Sexual assault/abuse is a life challenge for the person who was abused or assaulted. Symptoms can range from tramtic responses, depression, anxiety, isolation, loss of concentration, unwanted/intrusive thoughts and fear of returning to intimacy. Therapy can help address these symptoms and help survivors regain a sense of control and trust in their lives again.
Sexual assault doesn’t just affect the person who was assaulted however. Men who are partners/spouses may be struggling with thoughts and feelings that are not socially acceptable to talk about with friends and family. Fears about sexually transmitted diseases and the health of their partner, confusion about changes in their partner’s emotional or physical intimacy, frustration with being out of control in the recovery process, fear that talking about your anger with the perpetrator may upset your partner, believing your feelings don’t count because you were not the victim. These are just a few of the issues often brought up by partners of survivors of sexual abuse. In general – there is a strong feeling of being helpless to make things right.
What can partners of sexual assault/abuse do? While it is important that partners learn about the effects of abuse and recovery, respect boundaries, and validate their partner’s feelings, including anger – it is also important that men take time to care for themselves. This can include:
– Learning to talk about sexuality in the relationship
– Overcoming feelings of guilt about taking time for yourself
– Talk about anger towards the offender without re-traumatizing your partner
– Learn thinking that can help you handle your partner’s anger and/or recovery
– Manage needs for physical and emotional intimacy during the healing process.
Working though this time can be a huge struggle. Counseling can help. Taking the time to talk through frustrations, worries and anger without having to worry if your words and feelings might hurt your partner or sound selfish can be a key tool for recovery. If you are struggling in a relationship with a partner who has been assaulted or has shared about a history of childhood sexual abuse – take time to call today. In the end, one of the best ways that you can support your partner is to take time to care for your own needs too.