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Most survivors of sexual abuse know that partners of survivors need help coping too. This page has links to other support sites as well as advice from survivors to help partners understand what is most important to us. Often these are things we cannot find the words to say.

Those most frequently mentioned are:

  • Be willing to talk about things but do not force me if I am not ready.
  • Respect that I was doing what I needed to in order to survive (whether physically or emotionally).
  • Do not ask too many questions about why I made decisions and choices.
  • Please read literature about rape trauma syndrome and how to help a survivor.
  • When I am not feeling affectionate or sexual, it's not about you or how I feel about you. Many survivors indicated this is an important issue.
  • It would be helpful if partners were to educate themselves on the issue and seek out support for themselves.
  • Some survivors expressed that partners learning grounding techniques (like safe place) would be helpful.
  • When I am triggered by something please don't take it personally. (It is not necessarily about what's happening now so much as that I am reminded of something harmful from the past.) What is a trigger? What is a panic attack?
  • Please read this vocabulary page on rape survivor terms

 

 

 

What is a secondary survivor?

http://www.youthresource.com/our_lives/sexual_assault/articles/secondary.htm

You are a secondary survivor if a friend, partner, girlfriend, boyfriend, mother, sister, child, or anyone you are very close to is a survivor of sexual assault or physical or emotional abuse. It does not matter if you knew this person when the assault or abuse happened-or even if you knew them and did not know about the assault until much later.


Secondary Survivors

http://www.survivingtothriving.org/secondarysurvivors

If you are a secondary survivor, you are here because you care about the person in your life who has been the victim of sexual violence. Sexual violence can affect the people in the survivor's life in many ways. You have every right to feel angry, sad and upset and there are resources for you to help you deal with those emotions. Many people feel helpless while watching someone go through such terrible pain, but you are not. If a survivor has come to you, it means that you are trusted and you can have an enormous influence in your friend's healing.


Partners of survivors from ClinicalSocialWork.com

http://www.clinicalsocialwork.com/partners.html

 

Survivors and Friends

http://www.survivors-and-friends.org/

Survivors and Friends is a non-profit organization that was founded by annie, a Survivor of sexual abuse herself. Survivors and Friends exists to provide hope, encouragement, and support for survivors of sexual abuse, their friends, and their family.

 

Partners of abuse survivors

http://partners.aest.org.uk/

Partners of abuse survivors, self-harm and related other issues are often, sadly, overlooked when it comes to support. There are few enough real life support groups for survivors themselves, so it is not surprising that they are seldom any at all for partners of survivors.

 

Parents and loved ones of abuse survivors

http://www.geocities.com/HotSprings/2656/

Dedicated to the non-offending parent and to all those who have suffered the hurt of someone they love being abused or raped. Has two message boards listed at the bottom of the page.

 

The Significant Others' Guide to Dissociative Identity Disorder

http://www.needid.bizland.com/linkco.html

What is DID? A complex mental process known as disassociation allows children and adults to survive very painful situations, such as rape or incest. The memory of a traumatic experience is blocked from one's ongoing memory, which creates a temporary mental escape from the pain of the trauma. Because this process can produce changes in memory, people who frequently disassociate cannot recall important personal information. http://www.4woman.gov/wwd/wwd.cfm?page=45

 

Personal sites

Partners of Survivors

http://www.geocities.com/HotSprings/2402/partners.html

Partners of survivors go through many of the same feelings as survivors do. Answers and support are needed during this time but is hard to come by.

 

Message boards

Secondary circle for parents and loved ones.

http://www.egroups.com/subscribe/secondarycircle

 

Parents of survivors

http://www.egroups.com/subscribe/parents-of-survivors

 

Supportive partners

http://www.healthyplace.com/Communities/Abuse/holli/supportive_partners.htm

Share with others how you, as a partner, got through a particularly rough time. What kinds of feelings have you experienced? How are you coping?

 

After the Silence

http://dancinginthedarkness.com/ipb/index.php

 

 

Subscribe to lesbian_partner_support
Powered by health.groups.yahoo.com

http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/lesbian_partner_support/

 

Lesbian Partners of Survivors

http://forums.delphiforums.com/steph515/start

This is a message board for partners of lesbian sexual assault survivors.

