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Old 02-22-2007, 10:07 AM   #1
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How to help girlfriend cope with childhood sexual abuse?

Hi everyone,

First posting here, and I hope this is the best forum category. Sorry for the length.

My girlfriend and I have had a suffering sex life in the past year or so, and she's confident that it stems from her personal problems with sexual abuse that occurred when she was young (probably 6-10 years old?). Her grandpa was responsible, and he served some jail time, but her grandma (who she's still close to) didn't get rid of him - they're still together 20+ years later. She never told her father because she feared how he might react to her grandpa, and her mother knew but never really took the initiative to talk to her about it. She basically had to fend for herself, not wanting to cause a bigger rift in the family by dealing with it openly.

We've been together for 7 years and I've known about this for most of that time, but she's a strong person and seemed to have learned to cope with it, and it didn't start to cause any problems or affect our sex life until more recently. We're not sure why it became a problem again - i.e. there was no obvious "trigger event" to bring these feelings back up - but her theory is that she dealt with this as a child, again as a teen, but has never really learned to deal with it as an adult. She's talked to her aunt, who was also a victim of her grandpa, and that's helped somewhat, although she doesn't see her aunt as much of a role model.

She just seems to have become thoroughly disinterested in sex, and has also expressed guilt and a sense of pressure because she fears that I resent it or will soon become disinterested in her. That's not true, as we otherwise have a very strong and healthy relationship, but I would like to help her get over this hurdle.

I have no history of sexual abuse and while I really want to help her through this, I just don't know where to begin. I've done my best to listen and console her, but I don't have any advice to offer, and money's tight so I can't help get her in touch with a therapist, at least not for several more months.

Has anyone else had similar experiences, have any advice to offer, or other input? I'm mainly looking for a way to help her "start the healing" when we don't seem to have many resources but books and the internet at this point. I think even a good book would help her to confront some of these emotions, and I've searched but I can't really tell one from the other. I'm just recovering from an anxiety disorder and my biggest help (aside from medication) was found in a book, so I hope that maybe there's something like that out there for her situation.

Thanks in advance for any help.

David

 
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Old 02-22-2007, 12:43 PM   #2
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try-ink HB User
Re: How to help girlfriend cope with childhood sexual abuse?

She's been through a lot........

You are doing the right thing...by listening to her.

I've heard somewhere.....that there is an hotline. It's free, and it's for Victims of sexual abuse.

Sorry..I forgot the number. Maybe, you can help her..by doing a search on it, or looking through the yellow/white book.

 
Old 02-22-2007, 02:05 PM   #3
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Re: How to help girlfriend cope with childhood sexual abuse?

Hi, David -

I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. My span of abuse was from age 5 to approximately age 12 or 15. I had four perpetrators (father, mother, brother, and grandfather). Two of them (father and grandfather) are dead and the other two are alive. I'm married (7.5 years now) and the best way my husband has helped me is by helping me to feel safe and stay in the present, not just during sex, but in general. Sex (and probably intimacy as well) in and of itself is a trigger for your girlfriend because it doesn't feel safe for obvious reasons. I still have trouble just cuddling with my husband because my experience as a child was that getting close meant getting hurt. I totally understand the guilt she feels about not wanting to have sex. I've felt the same way about my husband. Even though I've come a long way, I still sometimes feel obligated to have sex with him even if I don't want to at a particular time. IMO, though, I don't think she really dealt with it as a child or as a teenager. What she probably did is survive using various coping mechanisms. However, now that she's an adult, those same coping mechanisms don't work anymore and it's time to actually work through it and deal with it. Her childhood and innocence were stolen from her and there are a lot of open wounds. Healing is a very painful process but well worth it. I totally understand the financial problems, we have them as well. But, maybe you could find a therapist that offers reduced fees? My therapist only charges me $30/session because that's all that we can afford. Her normal fee is $150/session so that's a huge discount. There are therapists out there that do this, it just takes some digging on your part. Also, please, PLEASE (I can't stress this enough!), find someone that is trained in childhood sexual abuse issues. It can be very damaging to her if they don't have the right background to help her. In the meantime, there are some excellent books out there on the subject. A couple that come to mind are, "Beginning to Heal" by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis and "The Courage to Heal" by the same authors. I personally have read, "The Courage to Heal," it helped me tremendously. Keep posting. I know it's hard seeing the one you love go through this. Remember, you need support, too, though. I'm on these boards alot and would like to help in any way I can. Take care.

Last edited by kittywitty; 02-22-2007 at 02:30 PM.

