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I don't tell people I was abused not because I am ashamed but because of how they react!!

(116 Posts)
SituatedDifferently Sun 12-Jun-16 20:57:07

There is a lot in the media about the shame rape and abuse victims can be made to feel. I totally get this and understand this argument. I however was very fortunate, I was seriously abuse for three years by a family member, as soon as my parents found out they did everything in their power to get him sent away for a very long time and to rebuild/ nurture me. It was a bad thing in my childhood but it wasn't how I define my childhood and they gave me the strength to deal with and go on a live a very happy life.
I used to openly talk to people about it, I gave presentations at schools, spoke at youth clubs etc, about why people should not stay silent. As I have progressed through life I have increasingly become aware that people can't seem to deal with these things if I tell them without defining me by it - a former boyfriends parents advised he split up with me as I was going to have mental health problems, my mother-in-law said when I told her (only very recently) 'well I'd never of known because you're such a good mum' as if somehow assuming I wouldn't be and former employer got me booked into counselling for no other reason other than I told him what I was giving a talk on. Therefore what I mean is, in my experience (which is likely to be different from other peoples I know) I am suddenly handled with kid gloves or treated differently - pitied I suppose. I'm not suggesting that empathy and shock aren't natural reactions but in my experience people treat me like I am damaged and fragile in some way and it has changed relationships after I have told people. I've now stopped telling people not because I ashamed or can't deal with it but they can't. I'm not really sure what I am expecting or hoping from this post but just reading all this stuff about how victims are still made to feel responsible/ashamed and people kicking off about it (quite rightly so!), I just wanted to share my experience. I've never felt ashamed, it's not come from me, but people in my experience seem to apply it to me or maybe expect me too? I'm probably not making an awful lot of sense but in truth after this happened as a teenager and into my early twenties I wanted to open up conversations about abuse, hence doing the talks, and now I don't as even sympathetic people seem to tarnish me... I am not damaged, I am not different. I had a horrid experience but through honesty and open conversations, with love and support I got through and it made me stronger - that was the message I wanted people to hear, that we need not be silent about these things and opening up makes us stronger - what I learnt was whether through sympathy or judgement it changes the way people treat you and deal with you.

AlwaysDancing1234 Sun 12-Jun-16 21:01:43

I understand. I used to feel ashamed then I got angry. I've only ever told a few people in RL and never the full extent of it but they've never been able to deal with the little I've told them.
DH has (recently) made reference to my "fucked up past" and blames it for everything.
One friend actually cut contact with me because they "didn't know how to talk to me anymore".
I don't want anyone to wave a magic wand, sometimes just for them to listen, not judge, not make it about them.

SituatedDifferently Sun 12-Jun-16 21:01:50

Sorry meant this to go into chat - will request HQ to move!

SituatedDifferently Sun 12-Jun-16 21:07:36

That's it exactly Always Dancing I would tell people the full extent but feel they couldn't deal with it. And by that being the case it makes it a difficult thing to talk about! If people who have been through these things and come out the other side find these reactions when they try to talk it is no surprise that silence is still expected. WE need open and honest conversations about abuse and rape.

TitsForBrains Sun 12-Jun-16 21:09:19

My experience is that on the very few times I have tried to talk about it, it makes people so uncomfortable that they can't even look at me and they change the subject or leave the room as soon as possible.
There is only one person who can hold a conversation about it, my best friend who has been through something similar, but that was difficult for us both.
I am damaged by it, but no-one would know.

AlwaysDancing1234 Sun 12-Jun-16 21:15:46

Titsforbrains I found similar, I can only talk about it openly with someone else who really knows but that can be difficult and triggering for us both.

RebelRogue Sun 12-Jun-16 21:17:58

I know where you are coming from op,even though my experience is very different. I was not allowed to talk at home/with family about it or it was dismissed /laughed at ( my incidents weren't as bad as yours or many others out there,but a lot of emotional abuse came after from my mother) . So i talked to friends,strangers,online as a statement and defiance really. I never stopped talking and i also mention self harm. I'm very matter of fact about it and very this is who i am take or leave it. I'm lucky though, as most people did take it...there was pity,there was shock,there was horror but that didn't bother me. There were/are even questions of "are you ok?" Even though it was all so long ago. Maybe i don't mind as i never got these reactions from the people i was supposed to.

