to recover. 2. Feel Your Own Feelings, So She Can Feel Hers Witnessing another person’s pain evokes powerful emotions.
You may be raging at her abusers. You may feel powerless and sad. Just make sure you feel your feelings — take baseball bat to a pillow, lift weights, . Even the most intense feeling will eventually pass. Knowing that in yourself will help you support her through strong emotions as well. 3. Being Is An Action, Not Inaction Being is a powerful thing.
The message you are sending is that you can handle her emotions, and she can too. You are willing to bear witness to how she really feels — that is an important and real job.
You are saying you believe there is light at the end of this dark tunnel. Just breathe, and remember that no one ever died from crying. 4. Read Everything You Can On Supporting Survivors If you need to take action, take action to educate yourself on .
Apply your sense of competition to be the most informed support person out there — though try to stay humble. Learn about empowerment. Learn about active listening. Learn about mindfulness. Learn about self-care. 5. Channel Your Anger Into Social Change It’s totally OK to rage about sexual violence. But channel your anger into action. Talk to your guy friends about sexual violence. Share the gospel of how to support and empower survivors. Show up for a rally, a fundraiser, or a walk/race that raises money for the cause.
Share your experience supporting survivors (keeping identities confidential, of course). RELATED QUESTION: All men encounter survivors of sexual violence throughout their lives — sometimes they know it, and sometimes they don’t.
But you don’t need to be a superhero to make a difference in a survivor’s life. In fact, it’s probably easier than you think. *a pseudonym Sarah Beaulieu is a board member of the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center and founder of . She is working on a practical guide for men to comfortably advocate against sexual violence. You can find her on Twitter at
Javier Valcarcel Kathy Andersen knows a lot about overcoming adversity. Adopted as an infant in Australia and sexually abused by her adoptive father throughout her childhood, she’s triumphed over more difficulty than most people experience in a lifetime. (Do you know ?) Featured in Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant’s new book , Andersen related that learning to embrace life and move on from her troubles allowed her to to surmount the obstacles keeping her from success and happiness.
Andersen spoke candidly to Reader’s Digest of her motivation to leave behind the darkness of her past that included her own attempted suicide. “I overcame those dark moments with the realization that I didn’t want my father to win—in the midst of the pain of suicide attempts, I didn’t want him to win.” She continues: “Something inside me shifted into a determination for me to win, to live, and to make choices for myself that would give me freedom and the opportunity to live a life that I wanted, on my terms.” At 30 years old, Andersen knew she wanted to make a drastic change in her life for the better.
She left her highly successful corporate job in Australia to travel the world. “Despite career success and a bright corporate future, there was something missing. The experience showed me that even though we can plan our path, as I had done climbing the corporate ladder, our greater purpose often lies beyond our plans.” Andersen found that following her feelings instead of denying them led her to the peace she had long been searching for.
“I simply decided to take one step at a time and follow what felt right—that took me in a new direction because there was a feeling of peace, happiness, freedom, and meaning. The hardest thing was following a feeling, rather than ignoring it, which is what I had come to do as a result of my childhood,” she explained. Following her feelings led her to travel.
As she traveled through poverty-stricken countries, Andersen began to realize she could offer assistance to other victims of sexual abuse. “I came to think that perhaps I could contribute most to those who had experienced a similar trauma as I experienced,” she says.
“Sexual abuse is still a relatively silent killer. There is enormous fear and shame around giving voice to sexual abuse, particularly because most of the abuse is perpetrated by a family member or someone known to the family. I wanted to help give voice to those who were still living in a prison of silence from fear and shame, and to help provide a way out.” Andersen eventually settled in Miami, where she began a support group for victims of sexual trafficking.
Her work with victims of sexual abuse is only part of her outreach efforts; she also leads workshops and retreats in which she offers tools to others to live their most gratifying lives.
She says of her own life’s happiness: “My joy and fulfillment come from helping myself and others continue to move from where we are to where we want to be, and not take a moment of this precious life for granted.
I feel joy and fulfillment when I can do small things every day that I feel are part of helping all of us to find happiness.” Andersen’s advice for other sexual abuse survivors echoes her commitment to living a life of gratitude. “Choose to do one thing every day to make you smile and feel joy,” is her advice. “When you wake up, say ‘This is going to be a good, joyful day.’ Set the intention—even if you don’t feel like it.” Andersen knows this works from her own experience.
“Our thoughts really do determine how we respond to the things that happen every day. Be your own best cheerleader and ask for help whenever you need it.” Andersen recommends that other survivors also find support groups that enable them to make connections and share their stories, as well as move beyond survival into a life filled with happiness.
Common Behaviors of Child Sexual Abuse Survivors