 
Old 02-23-2007, 09:51 PM   #4
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Re: How to help girlfriend cope with childhood sexual abuse?

wow i dont know what to say. im sorry for your partner david and for you kittywitty for what you went through, i cant imagine anything worse for a child.
i have a friend who went through it as a child with her grandpa and my partner through his childhood and me as an adult.

my friend and partner are fine now. friend is married and just had a beautiful baby girl. i know it took my partner many years to get over what happened and finally did when the offender was put in jail. but remember there will always be scars.

david you are doing the right thing by talking to her and being there for her. you must care about her and love her very much and im sure she is aware of this. give her as much time as she needs before you make love again, let her know that you want her to tell you or let you know when she is ready. and do get her a good therapist

 
Old 03-07-2007, 11:51 AM   #5
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Re: How to help girlfriend cope with childhood sexual abuse?

Hi everyone,

Sorry for the delayed reply but thank you *so much* for your feedback. That really helps, and I'm very grateful.

try-ink:
Thank you for that suggestion. I'd thought about that, but I wasn't sure whether those kinds of hotlines were also meant for adults seeking help to cope, or if they were more targeted at recent victims who wanted to report specific people or crimes. I'll definitely look more into that in the phone book and on the Internet - I'm guessing that there has to be some sort of organization that is prepared to help. Thanks again!

kittywitty:
Thank you so much for all of your input and offer to help. I'm very sorry and saddened to hear about your personal struggles - but I'm honored that you're willing to share your experiences and what you've learned. I took your advice and ordered "Beginning to Heal" - it just arrived today. I'm also hoping to get "The Courage to Heal," but I understand that it's more comprehensive and advanced than "Beginning..." so I'm eager to hear how my girlfriend responds to this book first. Within a few months, we are going to have more money, and I will be looking for a good therapist that can help my girlfriend out. I will be sure to consider only those people who have specific training for childhood sexual abuse issues - thank you again for stressing that, as I hadn't considered that point yet.

I was also interested by your point about the coping methods - I think you're absolutely right. As far as I know, my girlfriend did not receive much (if any) professional help, and certainly not on a consistent and/or ongoing basis. Therefore, I would be surprised if she really had learned much except for how to cope in her own way. She's remarkably well-balanced and stable as a person, though she does have occasional minor breakdowns related to this, and that's got to be her raw emotions coming through in a way that she hasn't learned how to handle properly.

Considering my own experience with an anxiety disorder, I learned that half the battle was already won once you learned about and really began to acknowledge and accept the problem. I realized that I could put a name on my problem, that I was very much not alone in dealing with it, and that there were plentiful resources for learning to overcome the disorder's hold on me. I'm hoping that my girlfriend's healing experience will be much the same, and that she'll feel a huge catharsis just through beginning to read and learn about the problems and emotions that she's held under the surface for so long.

Thanks again for your eagerness to share and help. I will definitely continue to post as we begin to work through the process.

MissMaestro:
Thank you for your input and support! I do love my girlfriend very much, and I only want to see her emotional wounds heal. I've known about this since shortly after we starting dating, but since I had no personal experience or even awareness of any friends or family that had been abused, I was relatively naive about the problem for quite some time. I think what confused us both was that it had never been an issue in our relationship until within the last year or two. We went through some hard times (for unrelated reasons) in the past few years, and both of us underwent some issues with anxiety and depression. I think that in the end that has brought us closer together, but we're still dealing with those problems and are looking for ways to confront them more directly. My anxiety disorder is largely gone but her problems from past sexual abuse are continuing to surface and get worse. She helped me greatly through my ordeal, and I'm really hoping to be there just as much for her through her ordeal.


Thanks again, everyone - I hope to post an update before too long.

 
Old 03-09-2007, 06:11 PM   #6
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Re: How to help girlfriend cope with childhood sexual abuse?

David.......any advice that I would have given has already been given, but I just wanted to tell you that your girlfriend is so lucky to have you in her life. You seem like a wonderful man and I wish you both all the best.

 
Old 03-09-2007, 09:18 PM   #7
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Re: How to help girlfriend cope with childhood sexual abuse?

David -

You're so very welcome, glad I could help. She is very lucky to have you. There are alot of guys who couldn't/wouldn't deal with something like that. It's alot of hard work and my marriage hasn't always been a white picked fence. It's been pretty rough at times, but he's stuck with me through thick and thin. You are a wonderful guy to stand by her and help her work through it. It's a rough road, but it's so worth it. You did the right thing by getting the books for her. I think she'll really enjoy, 'The Courage to Heal'. It really helps to read others experiences and to know that you're not alone. Sadly, the reality is that it happens to an awful lot of people (too many really). In addition to the therapy, it might be helpful (but only when she's ready) to seek out a sexual abuse support group or better yet therapy group for sexual abuse survivors. I went to two therapy groups for many, many years and they were paramount in my recovery.

Last edited by kittywitty; 03-09-2007 at 09:29 PM.

 
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