What comes first to your mind of the phrase “victim of a sexual abuse”? Probably a young, suddenly raped woman. When we come across boys or men, how often do we even think that they might as well be victims of sexual abuse.
There are many myths about sexual violence among men. We might think that a man should be strong and capable to defend himself. That a man is not a victim. But gender does not make anyone more durable or capable. Sexual violence can be experienced by anyone, regardless of gender, sexual orientation or age. Sexual acts against a child are always violence.
Victims of sexual violence may feel that they need help, but at the same time they might fear that no one will believe them and how others will react to the information. That is why it is important to stop, listen and face the facts.
Victims of crime often feel guilty and ashamed. Feeling guilt serves as a safeguard for a complete sense of helplessness. It takes enormously courage and mental effort to say out loud that ‘I have been sexually abused’.
It is not always easy to identify sexual violence and the victim is easily accused of what happened. Unnecessary guilt and shame can prolong or hinder seeking help and justice.
When your partner is sharing something this huge with you, first of all remember that it is a great gesture of trust. He trusts you so much he wants to share with you this big burden he has been carrying. He must be sure that you believe in him because he may doubt what he has experienced.
Tell your partner that you believe in him and that you are sorry for what happened to him. Listen, but don’t push him for more information. Tell him that you appreciate him sharing this burden with you. It was done right and boldly. Tell him that it is not his fault – what has been done to him is wrong. Tell your partner that you want to help and support him. Tell him he won’t be alone.
Sexual violence is deeply wounding. Never compare the abuse to other bad things in the world. The victim of the sexual abuse should be told that he is not the only one who has been subjected to abuse, but should not be disparaged either.
Experiencing sexual abuse / violence is a shocking event that causes physical, mental and psychological reactions in an individual. Going through the event is often an overwhelming task and therefore the victim of sexual abuse often needs professional help. You should encourage your partner to seek for professional help and make it clear for him that you will support him no matter what. Keep in mind that you may also need outside help to clarify your feelings.
Vilhelmiina Välimäki is a a Clinical Psychologist at Willingness Clinic. She works both with children and adults. You can contact her on firstname.lastname@example.org or on 79291817