Tag Archive | Sexual abuse

A Narcissistic Family: Lies, Lies, and More Lies

Meet the Valour family, (names changed to protect the victims). There is the Narcissistic Mother, aka the martyr, the chameleon, the adaptor over the years as it suits her. There is the Father or the placator (someone who gives in to the demands of the Narcissist to keep the peace). He, however, is the one who doled out the physical punishment to his stepchildren. There are five children total, one son from a previous marriage who was rarely in the home. There are two daughters (Jenny and Joan) who are stepchildren to the father and then came two sons (Ronny and Frankie) from the Narcissistic Mother.

Jenny was the oldest and ended up being abused the most. She suffered physical abuse from the stepfather and emotional abuse from the mother. She never knew whether she was coming or going, with so many mixed messages growing up. She was beautiful but not as smart as other people’s children, which she was often told. She was old enough to hear “TMI” that her mother enjoyed confiding in her but not old enough to make decisions for herself. She ended up with Severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and got pregnant as a teenager. She married an abusive male from the wrong side of the tracks and got divorced a couple of years later. Her child was given to her Narcissistic mother to raise, because the father of the child disappeared and the courts determined Jenny would end up on welfare.  Jenny’s story is the most compelling here because she became the proverbial “black sheep” of the family and it is her life that will be betrayed to others as the decades went on.

Joan was Special Needs or Borderline Intellectual Functioning. She wasn’t abused as much because the family felt sorry for her. She would become the placator (child) and spent most of her life living with her parents – because she was told by her mother that she couldn’t live in the world by herself. She ended up with a child out of wedlock because she was desperate to have a baby. That baby grew up to have a child out of wedlock as well. As the placator, Joan tells lies to suit her mother or herself and this deflects any responsibility onto herself. She presents as a narcissist because she has no self-awareness.

Ronny ended up the family hero and went on to retire from the military. He exhibits in narcissistic ways because he was entitled as a child. Nothing he can do is wrong in the family’s eyes so he is unable to empathize or take criticism from others.  He is perfect and assumes the world revolves around him when people are with him. That is what he learned growing up. He is a very caring person but very detached from the family. He raised several children but his wife sought to compete for his attention and thus kept the children from Jenny and keeps tight rings around all of them now so that they are one great big enmeshed family. Joan is allowed entrance but only because she continues to elicit sympathy from everyone. Jenny lived most of the time in another state, as well, so the children did not see her much and gifts were given to them (as far as she knows) but there was never acknowledgement so she ceased to send them. She is not sure if the gift giving ever attempted to create a relationship or not.

Frankie died early on as a child so he is the saint in the family. No one ever talks about him because it is too uncomfortable to confront one’s emotions. It is as if he never existed. Jenny tries to create a space for him but the family changes the subject. The father died a decade after his son, and when this happened, the high standards that were expected in the family ceased to exist. This is because the Narcissistic mother focuses too much attention on getting attention from her descendants. Rather than being the mother she once was, who also expected these standards, as it might make her look bad, she allows lowered standards to appear cool and modern.

Thus the family has become like every other family in America with very low standards. The second generation of girls have tattoos all over their bodies. At family events, people show up in whatever they feel like wearing. The third generation toddlers have mohawks and pink hair. One family is raised in filthy conditions. Their parents feed them  daily amounts of sugar through soda and candy to pacify them. This is because their parents raise them like toys and are afraid to set standards. The latter family is Jenny’s child and grandchildren, whom Jenny’s mother raised.

The mother enjoys taking comfort in harming her daughter Jenny. She loves to hear negative things said about her and Jenny’s bitterness and anger have become much darker and deeper over the years. While Jenny has tried to do therapy and create a better life for herself, she feels she has never really found happiness. Her child (whom her mother raised) became a drug addict like his father. He had multiple children from various women, two of which he never sees or has anything to do with.  While he finally did become a “dry drunk,” which means clean but without a mental health support system, his life continues to be a mess.

The lies are the denial that goes requited generation after generation. The matriarch or the Narcissist, who perpetuates the lies, with gossip and tales to feed to the others about her favorite target: Jenny. This has trained the others to feel it is acceptable to lie about Jenny or create stories about what she is like. As they see this anger and frustration coming from Jenny whenever she is at family events, she continues to feed into their beliefs about her created by the Narcissist. Jenny was the scapegoat from the time she began to find her sense of self, as a teenager, and this coat of arms has never been removed. This web of deception in this family will never change unless the descendants begin to question things. Why should they though when the Narcissist adores them and praises their every move.

