Sex Talks and Sexual Assault…

Sex Talks and Sexual Assault…

This is part two in a two part series focusing on survivors of sexual assault. Here is part one.

By Michelle Harkey, LMHC

Having a child be sexually assaulted is one of a parent’s worst nightmares. Unfortunately, it is far too common, with about one out of three females and one in five males being sexually assaulted. Assisting your child(ren) through the very challenging times ahead may seem daunting. Know that it is worth the very best effort you can put forth and can make a tremendous difference in how well your child recovers.

It becomes even more complex when you, yourself, have also been sexually assaulted in the past. This scenario can be debilitating for you and is much less talked about, so let’s address some of the potential difficulties as well as some ways to help yourself.

It is possible to trigger your own trauma in the midst of helping your child. You may suddenly find that your own thoughts and maybe dreams are dominated by your own sexual assault, or perhaps what is your history and your child’s history gets all mixed up in your mind. It may be that you are feeling more or strangely anxious or depressed, as if from an earlier time. Maybe the amount of uncontrollable rage you are feeling is so much you fear you may do something to hurt yourself or others.

Conversely, you may feel quite removed emotionally from the situation. Maybe you sense that all of this is happening to somebody else entirely or that you’re a spectator in your own life. If your reaction to the revelation of your child’s sexual assault is nonchalant or somewhat muted, there’s a good chance you’re experiencing some form of dissociation. Dissociation was a valuable tool to get through your sexual assault, but it is not so helpful now.

Both of the above opposite reactions can be signs of your own trauma coming up for a deeper (or perhaps first) chance of healing.

Try This: As miserable as this may seem, you can embrace this opportunity for healing yourself. If you don’t want to do it for yourself, do it for your child. Your own healing will help your child heal as well. Check your local library for resources on healing your own childhood sexual assault (CSA), like Courage to Heal. Better yet, contact a therapist or counselor who is familiar with healing from CSA to help the entire family.

Additionally, your own shame or guilt about your sexual assault may come up as you are helping your child work through the effects of his or her sexual assault.

Try This: Recall that your reactions and feelings are not necessarily the feelings and reactions of your child. Your informed support can decrease the likelihood of your child experiencing shame or guilt. Brene Brown’s book can be helpful.

You may be tempted to downplay your own difficulties. Don’t. Just don’t. While it is true you’re your child needs and deserves your time and attention, you also need to have support. Healing from sexual assault is a big task and you’ll benefit from a cadre of supportive people.

Try This: I strongly recommend investing in a professional helper, like a counselor or therapist, who has experience in helping people resolve sexual trauma. Where available, a sexual assault support group is typically one of the best ways to heal from sexual assault of any kind.

Friends and family who understand are valuable, and you may get to train them to be even more helpful. The Allies in Healing book will be useful for this training, especially for your spouse or partner.  Try to limit your contact (at least for a while) with those who are judgmental or demeaning of you or your child in your healing process.

Learn as much as you can about healing from sexual assault. This may be a lot or it may only be this article. Sometimes learning about it can be difficult and/or triggering though, so pace yourself.

Most of all, seek to take care of yourself as best you can. Yes, right now the emphasis is appropriately on your child, but caring for yourself is an important way to make it possible for you to show up in a supportive role for your child. It’s okay to ask for what you need.

There are many resources available online and in print. Try some of these:

https://www.rainn.org/articles/help-parents-children-who-have-been-sexually-abused-family-members

https://www.amazon.com/Listening-Talking-Sexually-Abused-Child/dp/1482772361/ref=sr_1_10?ie=UTF8&qid=1488160297&sr=8-10&keywords=child+sexual+abuse+for+parents

https://www.amazon.com/Helping-Child-Recover-Sexual-Abuse/dp/0295968060/ref=pd_bxgy_14_img_3?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=0295968060&pd_rd_r=6CWZ6MPY37PR43ZBR6NC&pd_rd_w=wWXZe&pd_rd_wg=S1Agr&psc=1&refRID=6CWZ6MPY37PR43ZBR6NC

If this rings true for you or your family, it is time to start the conversations with your children today. These conversations should be open and safe for your child to ask questions and speak openly. For more information about how to talk to your children about sex check out our book 30 Days of Sex Talks(available for 3 age groups: 3-7, 8-11, and 12+). Other books that will help you with this critical subject are How to Talk to Your Kids About Pornography and 30 Days to a Stronger Child. All titles and many others available on Amazon.

Need Help with Tough Topics? We got you covered!

Michelle Harkey helps men and women release tension and trauma from their bodies so they can live a fuller life in fulfilling relationships. To do this, she specializes in body-oriented (somatic) psychotherapy/counseling and body-connection coaching. She is also the mother of five children. In her self-care time she enjoys sitting in hot springs while reading; competing in triathlons; and has recently decided to try scuba diving. Michelle has a MA Liberal Arts and a MA Counseling.