 

Pandora's Aquarium Partners forum

http://www.pandys.org/forums

Pandys has a forum for secondary survivors (partners and loved ones). It also has an lgbt forum as well.

 

LGBTQ Partner information

Nonprofit

SEXUAL ASSAULT OF LESBIANS: SOME ISSUES

http://danenet.wicip.org/dcccrsa/saissues/lesbian.html

"It is obvious that a sexual assault affects not only the victim, but those closest to her. However, unlike straight couples, in which the man may be sympathetic but basically a stranger to the issue, assault may be a personal experience for both partners in a lesbian relationship. "More often than not," comments a woman who has counseled victims of anti-lesbian violence, "when you're dealing with a lesbian couple, you're dealing with someone who's been raped ten years earlier, and someone who's been raped recently." In other words, so many women are victims of assault at one point in their life that one woman's assault can trigger upsetting or traumatic memories in her lover. This may either allow the partner of a rape victim to be especially supportive; or it may lead to tension and distance if she is unable to cope with her own memories. And like all partners of rape victims, the partner may feel inadequate for not having protected her lover properly, or even angry at her lover for letting the assault happen. All of these reactions are common ones, and a combination of both individual and couple counseling is generally recommended when a lesbian couple is affected by an anti-lesbian assault."

Recommendations from lesbian survivors:

"I guess it comes down to four things.
1. Know that she can not change my past or change the choices that I made.
2. Respect that I was doing what I needed to inorder to survive (whether physically or emotionally).
3. Understand that I am more than my past, but the past did make me (at least in part) who I am today.
4. Be willing to talk about the good, the bad and the ugly; to the extent that I am able to."

"Please believe me." Do not assume the survivor knows you believe them. Many survivors have been cross examined and questioned by people they trust and are very sensitive on this issue. Please make it clear you believe and support the victim.

"If I have some issues relative to sexual healing, I would need to feel I could discuss this with her in an open manner. "

**"If I need to talk, I will ... but if I don't want to, don't push it ... I can only express myself when I'm ready and/or want to ... again, it's not personal ... " "Please only ask multiple questions if you know it's okay to continue. If a person does not want to talk about it - it may be because they are having a traumatic reaction to the memory."

"When I am not feeling affectionate or sexual, it's not about you or how I feel about you, it's about me .... it's never personal .... "

"I would also want my partner to be aware of her own issues either with her own past abuse and/or feelings about abuse. In this way, we are both confronting our own "demons" and not projecting them onto one another. (And, of course, I should be supportive of her in her self discovery process as well.)"

"Just like you're not a mind reader, neither am I ... if you need or want something from me, tell me ... if I can provide it, I will ... if I can't, we will either find a way to compromise or hold it off for a bit for whatever reason ..."

"It would be helpful if my partner were to educate herself on the issue and seek out support for herself relative to taking care of her own needs in being with me. "

"I wouldn't be comfortable if she started to psychoanalyze me or try to solve this for me so we could "get on with our lives." "

"I would want my partner to allow for my healing and self-discovery process within our relationship."

Please do not threaten to hurt the perpetrator. It causes the victim to feel unsafe and creates psychological trauma. This is also recommended on many survivor sites.

Do not judge the victim for not handling the situation the way you would have. Rape trauma syndrome is not understood very well but it affects the judgement of those suffering from it.

"I am trying to take care of myself and heal myself and though I may be in crisis sometimes, ...I am not always in crisis. " While rape victims are wounded, they are also survivors, and do not always want to be treated as fragile. "see me as sensitive with issues and problems but not weak or fragile like glass...."

"I'd also like my partner to know that not all of my reactions are about her. When I am triggered by something she does (especially when it comes to sex) it's not her that I am reacting to, it's my past. Being open to that communication is essential. "

"We can't be all things to each other nor can we meet all of our needs at all times ... avoiding relationship burn-out is important ... so just as I need space or time alone for me, you have that right as well ... whether it's alone or going out with your friends ...."

"Do not ever tell me to "put it behind me" or forget it or forgive it."

"Do not tell me how to heal....as long as i'm working on it some fashion."

 

 

LGBTQ specific sexuality

Nonprofit

Survivor's Guide To Sex Archive

Open Enterprises is a worker-owned, women-owned cooperative providing access to accurate sex information and sex toys, books and videos through its retail, call center and publishing companies, to promote healthy attitudes about sex. Please use caution viewing this site as it links to graphic descriptions of LGBTQ sexuality and products.