Family gatherings in the Valour family consist of everyone, but Jenny, adoring themselves and being adored by the Narcissist. No one is honest, is allowed to have opinions, but generally they don’t speak up about their beliefs – if they have one – because they have learned to appease one another.

The Valour family has no courage, no self-awareness, and no empathy. They have empathy for others in their desire to look like good people but not amongst their own kin. They have all ceased to individuate from the mother, with the exception of Jenny who has been outcast. In order to keep her sanity, she continues to try and develop a stronger sense of self but struggles with this daily. She made the mistake of returning home, assuming she was stronger and more prepared but ultimately finds herself collapsing each time she tries to develop some connection with her nieces and nephews or grandchildren. Every attempt she makes is thwarted by their mothers who have developed a bond with the Narcissist in order to be accepted by their own partners.

This type of family is not an exception. I learn about very similar stories of families like this month after month in my office. Either it is the mother or the father who can be the Narcissistic parent. I am often surprised to hear just how far the Narcissists will go, as I learn different ploys these parents will use to take advantage of their children. Some go as far as sexually abusing their children, because they can. I have heard of a parent who put their kids in another house down the street, so they could have their own life (without a parent in the other house and often without enough money to live on). Anything they can get away with, the Narcissistic parent will. Social services have been called out in many of these stories I have heard about. However, as Narcissism is not well understood and many social services staff are not clinically trained (at the master’s level), they are fooled by the Narcissist and close the case. In Jenny’s child’s story, the house is not filthy enough to remove and the unhealthy food is not a reason to remove either. As long as a child eats (even if it is McDonalds everyday), they are eating. As long as the house does not have feces on the floor, needles lying around, and maggots in the food, it is not considered a reason to remove. Having worked in social services for eight years, I know that my standards and the standards of most of us are not a reason to judge others for their stupidity.

There are always the same roles within the Narcissistic family. The spouse placates his/her spouse to keep the peace and generally is the most miserable emotionally (because they have no spouse).  Often the placating spouse stays with the Narcissistic partner because they become too weak from the emotional entrapment. Next there is the prime scapegoat (there can be more than one), the hero (often the opposite sex of the Narcissistic parent), and the child who placates the parent who is the Narcissist and is generally the sidekick of the placating parent.

If you were raised like Jenny, in this type of family, it is important to get support from a therapist who understands Narcissism. Unfortunately, not many do because there are not many trainings on this topic. Most people assume the Narcissist is the CEO or the egotistical person. There is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for the Narcissist but why would they go into therapy when there is nothing wrong with them – the fault lies with the scapegoat. I have known people who went to family therapy with the Narcissist and the therapist became fooled as well and the children were blamed. I have also known where the Narcissist was brought into the room – so the therapist could meet them and became emotionally trapped by this person causing them to deflect from their own client.

It is a tricky situation to be in when you are a therapist. You have to be able to know it, smell it, hear it, taste it, (metaphorically) when you see it. Narcissists have a similar language that they use (I hear certain phrases over and over again). It is always emotional abuse to the victim and as I mentioned earlier can sometimes include physical and sexual abuse and even torture. Thus there needs to be more trainings available to social workers and therapist who are practicing in social services, the medical field, in private practice or for counseling centers (both at the academic and community level). The client will often present as bewildered and confused; who know something wasn’t quite right with their parent. With their Narcissistic partner they will think that they (the client) was at fault and will constantly be apologizing when explaining their relationship. We, as clinicians, must always listen and believe and trust the path the client is walking down. We have to look for the things they cannot see and ask questions to understand more. Most of all, we have to normalize their pain. It isn’t important that you meet the Narcissist. If you can feel (your instincts are saying) that this looks like one, it probably is. Never diagnose the person who is not in the room but you can state “This sounds like…” and help the person to get resources to better understand what you are seeing. If the person is a Narcissist, the client will identify with this when they read articles on this topic. They will also be able to better explain to you, as the clinician, their symptoms from learning more about it.

