Molested Early: Marriage in Jeopardy-What Do I Do?
I have a problem and don’t know how to help myself. When I was about 6 or 7 years old, I was sexually molested. For a long time, I did not think of it. It was like I blocked it out of my mind, but now it is affecting me and my marriage. I finally told my husband about it and he wants to help me with this, but doesn’t know how and neither do I. I just want it to go away before my marriage does. Can you help me, please?
Dear Name Withheld,
Tragically, your experience is all too common. I know that you’re scared. I know that you’re wondering whether or not you will ever find healing. You’re afraid that lingering evils may forever darken the days of your life. You’re afraid to face others for fear that they know your deepest-dark secret. Maybe, you’re even blaming yourself—in a twisted sort of way—for what happened. Be at peace. Quiet down. Please, don’t be overwhelmed. Many abuse victims are healed and enjoying healthy lives and marriages. There is every reason to believe that you also can find healing and wholeness with your marriage both safe and successful.
I can’t tell you how much I grieve for you. What happened is so unfair and ugly. I am not surprised that you banished the memories from your mind. Most abuse victims do the same. Unfortunately—or perhaps fortunately—your hidden memories have finally surfaced. While threatening both your sanity and your marriage, their exposure finally allows you to address some the unknown-deep-seated pain you have experienced for far too long. Healing is essential and, let me encourage you, reaching out for help is the first step in becoming mentally, emotionally and spiritually well.
You may look back and see “mine fields” of feelings and emotions that quickly arise when your husband (or others) step into what I call “sexual abuse mine fields” and neither or you knew or understood why you exploded with anger or sank again into the prison of depression. In your case the land mines are just under the surface and easy for someone to step on. Fortunately, you can clear out the mine fields as you progress in your healing.
You are fortunate that your husband wants to understand and help. Your concerne about the threat to your marriage is not unusual. You are experiencing so many negative emotions and so much guilt. You are right when you say that neither you nor your husband knows what to do. Sexual abuse is one of what I call the “Big Three.” Sexual abuse, overwhelming childhood neglect, and parental abandonment need the care of a wise and experienced counselor. Healing is extra-hard to do on your own.
Therefore, I recommend that you turn to an experienced counselor who is well versed in leading the sexually abused—and their spouses—to healing and freedom.
If you can’t afford a counselor or if you are unable to locate one near you, then I encourage you to secure one of the many books on sexual abuse at a bookstore or at “Amazon.com” which specialize in helping abuse victims recover. Let me suggest several.
The first one is written by a Christian woman from a Biblically-Christian perspective. I recommend that you read hers first. “Healing Victims of Sexual Abuse,” by Paula Sandford carefully intertwines Biblical principles with the tools that allow victims to put the abuse behind them—and leave it there—as well as the tools for becoming whole again. I suppose that this book is the most widely read book on healing sexual abuse that has ever been written.
“Beginning to Heal: A First Book for Survivors Of Child Sexual Abuse,” by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis, is specifically designed for victims who are not quite ready for the intensity and scope of other sexual recovery books. “First Book” is a basic, easy to read, introduction to the recovery process.
“The Right To Innocence: Healing The Trauma Of Childhood Sexual Abuse,” written by Beverly Engel, is also a good starting place to initiate healing. Engel is a therapist who has suffered sexual abuse herself. She uses visualizations and exercises in her well written and practical book for restoration.
“The Sexual Healing Journey: A Guide for Survivors of Sexual Abuse,” by Wendy Maltz and Carol Arian takes a sensitive and helpful practical approach you might find refreshing.
Spouses and family members can have a large part in promoting sexual abuse recovery. “Partners in Recovery: How Mates, Lovers & Other Survivors Can Learn to Support & Cope With Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse,” also by Beverly Engel, is a useful resource. Also helpful is “Allies In Healing: When The Person You Love Was Sexually Abused As A Child, A Support Book” by Laura Davis.
We usually think of sexual abuse victims as being female. Of course, boys and men can also be victims. They need healing, too. “Abused Boys: The Neglected Victims Of Sexual Abuse,” by Mic Hunter examines the physical and emotional impact of abuse and the factors affecting recovery. This study explains the ways in which boys are molested and the reasons why men remain silent about it later in life.
I think, Name Withheld, that the more your husband engages spiritually, emotionally and intellectually that he will have a special part in your recovery. His patience and understanding are critical. His willingness to learn the extent of your past emotional train wreck and his loving support will go a long way to facilitate your healing. Right now you are a wounded animal who needs sensitive care. He needs to handle you with soft lovingly gloves when you strike out at him. He needs to use the soft gloves of comfort and patience when you fall into depression.
Remember that you are not the only one who is hurt by your recent revelation of childhood molestation. Your husband is also devastated. He is like a wounded animal, too. Part of your healing is to help him with his. Cut him some slack; be patient with him as he sorts out his feelings about the emotional bomb which just landed in his marriage. He needs comfort and healing, too.
Let me encourage you to read some of my other “Ask Roger: answers dealing with sexual abuse. They go into more detail which you may well find helpful. I recommend you begin with “Where Was God When I Was Raped?” and “How Do I Cope If I Have Been Sexually Abused?”
Again, Name Withheld, I grieve with you for what others did to you when you were young. Only the abused have a taste of the pain that you’ve endured—and still suffer. I have already prayed for your healing—and will continue to do so.