KittyandTeal Sun 12-Jun-16 21:18:13

Absolutely I agree. When I have mentioned or even hinted that I have suffered abuse in my early teenage years the responses have just been plain awkward.

I'm not ashamed (anymore, I was for many years) but I generally don't mention it, even when it's relevant. I'm pretty out spoken about my mh issues and the loss of my 2 babies so add a history of abuse and I think people's heads would explode.

I've also found there is an assumption that you can't possibly be happy. I find people can't match the women with mental health issues and lost babies with the cheery, chatty laughing person I can often be. It's like I don't fit well into their expected box and so I confuse them.

wheresthel1ght Sun 12-Jun-16 21:20:24

From my experience I think people expect us to be broken and their automatic reaction is to find a way to fix us. I don't think it is meant to be as belittling as it is, I think 99/100 times it comes from a good place.

I was raped by my then boyfriend. I was sober (I don't drink), neither of us used drugs and I was asleep. Not sure how he thought I had given consent but there you have it. I can talk very matter of fact about it. I lack emotion regarding it. Not because I need to be fixed but because the emotions and getting angry/upset mean he still has power over me.

People find the fact I don't cry or get angry impossible to deal with. Mainly I think because the media portrays victims of these acts in a particular way. In turn that is how we as a public expect victims to behave.

JaceLancs Sun 12-Jun-16 21:24:53

I was abused and partly due to this and the depression when I was a teenager I self harmed and have visible scars which I don't hide
I'm not defined by it, have been lucky not to end up with long term MH problems and feel it has made me more empathic
Other people hang other things on it, make assumptions etc so I just don't talk about it at all
I don't need to talk about it - it's something that happened over 40 years ago - so why does it cause a problem to others?

AlwaysDancing1234 Sun 12-Jun-16 21:31:58

I find it very hard to speak to people when I've openly heard some of them talk about the cycle of abuse like it's inevitable that I'll hurt my kids because I'm "damaged".
Yes it happens in some instances but many others fight so hard to be the opposite of their abusers.

RebelRogue Sun 12-Jun-16 21:35:34

But maybe the way to dispel these myths/stereotypes/prejudices is to talk about it. Look at me..i'm a perfectly normal,well adjusted,functioning grown up,in charge of my life and my career kids etc and i'm freaking awesome at it.

AlwaysDancing1234 Sun 12-Jun-16 21:37:30

I have tried that Rebel, honestly but it's like people I've told are watching waiting for the apparently inevitable fuck ups because of my "damaged" past.

RebelRogue Sun 12-Jun-16 21:40:55

Always then those people are either dickheads or stupid. The proof is in the pudding.... They might be unable to see beyond a daily mail horror story , but you're proving them wrong every day...more fool them.

OneArt Sun 12-Jun-16 21:42:11

I've never been abused but I can see what you mean OP. If a friend told me this had happened to her then I would find it hard, afterwards, to see her exactly as I did before rather than through the 'lens' of this information. But I can imagine that this isn't what you want at all - you don't want to let it define you, and moreover don't feel that it does define you.

It's tricky. I don't know what the answer is really.

Chillyegg Sun 12-Jun-16 21:46:21

I get this.
I was sexually assaulted in the street by a stranger.
I have told very few people. But have never discussed people don't know what to say. There's that long cold silence with some people saying "really your not the type to be attacked" line. Not even my best friends or my mum want to talk about it. My mum once referred to it as a "mugging".

RebelRogue Sun 12-Jun-16 21:47:19

OneArt can you explain why? I'm not goading i seriously don't get it...assuming it's a friend you knew a while.

RebelRogue Sun 12-Jun-16 21:49:08

Chillyegg sorry but those people are dickbutts. There's a type now?