A terribly misunderstood topic, that needs to be more widely understood; so that we can help to identify and bring healing to our clients.

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For Men Who’s Partner has been Abused

Home life can be difficult when you can’t be with the one you love. The way you won’t to love them. I can’t seem to find anything written about this topic and it comes up quite a bit with couples and sometimes with my male clients in individual. It is difficult for the guy who’s partner has been sexually abused or even physically abused. Issues of Trust, Sex and Boundaries are often misinterpreted. Guys take it personally because they are assuming it is about them. It causes a lot of hurt and frustration with the partner that they love. Many times the guy will say to me “Why doesn’t she trust me?” or “Why won’t she have sex with me? I didn’t abuse her?” It is really difficult for both the survivor and the partner of the survivor. So how do you cope?

1. Patience – If your partner is in therapy, they are spending time working on themselves and trying to get through this trauma from childhood (or even as an adult) and, if your partner is in therapy, it would be good for the two of you to do couples work as well.

2. Confidence – If your partner has confided in you that they have been abused, know that however they are behaving around you in the bedroom or in other situations has to do with the pain they have experienced. It isn’t always because of a situation between the two of you. It also isn’t always because of the abuse. Ask questions.

3. Research – While there aren’t books written to help men cope, there are plenty of online articles and books available to survivors of abuse. One of the top books is called “The Courage To Heal.” I understand there is a chapter in there specifically for the partners but the whole book is talking about how to cope with this trauma.

4. Practice Conscious Sex – Sex with your partner is going to have limitations when your partner is an abuse survivor. Some women forego certain acts of sex. This is because it is too difficult – the memories. Talk with your partner about sex, with the understanding that this talk is not going to lead to sex. Talk to them about safe touch (what feels comfortable for them). Work together on how sex can be fun for both of you.

5. Touch her emotionally and you will have touched her physically – Women regard emotions much higher than touch. Hearing how she is valued, loved and respected will get you much further in the bedroom than just touching her because you want to. This has to be authentic and really mean something coming from you. There are way too many men out there (and you know who I mean) who are players and can say a lot of crap to get a woman in bed. This isn’t about being a player. This is about being a man, building a connection with the one you love.

Once you have done these things with your partner, you will find that over time, trust will begin to re-build for her and she will begin to feel safer and safer.

 

Note: Also take a look at some of the resources on my Couples page.

The Wonderful World of Sandplay

sand tray photoOver a decade ago I was introduced to “Sand tray” work (this is a different process than Sandplay that I am studying now), during my practicum at John F. Kennedy University. I took a training on this interpretive process and began to put it into practice at our counseling center.  We had a special sand tray room dedicated for practicing this work with our clients. At that time I was rather fascinated by this modality and what came up in the tray. Then I got a job in social services and went away from therapy for many years.

Recently, I met a trainer here in Columbus, Barbara Brugler who has re-awakened my passion for this work. She teaches Sandplay work (which is not interpretive). As a result, I am now on the path to becoming a certified therapist. This is a very long process which involves a certain number of classes, personal work in the sand and a supervisor to consult with me on the trays I do with my own clients. In the end, I have to write several papers in order to be approved for certification. What I love about this process is that they mandate personal work in the sand and that there are rules to follow. Rules work for me, or I should say knowing my limitations.

What I also love about Sandplay work is the unconscious process that takes place with the client. We don’t analyze the symbols they put into the tray. Not then anyway. Also, a client of any age can do Sandplay and it is especially helpful with trauma. Many people I work with who have been abused, or traumatized by some other type of experience, get to a place where they have said enough and aren’t sure where to go next. The Sandplay experience is a way for them to take a risk of working through these past issues without talking about it. It can be re-traumatizing when we go into our memories and dredge up all those scenes, tastes, unwanted touch and scents.  As a result there will be somatic reactions in the moment that include holding the breath. There can be nightmares, flashbacks, and dissociation as well. Then of course, you have this “a-ha” moment and then what?

How Sandplay works is I show them the sand tray and I show them the objects on my shelves. I tell them to look at these symbols and choose whatever ones seem to want to be picked up. They take them to the tray and make scenes that appear to come out of nowhere. I have heard “I don’t know why I chose that but it seems to need to go here.” This is perfect. I tell them that it is not important why they chose something, just to let the process happen.

