Support people are really a big part of one's recovery, but it can be very difficult to bring yourself to a place where you are comfortable asking for someone else's help or being vulnerable with your feelings. You might even be faced with telling someone for the very first time that you were sexually abused. Almost everyone who goes through recovery is reluctant at first to reach out to others, but your support system will largely determine the success of your recovery. You need support. You are worthy of support.
Just today I had a nice talk with a girl friend. Four and a half years ago I'd told her about my abusive childhood. She told me today that she had no idea what to say or what to do with the information at the time, so she felt like she did nothing... I remember the day that we were together and I remember parts of our conversation that day, but I actually didn't remember telling her anything about my childhood. Her reaction (or lack of a reaction) didn't register with me, but it stuck with her. As I've thought about this over the last ten hours, it occurred to me that I was just beginning to talk openly with others about my childhood about the time that I told her. Just telling her was what I needed. I didn't need a response or any solutions, I just needed someone to tell who wouldn't treat me differently after. And that is what I got. Even without a significant response on her part, just the acceptance and a listening ear was healing. This, my friends, is part of a support system.
As you begin to reach out to others, it is important to think wisely about who you will talk with and what you will share. Most people will not automatically know what to say or what to do, so providing them with some do's and don'ts can be very helpful. People who genuinely mean well may say and do some painful and damaging things because they do not understand. We have all opened our mouth and inserted our foot at one time or another.
As you tell family and friends, be prepared for them to respond in any number of ways. They may be angry, sad, hurt or afraid. They might be confused. If the rule in their house was to avoid talking about painful events, their reaction might be to turn off their feelings. They may pull away because they don't know what to say or do. However they respond, try not to accept responsibility for their reactions. And don't take their reaction personally. They might also attempt to smother you with concern and care. We must remember that this recovery journey is ours. Our supporters will help us, but they cannot take this journey for us.
People commonly respond to sexual abuse with silence and secrecy; however, telling your story is an important part of the recovery process!
Guidelines for selecting supportive people:
- Pray for God's wisdom as you choose a supportive person.
- Choose a person unrelated but sympathetic to the situation surrounding your abuse. You may want to consider someone who has been in recovery for a year or more, a professional counselor, a pastor, or lay caregiver.
- If you tell a family member do not blame them for not helping sooner.
- Determine how much of your story you want to tell. You might want to try writing an outline ahead of time. Remember that you do not have ot tell anything you do not want to tell.
- Pray for the person you will enlist for support.
As you think and pray about who the support people are in your life, remember what the Lord says, "I will go before you and make the rough places smooth; I will shatter the doors of bronze, and cut through their iron bars. And I will give you the treasures of darkness, and hidden wealth in secret places, in order that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who calls you by name." Isaiah 45:2-3
He has placed someone in your life that can be trusted to love on you through this recovery process. He knows where you are headed and exactly what you will need once you get there. He will provide, and you will discover treasures, hidden riches.