Tonis2297 Sun 12-Jun-16 21:51:05

I can relate to you op I was sexually groomed at 14 all came out and it ruined my education and put me on a very rocky path with drugs and alcohol (I'm fine now my first born brought me back down to reality) but now the only person I can speak to is DP I can't even speak to DM or DDad as they feel shameful about it (like they let it happen , but they didn't because they didn't know ifyswim) so I just don't speak about it anymore , try not to think about how that monster ruined the rest of my childhood angry

SituatedDifferently Sun 12-Jun-16 22:00:29

It is this concept of shame, not just applied by those who some how think you asked for it, but applied indirectly by those who assume you should feel it. I'm not ashamed, I put that son of a bastard in jail, but I just can't deal with peoples reactions now, esp since I became a mother, somehow it seems worse. And I totally relate to people thinking you can't be successful! I'm happily married, two wondrrful children and I career devoted to supporting vulnerable children. I've a phd in childhood services, I lecture, research and write about supporting vulnerable children, yet I feel silenced in this. Just starting this thread hasmade me determined to raise my voice again.

QuiteLikely5 Sun 12-Jun-16 22:10:51

It is nice that you have came on MN to create an awareness of these things but I really dont think it's right that you expect people should know the correct way to react when you reveal something like that.

It's not an everyday thing that people hear/discuss or experience and therefore it's almost putting them on the spot by revealing it out of the blue.

But I'm a private person and although I wouldn't feel ashamed etc I wouldn't necessarily feel the need to share something similar either

RebelRogue Sun 12-Jun-16 22:19:12

Quitelikely i don't think it's really about how people react or what they might say when they are put "on the spot" . It's how they react after (i assume ) that is the problem. You don't suddenly stop being the happy,funny,pleasure to spend time with friend, you don't stop being the hard working conscientious employee,you don't stop being the great mum just because you have been sexually assaulted/raped in the past. From most posts i gather that these are people that know them,interact with them etc so why change the way you see them just because of what happened in the past?

VestalVirgin Sun 12-Jun-16 22:55:17

*I find it very hard to speak to people when I've openly heard some of them talk about the cycle of abuse like it's inevitable that I'll hurt my kids because I'm "damaged".
Yes it happens in some instances but many others fight so hard to be the opposite of their abusers.*

There's research that suggests most abusers have, in fact, not been abused themselves, but just claim to have been to get more pity and shorter jail time, etc.

In fact, even the woman who wrote several books on how abused children continue the abuse (I think it's Alice Miller?) says it's those who don't acknowledge that the abuse was abuse, who do it to their children.

Those people really should read more, if they want to be clever. hmm

In response to the OP:

I think it is totally reasonable to not want to talk about this to everyone.

There's also the fact that some rapists specifically go after women who have been raped before. Apparently some just see whether a person is traumatized and go after that, but I wouldn't be so sure that some don't also prey on women who told them about it. That, too, is a good reason to not be too open with strangers.

clarrrp Sun 12-Jun-16 23:59:11

Firstly, can I just say how amazing and strong you are that you not only came through all of that, but that you are able to deal with it in the way that you do and have been able to speak to others about it. That's amazing. You know that, right?

I think there is an opinion about abuse victims that they are all damaged or unstable because of what happened to them. There is embarrassment and a sense of shame as if they are somehow at fault, and that's just wrong. Instead you should be proud that you have come through this and proud of the strength that you have and the distance you have come.

Fuck what anyone else thinks. Hiding away and keeping these sorts of things quiet and behind closed doors is exactly WHY it's so hard for people to talk about them now.

Don't be afraid. You have nothing and no one to answer to. And putting these sort of things right out there in every day life and showing that you ARE a capable and happy and fully functioning adult who has dealt/is dealing with the things that happened to her and not letting it ruin her life is the way to go. Sure, some people might be uncomfortable, but that's THEIR problem.

Not talking about an issue doesn't stop it being an issue.

You are amazing. Never forget that.

AlwaysDancing1234 Mon 13-Jun-16 06:49:24

I agree Vestal that wasn't my opinion, just opinion I've heard when I've tried to talk about abuse.
OP you talk a lot of sense, please keep on doing what you are doing. You sound like an incredibly strong person.

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