My job is to take notes and once the session is over I take photographs of the tray, just like I write notes about the session – for documentation purposes. I then put the objects away.

What draws me in this work, is that I feel like I am in someone’s dream. Since I do dream analysis, this is my first time to watch it come alive. Only it is not their dream, it is happening right this minute. Or maybe it is their dream. The dream that has been happening for many years but they can’t seem to remember it. Or they do but can’t explain it. I suppose I will find out over time.

I also find that this work allows the inner child to emerge. For myself as a therapist and my clients, we are in the sand playing, metaphorically speaking and they are doing mindful work in a non-linear way. Doing these actions in silence (without interpretation) allows room for the client to grow without feeling exposed.

Ordinarily, I do not like silence as a therapist or as a person. Sandplay intrigues me in the sense that the room is actually very loud, again metaphorically speaking. So much is going on! If you can imagine being deaf and going to the circus. This is what it feels like when I watch the client in motion with the objects.

This is all that I have discovered thus far. Stay tuned for more to come! In the meantime, go to Sandplay Therapists of America (STA) and if you are not in the U.S., go to the International Society for Sandplay Therapy. This practice is Jungian based and has been around since the 1950’s. It was founded by Dora Kalff after studying at the C.G. Jung Institute in Zürich, Switzerland. Sandplay is also based on her studies of  Tibetan Buddhism and working with Margaret Lowenfeld in England.

Forensic Files: Social Services

The next three articles I am writing have to do with forensic issues: Social Services, Attorneys and the Press. The reason I am writing this series is due to the extensive background I have working with forensic cases through Children’s Protective Services or as a psychotherapist taking on clients who are involved with the court on some level.

Forensic means court action involved in a situation. It does not mean murder or rape (solely) as most people think when they hear this word. Therefore if you are involved with the court on some level, some criminal action is taking place, you have a forensic case. Blood and guts do not have to play a part. Juvenile Forensic work is Children’s Protective Services (aka social services in some states), juvenile hall and psychiatric facilities (sometimes court is involved in continuing the stay at the hospital). Adult Forensic work might include people involved in accounting, real estate, finances, but also a case facing prison or jail time and again psychiatric facilities.

Now that I have explained this lets discuss Social Services. If you are involved with a case, your kids have been removed or someone in your family has been, or you are thinking about being involved as a foster parent, relative caregiver, or opening up a group home or other congregate care facility, then you need to read further to get some understanding of what you will be facing.

Social Services have the same federal laws that they have to follow in every state. A child can only be removed for abuse or neglect. How each state interprets these laws is dependent on the that region, the body of laws they  have put together to effect these laws and from what I can see the culture of the state’s people. Therefore, each state will behave differently based on the policies and procedures put together interpreting how they will run their county agency. To clarify, abuse means physical, sexual, or emotional (the latter is difficult to prove unless it is heinous) and neglect means medical, financial and basic needs, also not always easy to determine.

Having explained the above you will surprised to know that having a dirty house does not mean children should be removed. However, if there is no food in the house and the children are not attending school and do not have plumbing – basic needs not being met – this is a different story. Also, because the parents are using drugs, this is not a reason to remove. If they are using drugs and beating their kids or sexually abusing them or the kids are starving, this is a reason to remove their kids. Even domestic violence alone is not a reason to remove unless of course the children have been put in danger. This sounds very strange but acts of domestic violence do not always involve the children.

My background with social services was in California. All of us who worked as Child Welfare Workers (in our agency) had master’s degrees which meant we had clinical expertise. Social workers with undergraduate degrees do NOT have clinical expertise and have only experiential knowledge dependent on how many years they have been with the agency. This is a huge difference understanding why a family is behaving as they are vs. using judgement based on what you have seen and learned. California is an exceptional state because there were strict decisions adhered to with regard to “What is in the best interests of the child.” What I have seen in other states (for example Ohio where I am now) is much more loose and concerning.

If children have been removed from you or a family member and you are now involved with the court, here is what you need to know. These are the facts and maybe it sucks to hear this and it seems unfair but this is the way the laws are enacted and until something is done to change this, it is best that you listen. Not just read but listen! If you don’t, than you have no excuse for losing your child or family member. These are the facts. YOUR CHILDREN SHOULD COME FIRST NOT YOU. KEEP THIS IN MIND AS YOU READ.

