I will admit that once the truth is out, there will be varying reactions from everyone around you. It’s not about them, or how this affects them, this journey of healing is for YOU. Please ensure work with your therapist about the right time for you to tell those around you, and seek her advice on the reactions of others – the only one who can help is the professional.
If possible, have those closest to you come to therapy as well. In my case, my ex-husband and daughter were mortified by my abuse. Although my ex-husband knew I was abused, he did not know to what extent. He was furious that I did not “trust” him enough to share the details of my abuse/history – that was his take. This wasn’t about him, it was about me. You can and should only open up about your abuse to people when YOU are ready. Having my therapist with me as a support during my family’s visit gave me the strength to speak openly about my abuse.
To be honest, I am not sure opening up sooner would have saved my marriage. There were a lot of problems that brought us down. Both my ex-husband and my daughter were angry with my Mother. They felt she had to have known about the sexual abuse – she was aware of the physical and emotional abuse but says she did not know about the sexual aspect. Being manipulated by a pedophile and seeing him favour and dote on her daughter was too much. My mom was a widow at the age of 26 with 3 children under the age of 10. Her first husband was physically abusive and neglectful. So seeing her second marriage was in jeopardy and the fear of being alone and hungry again was too much – it put her into a deep depression. She gave up and just “existed”. Everyone I talk to believe my Mother knew everything. What matters now is that she is my Mom. If I choose to be compassionate and have her in my life that is my business. Times were different in the 1970’s. People didn’t talk about family problems and did not want their dirty laundry aired in public.
Sometimes we do things to protect ourselves and our family. An event like sexual abuse would have destroyed what little semblance of family my Mother had. I too made decisions in my marriage to save my family. There were events of fraud and theft that I kept secret – I didn’t want to see my ex-husband in jail and having to survive and care for my child on my own – so I kept quiet.
My closest and dearest friends have been an incredible support. Some of my friends knew about my abuse since high school. They tried to help me then by talking to school officials, but in the mid –late 1970’s, people did not like to rock the boat. Laws were different, teachers were not afraid of losing their jobs if they turned a blind eye.
I have been fortunate that when people find out they do not blame me. I have chosen not to tell some family members – the ones on my Birth Father’s side as I do not want them to judge my Mother for her “inaction” and for marrying Dick. They weren’t there; they don’t know what it was like.
Sharing the story of my abuse has become a part of me. I’m not ashamed any more – that’s what therapy as done for me. It’s not like I wear a pin on my shirt saying I was abused, but should the opportunity arise, I certainly do not hide it. Someday, I will tell someone who will admit his/her father abused them and I will be there to support them – mostly encouraging them to seek professional help. Even as a victim myself – I would NEVER try and counsel another victim. Each situation is unique and I am not qualified to give lifesaving advice. I do feel I am experienced enough as a victim to know the power and importance of therapy and will continue to be an advocate of its importance.