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Lilo777's avatar

My boyfriend revealed that he was sexually abused as a child?

Asked by Lilo777 (109 points ) September 30th, 2012

My boyfriend and I have been together for about a year, and from the beginning he told me that he had kind of a “rough childhood” and I know he went through a period of depression in college. He just recently revealed that this was because he was sexually abused from the age of 7–10 – he wouldn’t say much, just that he was fondled and forced into oral and anal sexual acts. He wouldn’t tell me who (He said “there’s too much at stake”), though I think from his answer it might have been a family member or close family friend. What I want to ask you guys is how should I handle this situation… I’m kind of afraid now that I’ve done something or will do something (on the intimate side) that’ll upset him or bring back unpleasant memories. I’m afraid that I’ll say something that will make things worse.

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10 Answers

nofurbelowsbatgirl's avatar

Sweetheart, all you can do is listen and offer a shoulder. The very fact that he told you means he trusts you. I think he would tell you he was uncomfortable if he was with what you were doing intimately. Never use what he told you against him and let him bring it up. If it starts to cause a problem he may need counseling and you can suggest that. My husband also had a bad past and this is what I did I never pushed the subject and I let him do the talking and I consoled and supported him and when it got out of hand I suggested counseling which helped him. Good luck.

zenvelo's avatar

I like what @nofurbelowsbatgirl says about his trusting you. You don’t need to do anything more for him other than be there for him to talk.

Even if he feels he is “dealing” with it, I’d suggest to him to talk to a professional about it. And talk to someone now when it is not disrupting his life instead of in the future when it might cause him issues he is not aware of now. Find someone who specializes in abused adults.

marinelife's avatar

Ask him how he wants to be supported and then follow his lead. Here is a book that might help you.

If the conversational climate is good, you could also ask him if he felt that he dealt with it OK or if it was still affecting his life. Tell him that therapy can be a big help.

Has he done any reading? The Courage to Heal is an excellent book.

JLeslie's avatar

I would tell him how much it means to you that he confided in you, and that any time if he wants to talk about it you are always there for him. Be honest that now you are concerned that you might do something that could trigger his feelings, and you want him to know he can always stop you or tell you if something you are doing is upsetting. Don’t sit around just worrying about it, give him the opportunity to tell you, let him know he should not worry about hurting your feelings when it comes to this. Strong communication is important here.

As a side comment, I think don’t push him to tell you who did it.

CWOTUS's avatar

Since he has brought it up, it can’t be ignored or pretended not to exist. It’s there, and it has bothered him. Now it bothers you, too. Rightly so.

You can’t try to walk on eggshells for all of the time that you’re with him. If you’re going to have a successful long-term relationship with him, then this has to be brought into the open, probably including names and specifics – no matter how much that will upset you to hear, or him to say.

It may be that he has told you just to test the waters, to see if that little bit of news will send you running. If the topic is upsetting, painful and embarrassing to him – as I would expect that it naturally would be – then it is a mark of his trust in you to have shared it. Assuming your identity is very anonymous here on Fluther, I recommend that you not discuss this topic with anyone else not in his presence. That would be a huge breach of trust. (Even if the relationship falters and dies, as many do these days, it is a huge mark of decency on your part never to divulge his painful secrets.)

So now you have to:
1. Live up to his trust,
2. Decide where you think the relationship should go, and
3. Let him know – if you plan for this to be a long-term and deeper relationship – that you’ll have to talk more about this in the future, at his pace. You should also reserve the option to obtain professional counseling – for both of you – because now you have to deal with this, as well.

Good luck to you both.

wildpotato's avatar

I agree with that the others say, especially about therapy. However, I strongly recommend reviewing the criticisms of Courage to Heal before consulting it. This book has caused great harm in some cases.

Crossroadsgrl's avatar

It’s serious. You and he will need to get in therapy. He trusts you but it is not necessarily enough. I’m sorry to say this I’ve just lived with this situation. Be patient, love him, listen, and be prepared for therapy

augustlan's avatar

It’s a definite sign of trust that he told you, and it’s great that you want to support him. As someone who was sexually abused throughout my childhood, here are my thoughts:

Tell him how sorry you are that he had to go through that. That you appreciate him telling you, and will be ready to listen if and when he wants to discuss it in more detail. Don’t push for specifics at this point. Give him lots of love, in whatever ways are appropriate for you guys. Hugs are good, but if he’s not into that, do whatever it is that makes him feel loved.

When the dust settles a bit, ask him if there is anything you can do or not do that would make things better for him. This is the time to ask if any particular sexual or relationship issues make him uncomfortable, or trigger bad memories. Even if he doesn’t have any issues with it right now, make sure he knows that if it happens in the future, he should definitely let you know. (I thought I was fine for years, then suddenly started getting flashbacks while having intimate relations with my SO at the time.)

For now, you don’t need to know who abused him. However, if the two of you should eventually have children together, you’re going to need to know. If it’s his father, for instance, you’re certainly not going to want to ask grandpa to babysit your kids. I would gently insist on knowing before having children.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Fact from fiction, truth from diction. You are not going to do anything that will take him back where he has not left already. Unless it is something akin to PTSD you won’t trigger anything. I have met people who have been where he has, and for longer duration. Not too many people know, I gather, he told you because I guess he feels it is serious with you and you ought to know, in case he does react to something strangely. What I have observed it is the person beating themselves up more than anything else because of the way society freaks. If it is discovered rather than to start treating the person different, people should just look at it as any other bad incident of life; violent car crash, losing a limb surfing, disfigurement by fire, etc. Of, course those other occurrences was not orchestrated by another human against them, but they were were still life-altering in many cases. I see more people who lost a limb in an accident get more support of a non-pity way than those who were victims of sexual assault etc. People want to jump up up and say he need therapy as if he is damaged good that need repairing to be whole again. He can see it as “the past” and refuse to be held captive by it and make the rest of his life going forward stellar above reproach. To me he seem more broken up because he could not do anything about it because of the injury it would have done to the family, immediate or extended, personally or relationship wise. Don’t start to pity him, or treat him as damaged. Acknowledge what you know that he went through, but celebrate he survived it, who he is now, and how far he can go in spite of it.

janbb's avatar

I have some experience with this on both ends. Tell him that you want him to feel safe with you emotionally and physically and ask him to tell you if you ever approach him or touch him in a way that makes him uncomfortable. Also, tell him that you are happy to listen to him if he needs to talk about it and will support him if he wants to go for therapy.

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