1. You should have a right to an attorney – I hope all states at least allow this. Some states offer attorney’s for each child (CA). Whether you get a public defender or have to pay for one will be determined by your financial status. If this is your child that has been removed and you don’t have an attorney, you will be taken advantage of by the court and social services and there is nothing you can do about it. Get an attorney.

2. Judges only listen to attorneys in the court room. Social Services are generally not allowed to speak unless requested by the judge or asking the court supervisor to be allowed to speak. The same goes for parents who have no attorneys. If you have one, do not speak without your attorney’s permission. Do not make a scene in the court room. This will only make you look stupid and it does not influence the judge in a positive way.

3. Whatever has been charged against you as a parent, allow your attorney to deal with this and explain to them what actually happened. If you do not show up for court or your attorney does not win the case, the decision has been made. Do not expect that social services can do anything about it. Once the charge against you has been set in court, it will not change for the duration of your case. Wasting your time arguing with your social worker about this, is a waste of your time and theirs. Take responsibility for what has happened and go on to the next step of your case. Do you want your kids back or do  you want to waste people’s time? You had your chance and that time is over now.

4. Haven’t heard from your social worker? Time is precious, so don’t sit around waiting – ever. Don’t blame the system either. Often times we get the wrong phone number because someone is wasted at removal, or scared, or some other circumstance. Maybe your phone has been shut off. Take responsibility for your case. If your kids have been removed and it has been a day or two, call your local county social services number or go down there and don’t leave or hang up until you know who you should talk to.

5. Family Reunification. Once the court has removed your children and made them a dependent of the court, you will go into family reunification. If you want to get your kids back you have between 6-12 months to do so, depending on the age of the child and how many kids you have already lost to the system. If you are almost there at 12 months you often have an additional six months that you can request. This is the most valuable time you have to get your children back. If you waste it arguing about why they were removed, then you miss precious time focusing on yourself. There is a case plan, that you should be involved in and sign which details what you need to do to get your children back. Some states are not as formal with this process, which is very sad. Make sure you ask to see your case plan or ask your social worker “What do I need to do during family reunification to get my kids back? Do whatever they say. Yes that sounds harsh but they are professionals and it has been determined what you need to do to get your kids back. If you weren’t drunk that night and you weren’t in court to deal with this, than you need to go to AA. You didn’t abuse your child and you have to be in a parenting class and therapy, then you show up for that class and that therapist. Your boyfriend/girlfriend at fault – get rid of them and put your children first. Even if they are not guilty in your eyes, you need to focus on your children. You haven’t heard from your social worker, than follow step four and take responsibility.

6. Very small percentages of people get their children returned in the 6-12 months period. This seems to be the same odds in every state. The reason being is people do not take responsibility for why their children were removed. They want to argue the entire 6 months. They resist following through on services requested. They don’t show up for court. They continue to spiral out of control and keep behaving as if nothing happened. The public always wants to believe it is the fault of social services – sometimes it is, professionals make mistakes. But more often than not, it is the fault of the family. There are some damn good social workers out there. Even though I am horrified at what I have seen in other states, this does not mean that the professionals are any less concerned about the children they work with. It means their hands are tied by ignorant legislators and old-fashioned thought processes.

7. Adoption and Legal Guardianship – Adoption means your PARENTAL RIGHTS ARE REMOVED. Your child’s name is changed and their birth certificates are changed. Legally you can hire an attorney in the future – once you have turned your life around and try to get them back but don’t get your hopes up. Also, think about what you are doing to your children and to their life. But the longer you wait, the more you make this miserable for them. Legal Guardianship means you still have your parental rights but the Legal Guardian determines whether or not you get to visit your children. They have this right until they turn 18. So if you show up wasted don’t expect to visit. If you make lots of promises and then only show up 1 out of 10 times, don’t expect to get the visit. It is easier to get your child back than adoption but consider whether this is the best thing for your child. Get an attorney and don’t waste people’s time with this until you have turned your life around. Turning your life around doesn’t mean you are in rehab for the sixth time or even the first time. This means you have been clean for at least a year or have been in therapy for this amount of time or have a decent home and have taken parenting classes – whatever you were meant to do on your case plan, you have done it and have been consistent for a certain amount of time. This also doesn’t mean that you have a new boyfriend and he is going to take care of things. You have to take responsibility. The more games you play with social services – before you are ready, the more you make life difficult for your children.