 

Support for and by partners of lesbian rape survivors

http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/lesbian_partner_support/

This is a group to provide support for lesbian and LGBTQ partners of abuse, sexual assault and rapesurvivors. Please join in and help form a support source for partners.

Subscribe to lesbian_partner_support
Powered by health.groups.yahoo.com
 

 

Lesbian Partners of Survivors

http://forums.delphiforums.com/steph515/start

This is a message board for partners of lesbian sexual assault survivors.

 

Sexuality resources for all survivors

Books

Haines, Staci. (1999). The Survivor's Guide to Great Sex : How to Have a Great Sex Life - Even if You've Been Sexually Abused. Cleis Press. Paperback, 1st ed., 200pp. ISBN: 1573440795

 

Maltz, Wendy. (2003). Treating the Sexual Intimacy Concerns of Sexual Abuse Survivors. Contemporary Sexuality. 37 (7). pi, 7p.

"The article presents a study on the measures taken to treat intimate concerns in sexual abuse survivors. Due to the extremely high prevalence of sexual abuse in the culture, and the fact that sexual abuses causes a variety of sexual problems, a large proportion of patients seeking sex and relationship therapy will have inevitably histories of incest, rape, molestation and other types of sexual exploitation. To work effectively, therapists need to understand the sexual impact of sexual abuse and be familiar with the special sexual healing strategies and techniques that have been developed for survivors and their intimate partners. Sexual abuse occurs whenever one person dominates and exploits others by means of sexual activity or suggestion. In abusive sex, perpetrators exploits sexual feelings and behaviors to degrade, humiliate, control, hurt or otherwise mistreat the victims. Coercion and manipulation often play into sexual abuse. Sexual healing is an empowering process that enables survivors to address and overcome sexual problems caused by past abuse."

 

Personal sites

Emergence

http://www.angelfire.com/or/emergence/bloodygardenias.html

This site has information about how to make romantic relationships work post assault. "this section of emergence is dedicated to a particular area of healing, that which involves romance, love, and sexuality. this is one of the hardest areas of healing for me, i know, and many others have also expressed this."

Keeping the kisses sweet emphasizes the survivor feeling safe in romantic situations without feeling pressure. "work on being comfortable with your lover. cuddle, hold hands, kiss lightly, brush each other's hair, spend plenty of time together. it will help you build trust and establish familiarity with your lover, and this way more intense physical contact won't be as much of a shock."

Advice for partners from all survivors:

"Avoid asking why questions when talking about what happened. Dont ask why we did something, why we reacted the way we did, why didn't we fight harder. We're already asking ourselves these questions enough,"

 

"Please understand that healing takes time, it is a journey with ups and downs. Please try not to get frustrated when things finally seem okay, but then something trips us up again, like an anniversary or a triggering event like a move, accident, violent movie, etc."

 

"I guess it comes down to four things.
1. Know that she can not change my past or change the choices that I made.
2. Respect that I was doing what I needed to inorder to survive (whether physically or emotionally).
3. Understand that I am more than my past, but the past did make me (at least in part) who I am today.
4. Be willing to talk about the good, the bad and the ugly; to the extent that I am able to."

 

"Please believe me." Do not assume the survivor knows you believe them. Many survivors have been cross examined and questioned by people they trust and are very sensitive on this issue. Please make it clear you believe and support the victim.

 

Please do not threaten to hurt the perpetrator. It causes the victim to feel unsafe and creates psychological trauma. This is also recommended on many survivor sites.

 

 

"If I have some issues relative to sexual healing, I would need to feel I could discuss this with them in an open manner. "

**"If I need to talk, I will ... but if I don't want to, don't push it ... I can only express myself when I'm ready and/or want to ... again, it's not personal ... " "Please only ask multiple questions if you know it's okay to continue. If a person does not want to talk about it - it may be because they are having a traumatic reaction to the memory."

"When I am not feeling affectionate or sexual, it's not about you or how I feel about you, it's about me .... it's never personal .... "

"I would also want my partner to be aware of their own issues either with their own past abuse and/or feelings about abuse. In this way, we are both confronting our own "demons" and not projecting them onto one another. (And, of course, I should be supportive of them in their self discovery process as well.)"

