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Understanding the effects of sexual abuse on your partner
by Horsefeathers. May 1st 2014, 12:47 PM

Understanding the effects of sexual abuse on your partner
By Kyra (Radioactive.)

Trying to walk in the shoes of a victim of abuse or assault is understandably difficult. Sometimes it may feel like attempts to comfort, help, or sympathize with a victim of trauma can go unnoticed or unappreciated. The victim may be going through significant stress in multiple areas of their lives, and the trauma and stress cannot be fixed or forgotten overnight, even if it happened years before. This article will focus specifically on past sexual abuse/assault and the effect it can have on romantic relationships in regards to communication and intimacy, as well as how to effectively reach out and steps you can take in order to better understand what your partner is going through.

Being patient and taking it one step at a time
Perhaps the most impactful step you can take in better understanding the struggles of a trauma victim, whether in a relationship or not, is to practice patience. It may feel like constantly going through the motions if your partner continues to bring up an issue that you feel you have already sorted out. For example: they express that they have had a rough day, having experienced several flashbacks or relived a memory of their abuse and are uncomfortable engaging in intimacy or sexual activity. It may be hard to understand why this is, or continues to be, a problem. Practicing patience, and understanding that it is not out of spite that they do not wish to be intimate, is one of many ways you can help them move forward. There are a number of actions you can take; for instance, refraining from anger and venting frustrations onto your partner, and instead talking out their feelings and working through the pains of flashbacks and reliving memories, which you may have to do several times. On the subject of intimacy, perhaps offer to take things slowly. Take baby steps, such as working your way into more intimate things. If they are not comfortable past a certain point of intimacy, suggest alternatives, and say you will work with them to help them feel more comfortable. Eliminate any pressure. The goal is to heal, not just to ignore or push the problem away. As mentioned above, there is no quick or overnight fix to bring a life that was turned upside down back to normal.

Listening and being there for them
A second but equally important tactic is to listen. At times, that is all you may have to do. Putting in words what someone is feeling inside can be very cathartic for a victim of abuse. If you are unwilling to listen, or appear to not be listening well, your partner may shut down, taking a step in the wrong direction when it comes to successful communication and making it harder to open up in the future. This could potentially put a strain on the relationship. Being there for a victim of trauma can speak volumes about how much you love and care for them and do wonders for the healing process. A great piece of advice when it comes to listening: if you are already thinking about what you are going to say, even before the other person has finished speaking, you are not listening.

Thinking before you speak, and trying to empathize
The last but certainly not least important step in learning the struggles of a partner who was a victim of trauma or abuse, perhaps if there is already a strain in the relationship, is to choose your words carefully. Step back for a moment and think about how it would feel to personally be experiencing the pain that your partner is going through. They were hurt, regardless of whether the trauma was violent. Most people would not tell a person with a broken leg to just get up and walk, but unfortunately some people will tell a victim of abuse to just get over it. It is NEVER the victimís fault; however, there are many people who feel that factors such as the way the victim dressed or if the abuser/perpetrator misinterpreted the victimís actions (an example of this would be "You were flirting with me, I thought you wanted me,") played a part in the trauma. Regardless of the situation, it is unfair and unjust to blame a victim.

You must remember that you are not alone. Abuse or trauma can happen to anyone: parents, siblings, friends, co-workers, and partners. Concerning partners, there are a variety of ways you can help in the healing process. Being patient, listening, and thinking before speaking as well as placing yourself in their shoes are only a few. No one should have to struggle alone, and trauma, whether far in the past or recent, do not necessarily have to cause rifts in relationships. Recovery and healing is possible; never lose faith or stop trying.
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