8. Visitation with your children – Do not show up with candy and toys. Do NOT show up wasted. Do come with home cooked meals from your culture. If they have already eaten don’t show your sadness. You should spend this time loving your children with your food, attention, and ears for listening to them. Play with them and hug them appropriately. Do not grill them about where they live. Do not give them false promises. In fact do not promise anything. Behave like a mature responsible parent. If this is supervised visitation try to ignore the professional in the room and focus on your children. It is awkward for both you and the professional, however, if it is supervised, than there is a reason for this. Take responsibility for the situation.

9. Return all phone calls. If ever you get a phone call from your social worker, you return the call promptly. If the police show up your house for a “health and safety visit” because you have refused to follow through, don’t act surprised. No matter how much you hate your social worker, you have to follow through. They have the power to keep or return your child.

10. Problems with your social worker – If your county does not have an ombudsperson or someone who is assigned to objectively deal with problems with your social worker, ask for a supervisor and talk to them about the situation. Stick to the facts rather than bad mouthing your social worker about how you didn’t get your kids back. This person wants to hear about the problems you are facing with your worker. They don’t want to have to go over your issues with social services that you are taking out on the caseworker.

11. Document everything that happens on your case from the moment your children are removed. If you want to convince anyone of anything, you must have your own facts to back up the case. Give dates and times and don’t write this all down the night before you go to court.

12. If you are wasted, don’t expect anyone to take you seriously. If you don’t show up for hearings the same thing applies. Don’t give excuses either. Communicate with your social worker while you are clean and sober. If there is an issue getting to court, ask your attorney to get you an extension – sometimes it is possible.

There are probably other things I am forgetting here but feel free to ask. Don’t leave comments about a kid you didn’t get back though. Hire a family law attorney and have that conversation with them. I cannot comment on a state or county or isolated situation when I really don’t know all the details. Even if you think you are right, there are always multiple sides to the story (facts) that will be unknown to me. An attorney knows your state laws and your rights with regards to family law. Whatever has happened in your family is very sad and I empathize with your situation but I can not change it. Only you can through the correct channels.

Too Much Information

Boundaries in Communication is the subtitle of this post. All of us, including me, have an issue with saying too much, in the beginning of relating to another. Survivors of abuse are more guilty of this than anyone else. The unconscious idea is thought, “If I tell them everything they will either stay or go. Like me or leave me, get it over with now!” If the person stays, the false assumption that we are now securely bonded from stating our emotional travesties is about as silly as thinking pregnancy will make him love you. The person is not staying for your emotional insecurities they are staying because either they feel just as pathetic and didn’t realise someone was worse off than they were or because it is convenient. Not that they are thinking this consciously either, it is the unspoken denial of desperate-to-be-loved relationships.

I hear the chains clinking from holy matrimony, aka save me please! We have to save ourselves. Don’t ever expect anyone to save you.

This is a topic of communication that comes up in therapy a lot with survivors of abuse. Should I tell him/her? Yes and No. It is important to communicate to your partner, that you plan to spend your life with, what your life was like growing up. It gives them a chance to see, eyes wide open OR listening but not hearing, what they have to look forward to in a partnership with you. It also gives you the chance to see what kind of person they are and will be. Be careful though. It might haunt you for the rest of your life if you do.

Here are some steps to take in divulging your trauma to a loved one:

Scenario One – Conversation: I came from an abusive household. My past has some skeletons in the closet. A healthy response to either of these would be “Do you want to talk about it?” A wise answer to this question should be something like, “Not right now, I just thought you should know, if we are going to plan our future together. I wanted to acknowledge that I had an emotionally unhealthy upbringing.” Or even better, “You know, I think I will leave it up to me and my therapist. I am working (or I have worked on this) on dealing with what happened so that I can have good relationships going forward. I just wanted you to know.”