"Just like you're not a mind reader, neither am I ... if you need or want something from me, tell me ... if I can provide it, I will ... if I can't, we will either find a way to compromise or hold it off for a bit for whatever reason ..."

"It would be helpful if my partner were to educate themself on the issue and seek out support for themself relative to taking care of her own needs in being with me. "

"I wouldn't be comfortable if they started to psychoanalyze me or try to solve this for me so we could "get on with our lives." "

"I would want my partner to allow for my healing and self-discovery process within our relationship."

Please do not threaten to hurt the perpetrator. It causes the victim to feel unsafe and creates psychological trauma. This is also recommended on many survivor sites.

Do not judge the victim for not handling the situation the way you would have. Rape trauma syndrome is not understood very well but it affects the judgement of those suffering from it.

"I am trying to take care of myself and heal myself and though I may be in crisis sometimes, ...I am not always in crisis. " While rape victims are wounded, they are also survivors, and do not always want to be treated as fragile. "see me as sensitive with issues and problems but not weak or fragile like glass...."

"I'd also like my partner to know that not all of my reactions are about them. When I am triggered by something they do (especially when it comes to sex) it's not them that I am reacting to, it's my past. Being open to that communication is essential. "

"We can't be all things to each other nor can we meet all of our needs at all times ... avoiding relationship burn-out is important ... so just as I need space or time alone for me, you have that right as well ... whether it's alone or going out with your friends ...."

"Do not ever tell me to "put it behind me" or forget it or forgive it."

"Do not tell me how to heal....as long as i'm working on it some fashion."

 

"What I would love for my partner to know......in regards to Interaction

1. Validation, validation, validation - can never be validated enough.

2. When I'm emotionally distressed from memories and flash backs....pay attention...sometimes I can't voice it (b/c I'm in silent distress)...but if you paid attention ....you would realize the possible depths of my distress and try to help ground me.....it would be really lovely if you could just talk to me...and tell me that its not real, that it I'm safe, that I'm here now with you.....actually say your name....so I can (know) the association that its you....and no one else.....

-I suppose I would want my partner to know of helpful grounding methods...that we could use together...just so I don't feel so alone....so lost....so trapped in the dark abyss of the moment

3. I would want him to remember that I am a sexual being and that I sometimes have self confidence and shame issues tied into my experiences...but that doesn't mean that I don't want new sexual experiences with him

-Sometimes when I reject advances...don't take it personally. I know that he loves me and desires me....but at that moment...my shame and guilt at wanting sexual experiences come out. Instead of getting equally mad at me....it would be great to talk to me about it.

4. Some days will be better than others...but it doesn't mean that I am regressing. It just means that I'm processing things a lot more that day...

5. Sometimes...I go through bouts...of wanting other men to desire me...its just a self confidence issue etc.

6. Hugs are awesome...and being affectionate....and cuddling...sometimes I need that and I hate to ask. Please don't deny me hugs or turn your back on me...esp when we fight....it really hurts.

7. Please express interest in our history....sometimes I need direct questions asked so I can share...but I really want to share with you...and sometimes I just can't shut up....please ask so I can share so we can heal together ....so we can grow......and become stronger together.....

8. I suppose ...just remember that the same way you want to be treated...chances are we want to be treated the same.....we are all human...with the same basic wants and need....the need to be loved...and to love....

to be affectionate and have affection shown towards us....

to be expressive, and not be silenced....

to be respected...and not hurt or further abused......

to be believed and not told that we are liars....

to be free from judgement and guilting tactics and shaming.....b/c we have spent enough time shaming oursleves....feeling guilt, judging ourselves...we've let you in to our lives....don't hurt us further....don't discredit us....

-Don't ever say "Its your fault" for whatever reason you may have."

Also see advice for lgbtq partners

 

Resources

Books

Featured:

When You Are the Partner of a Rape or Incest Survivor: A Workbook for You


Barshinger, Clarke E. & Larowe, Lojan E. (1995). Haunted Marriage; Overcoming the Ghosts of Your Spouse's Childhood Abuse. Intervarsity Press, USA.

Bear, Euan, & Dimock, Peter T. (1988). Adults Molested As Children: A Survivor's Manual For Women And Men. Safer Society Series Number Four. Orwell, VT: Safer Society Press.
Chapter Five: "For Lovers and Others." Excellent chapter as an introduction for partners who have just discovered their partner is a survivor.
Also available from: Safer Society Press, R. R. #1 Box 24-B, Orwell, VT 05760-9756.

