Recovery from sexual abuse is difficult and takes time to deal, and few things are harder to heal than the ability to trust others, according to the Triumph Youth Services article, “Sexual Abuse Treatment for Teens Types of Treatment.” This is especially true during the teen years when emotions are volatile and when the abuser was a trusted adult male. A therapist can assist healing as you work with your feelings and experience.
The Temporary New Normal
It is normal to feel responsible for the abuse, to believe you are a victim and less than perfect, and experience anxiety, fear, depression, anger, negative self-worth and self-esteem, according to Triumph Youth Services. You could respond to flirting and interactions with males by sexually acting out or by distancing yourself from the person flirting with you -- and both of these are normal responses. Sometimes, survivors cope via aggression, substance abuse, depression and suicidal thoughts, or by developing sleeping and eating problems and other self-destructive habits. If this is where you are now, realize that it's temporary -- and even though it might last for years -- eventually, you can regain your ability to trust yourself and men.
Learn the red flags that mark abusers, such as people who control and isolate you from friends and family, disregard your boundaries and feelings, pressure you to do things you don’t want to do or a man who treats his mother poorly, demands to be in charge and refuses to take responsibility when he is wrong, according to the article “Abusive Men: The Red Flags” on Oprah.com. Become a people observer, suggests trauma therapist Mary K. Armstrong in “Healing From Child Sexual Abuse – Learning to Trust.” If you see those red flags, then you should distance yourself as quickly as possible. If you see a man who is trustworthy and honest, treats others well, keeps his promises and respects the feelings of others, then you can extend your trust -- slowly. As you perceive that you can make good choices, you learn to trust yourself, remarks the Sexual Assault Response Services of Southern Maine in the article, “Trust and Intimacy.” When you can trust yourself, then it’s easier to trust a new man in your life.
Taking a Risk
Granting trust through vulnerability has risks, according to the Sexual Assault Response Services of Southern Maine. Risks include additional assaults, rejection, blame, loss of control and respect. On the other hand, it could go well and you develop a healthy relationship. Begin by deciding if you feel respected and safe with this man. Does he communicate and compromise in ways that make you feel comfortable? Consider whether he takes responsibility for his actions. If you feel good about this, then extend opportunities to get closer.
Tell Your Story
Carefully tell pieces of your story to your male friend. If he responds with compassion, gentleness and care, without blaming you for the assault, you can tell more of your story. Many survivors are judged or blamed when telling their story, according to Sarah E. Ullman, Ph.D,, author of “Talking About Sexual Assault: Society's Response to Survivors.” He should allow you to talk about the assault when you need to, time to heal and respect your right to choose when you are ready to be sexually intimate with him, if ever.
- Triumph Youth Services: Sexual Abuse Treatment for Teens Types of Treatment Part 2 of 2
- Oprah: Abusive Men: The Red Flags
- Confessions of a Trauma Therapist: Healing From Child Sexual Abuse – Learning to Trust
- Sexual Assault Response Services of Southern Maine: Trust and Intimacy
- American Psychological Association.org: Talking About Sexual Assault: Society's Response to Survivors; Sarah E. Ullman, Ph.D,
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