By Sophie Olson
Prompted by Twitter threads here and here.
Most people have little idea of what to say when someone discloses Child Sexual Abuse.
Some react brilliantly – a hug, a kind word or two (it’s rare). There is usually a shocked pause (forgivable – after all it is a shocking form of abuse). I sense the cogs turning as they search for something, anything to make this uncomfortable, unfathomable and perhaps unwelcome moment in time feel a bit better. For them.
Continue reading “CSA: When Words Fail…”
Why didn’t you say anything before? Were the words said when I disclosed. I didn’t know how to respond to that. The things I wanted to say spun inside my head and stuck in my throat but I couldn’t say them. I swallowed my words and looked at the floor instead.
Why didn’t you…?… you could have… you should have…
The events of that disclosure day unfolded violently, like a bomb exploding and glass embedding itself in our hearts. It was one of the hardest and worst things I’ve ever had to do. I tried to say why I hadn’t, I really did but I was mute with shame, regret and fear.
My fault was how I interpreted these responses. It’s my fault.
I was probably in shock too. Disclosure might be shocking for the recipient but it’s far worse for the one saying the terrible words we hoped we might never have to actually say – no more hoping that someone would just notice, ‘get it’ instead. It felt like peeling the skin from my bones, exposing the essence of me to the world. It hurt. I wanted to run away and hide. I wished I’d never said anything at all.
It was impossible to explain why I hadn’t because where would I begin? How could I describe my inability to retrieve the correct words and to speak them aloud? I didn’t say much after I disclosed. I couldn’t answer their questions and some of them made me feel so unsafe I wanted to die. I stayed silent and scrutinised their faces and body language. I was looking for any nuance of behaviour for a sign they didn’t believe me.
I waited to be cast out of the family and shunned for saying these terrible words.
Why didn’t you say anything before?
Now I have my words and if I could go back in time and do it all over again I would say,
I had been non-verbally disclosing since childhood but nobody was listening. They didn’t understand what I was trying to say.
By Simon Olson
Trigger Warning (child sexual abuse. Rape)
“You couldn’t have been raped… I would have seen signs of it”
Continue reading “Disbelief (guest blog)”
My previous post what not to say to a survivor stemmed from a thread on Twitter that was liked and retweeted many times. Survivors identified with the responses from others after disclosing their own child sexual abuse. Some added more to the list. One person replied with ‘thank you for sharing. What would be helpful to say to a survivor?’ and I began to reflect on responses that had helped me.
Continue reading “… (Part Two) How TO respond to a survivor”
Disclosing non-recent child sexual abuse was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I will never forget it. It was in 2009 during my first inpatient stay in hospital where I’d found myself after a breakdown. My family had reacted with frustration and, at times, anger at this unfortunate turn of events; after all they hadn’t seen it coming. I had presented a version of myself to the world that wasn’t real – a competent mum of two. A wife. A functioning member of society. But it was all a facade. Totally fake. As it turned out, I had been the most excellent actor and master of disguise. No one had noticed how desperate I was on the inside – and why should they? That had been my intention, but I had spiralled deeper and deeper into the fire of addiction and ill health. I was dying. I had wanted to die. I had tried to die and found myself in a psychiatric hospital.
I was surprised by the frustration. I certainly hadn’t expected anger.
Continue reading “What NOT to say to a Survivor (part one)”