Brewster, Susan. (1997) To Be an Anchor in the Storm : A Guide for Families and Friends of Abused Women. New York: Ballantine Books, Inc.

Cameron, Grant. (1995). What about me? A Guide for Men Helping Female Partners Deal with Childhood Sexual Abuse. Carp, Ontario, Canada: Creative Bound Publishers, Inc.

Cheston, Sharon E. (1994). As You and the Abused Person Journey Together. Paulist Press. Paperback, 80 pp. ISBN: 0809135132


Courtright, John, & Rogers, Sid, Dr. (1994). Your Wife Was Sexually Abused. (With discussion guide.) Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

A Christian-centered book for partners -- available at most Christian bookstores nationwide.
Davis, Laura (1991). Allies in Healing: When the Person You Love Was Sexually Abused as a Child, a Support Book for Partners. New York: HarperPerennial.

DeBeixedon, Yvette S. (1995). Lovers & Survivors: A Partner's Guide to Living with & Loving a Sexual Abuse Survivor.. San Francisco, CA: Robert D. Reed Publishers. Available at self-help sections in bookstores nationwide.

Deblinger, Esther & Heflin, Anne Hope. (1996). Treating Sexually Abused Children and Their Non offending Parents : A Cognitive Behavioral Approach (Interpersonal Violence, V. 16.). Sage Pubns; ISBN: 080395929X

Engel, Beverly. (1993). Partners in Recovery: How Mates, Lovers, & Other ProSurvivors Can Learn to Support & Cope with Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse. New York: Fawcett Books.

Gil, Eliana. (1992). Outgrowing the Pain Together: A Book for Spouses & Partners of Adults Abused as Children. New York: Dell Trade Publishing, Inc.


Graber, Ken. (1991). Ghosts in the Bedroom; A Guide for Partners of Incest Survivors. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications.

Hansen, Paul. Survivors and Partners: Healing the Relationships of Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse. ISBN: 0962996041

Haines, Staci. (1999). The Survivor's Guide to Great Sex : How to Have a Great Sex Life - Even if You've Been Sexually Abused. Cleis Press. Paperback, 1st ed., 200pp. ISBN: 1573440795

Lew, Mike. (1990) Victims No Longer: Men Recovering from Incest and Other Sexual Child Abuse.
Foreword by Ellen Bass / Paperback. ISBN: 0060973005.

Loulan, JoAnn. (1987). Lesbian Passion: Loving ourselves and each other. San Francisco, CA: Spinsters/Aunt Lute Publishers. Available at self-help sections in bookstores nationwide. :

Maltz, Wendy, & Holman, Beverly. (1987). Incest and Sexuality; A Guide to Understanding and Healing. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books. It is the first book to detail how sexuality is influences by early abuse and will relate to the needs of both men and women.
Ch. 10: Survivors and Partners Working Together. Very good book along the lines of THE SEXUAL HEALING JOURNEY.

Matsakis, Aphrodite. (1998). TRUST AFTER TRAUMA: A Guide to Relationships for Survivors and Those Who Love Them. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.

McEvoy, A. and J. Brookings. If She is Raped: A Book for Husbands, Fathers and Male Friends. Florida: Learning Publications, Inc. 1984. ASIN: 0918452554 This title is out of print

"Living with a Female Sexual Abuse Survivor: Male partner's perspectives" by Brenda Bacon and Laura Lein, published in the Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, Vol. 5 p. 1-16, 1996.

"The Effects of Recovery from Childhood Sexual Abuse on Marital Relationships," by Eric McCollum, published in the Journal of Family Psychotherapy, 1993, Vol. 4, pages 35-46.

"Partners of Survivors: Saying (and Hearing) I Love You," by Robert Staten,. Changing Men. Winter/Spring 1993. Issue #25. pp. 46,47

"The Other Victims of Incest: Partners of Incest Victims Suffer, Too." Graber, Ken. Changes. May/June 1991, pp. 48-50.

Dietz, Allen, & Button, Betty. (1991). The Challenges of Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse in Adult Relationships. In Treating Abuse Today, vol. 1, No. 4. pp. 26-31.

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