What generally happens is “My father sexually abused me when I was ten.” and the response is “Uh huh,” which is misinterpreted as “Oh, you really must have been hurt, why don’t you tell me all about it.” And then the person proceeds to tell them for about 30 minutes to an hour the long dark emotional trail of tears from age 0-18. As the victim is telling this story to the person who continues to look at them and maybe make comments like “wow, really,” or just stare. Often the appeal of someone who continues to sit there through the conversation is that they are listening. Maybe the person is listening but they are not a therapist and are completely wrapped up in wondering when the football game is going to begin or “God I hope someone calls me now! Now! NOW!!!”

How to do it best: Be in a safe place – restaurants aren’t really accurate facilities for divulging emotional trauma. The conversation should be in a home or out in nature. It is preferable that you do it looking at each other rather than having them hold you. This way you can see their face and understand when they are bored and could care less or are actually concerned. If you get an emotionless face that reminds you of a wall, stop. If they want to know all the graphic details, STOP!

Take lots of breaths. If you feel yourself going on a tangent or starting to stare out into space while you are talking, stop. This is a signal you are being traumatized again. The memory is re-surfacing in your body and causing you to go “there” again psychologically. It is easy to think, getting it all out, you will never have to say it again. A partner is not the person to do that with. No matter how nice they seem. Telling a partner everything can cause them to have new issues in their relationship to you. Keep it brief and lacking in details. Not all partners are as accepting of past emotional details as you can be.

Scenario Two – Sex Talk or Not: If you choose to have unsafe sex, a one-night-stand, or just jump into bed because you felt like it sex, OR you thought his eyes said “I love you,” you are setting yourself up for trauma. The ideal way to have sex with a partner, when you have been abused, is to get to know the person – very well – before you have sex. Secondly, before you have sex have a sex talk. This is a gentle conversation where you look at each other and talk about the sex that you wish to have with the partner. It is okay to say “There are some things I am not willing to do.” Many people say I am uncomfortable with… If this is the wrong person the word uncomfortable is a recipe for re-traumatization by that person who you will soon realize is a manipulator. It is also okay to say “I was abused as a child and I need you to be gentle with me.” Or “I am a little afraid to have sex,” or “I am shy about sex.” This probably sounds corny on some levels but corny is better than being raped, causing yourself to be hurt again emotionally or being sexually abused because they didn’t know (and you came across as a person who was willing to do whatever).

Being sexually abused as a child or raped/abused as an adult, means we often come across as willing participants, even when we really aren’t. This is our emotionally traumatized psyche that has a hard time creating sexually boundaries.

What generally happens is: You are in bed with your partner and in the middle of passion, say “No you don’t, my uncle used to do that and there is no way in hell I am going there again!” Or the S&M clothes are on and the partner is completely prepared for role plays and suddenly you have a flashback and find yourself as a twelve-year-old all over again. You are on the floor wailing like a little child and everyone is uncomfortable with the situation. OR the twelve-year-old shuts off emotionally and you proceed to be sexually abused again and don’t really remember what actually happened (out of body experience, numbness, dissociation).

Scenario Three – Therapy: What happens in the therapists room, stays in the therapists room. It is not a good idea to bring home what you discussed in therapy. Your partner is not a therapist and you will not get the same empathic response as you did from the professional. It will not heal your relationship, change it for the better or make you more secure with your partner. Most likely you will tell your partner, they will not give you the emotional feedback you desire and you will be hurt and suddenly feel as if your partner is the worst person in the world.

If you have been abused, you owe it to yourself, your family, your friends, your partner and your children, to find the right therapist (who you feel connected to) and whom you feel is taking you in the right direction spiritually, mentally, psychologically and emotionally. Give it time to happen and don’t expect results in a couple of sessions.

First time to a therapist, when you are a survivor, it might take some time to go down the road. Second time with a different therapist, you might open up a little more than the last time. Third time, you begin to talk about abuse from an easier perspective. Then suddenly find you thought you had dealt with everything but there was some other issue bringing it right back again. There are stages of therapy that we have to be patient with. Therapy is not the only way to move forward either. Do your homework that is recommended. Take workshops, join support groups, listen to other survivor stories at non-profit benefits.

Your partner is not a professional, they are just your lover and possibly the person you will spend your life with. If you have been abused, you owe it to yourself and to them to be a healthy person. Don’t spend your life hiding from the abuse. Find a therapist. Talk to them.