How to Tell Your Partner About Your Past Sexual Abuse
Relationships always start out on a high note. Your mutual attraction combined with your commonalities stirs up your feelings, while finding out about your differences and exploring the world together makes your relationship fresh and exciting. When your relationship starts to become more intimate, you may start to wonder when the right time is for you to open up to your partner about your past sexual abuse.
Being a survivor of sexual assault is, unfortunately, not uncommon. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in three women and one in six men in the United States experience some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime. Sexual violence is not only rape – is also sexual coercion, forcing, heading, shaming, and others activities. It most likely occur with someone you know, and at times even by your partners/spouses.
So when is the right time to open up to your partner about your past, and how do you tell them?
It’s important as a survivor that you are in control of when you share your story. Center yourself around your own needs and share only when you’re ready, and not before. You may need to discuss it first with a therapist, counselor, friend or support group.
Know What You Need
Know in advance what you’ll need to get through this discussion. You may need your partner to not ask questions, or to not touch you while you’re talking. Be honest and upfront, and ask for support when you need it.
Be prepared to discuss how your experiences may be interfering (or not) in your sexual encounters with your partner. Be aware and discuss any triggers and ready to discuss "safe word" if you get triggered anytime with your partner.
Prepare for a Response
How people respond to your story will vary widely. Hearing sexual abuse disclosures affect both the person telling the story, as well as the person listening. Your partner may be silent for a while as they take the information and consider what to say.
Give them time to process it. If it will make you more comfortable, you can ask them to give you some time before you discuss the matter again.
Opening up and discussing difficult, sensitive topics with your partner is never easy. But these challenging times are often the ones that create milestones in your relationship, and will ultimately bring the two of you closer than ever.
Are you a sexual assault survivor and in need of guidance and counseling? A licensed therapist can help. Call my office today and let’s set up a time to talk.
Dr. Rosana Marzullo-Dove (813) 613-8587