It’s very hard knowing that your loved one was a victim of child abuse.
Adult survivors of child abuse often still carry the burden of neglect and complex trauma that they experienced when young.
Obviously, these issues would weigh heavily on anyone. And, of course, you want to give your loved one the support and care they need in this situation. Supporting a loved one as they work to recover from abuse is not just helpful, it’s very important!
Consider, then, how you can support your loved one’s recovery.
Believe Their Story
First and foremost, communicate to your loved one that you believe them and their story. All too often, survivors receive the message that their story, somehow, isn’t valid. This is crushing when you are desperately in need of help.
Adult survivors of child abuse need a safe place where they know they will not be judged and their story will not be invalidated.
Remember that your job is not to be an investigator or to break down their account bit-by-bit. Rather, you want to support your loved one through the recovery process. That means, first and foremost, that you believe them.
Have a Willingness to Listen
Being willing to listen to your loved one is also important. Part of listening involves acknowledging that you heard what they have said.
Remember, though, that you don’t need a Ph.D. to be a good listener. All that it requires is to be attentive, caring, and respectful of what the other person has to say.
Often this involves more than one conversation as your loved one works through the complex process of recovery. Thus, a willingness to consistently listen to your loved one will be very helpful.
Don’t Pressure Them
Each adult survivor of child abuse has their own unique journey as they recover. From the outside looking in, you might be tempted to push them towards taking a step that they just aren’t willing to take yet. Even though they might not be ready, that doesn’t mean that they are not recovering.
Applying any kind of pressure doesn’t help the situation. It’s important that survivors of abuse do this at their own pace. Your job is simply to support and encourage.
As mentioned above, it’s helpful to keep in mind that for adult survivors of child abuse, recovery is not quick, easy, or straightforward. Relationship problems, chronic anxiety or mood symptoms that stem from childhood abuse are like knots. They take time and patience to untangle. Recovery will take a long time, and your loved one will benefit from having someone in their corner who is in it for the “long haul.”
Be patient with the process and also with your loved one. They will encounter many bumps in the road as they work towards resolving issues of complex trauma and neglect. Yet, it’s helpful to keep in mind that slow progress is still progress.
Educate Yourself about Child Abuse
When supporting your loved one it’s helpful to learn what you can about child abuse and how it affects victims. The more you know about the issues facing your loved one, the better support you can give.
One useful website is RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network). It supports victims of sexual assault and provides informational materials on its website. They also provide a National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.
Work with a Therapist
Loved ones of survivors of child abuse should keep in mind that they need support too. Working with a therapist who understands these issues will help you to better support your loved one.
The idea, though, isn’t to turn you into a therapist yourself. After all, that’s not your job. However, it’s helpful for you to have a place where you can go to process your own emotions about this situation and to feel supported as well.
Adult survivors of child abuse face many challenges as they recover from abuse. Complex trauma, neglect, and both physical and emotional abuse can take their toll.
You can be a critical part of your loved one’s support system as they work toward recovery. However, make sure to get support for yourself too from a therapist who understands trauma and abuse.
I would be delighted to support you and your loved one during this journey. Please, contact me or read more about my approach to trauma therapy by clicking HERE.