You Are Not Alone
Some survivors feel they are all alone – that this is somehow their fault. Talking about what has happened can be scary. Many survivors are afraid to talk because they worry that no one will even believe them. These kinds of thoughts, along with many more, are what run through the mind of a survivor. Here is a fact that all survivors need to know: you are not alone. There are millions of boys and girls, men and women who have experienced abuse at the hands of a female. Sadly, many times it is the survivor’s own mother, sister, aunt or babysitter. Sometimes it is a teacher, beloved family friend, or other trusted adult. Other times it may be a stranger.
For example Academy Award winning actress Marlee Matlin who has been on many different shows such as Law & Order, The West Wing, ER and more, reported on Larry King Livethat she was molested at age 11 by a 16 year old female babysitter.
Try to remember you are not alone and there are people and places out there that are there to help you – even if you have told someone and were not believed in the past. There are people who have talked to many survivors of sexual abuse. They know and believe these horrible things do happen and that the greatest injustice might just be that no one believed you.Not believing a survivor is a commonly reported experience among survivors. Many have reached out and told someone—a friend, family member, spouse, doctor, psychologist, etc.—and were not believed. This experience has devastating effects as is it very hurtful and traumatic to the survivor.
A show done in 1997 on the BBC called “The Ultimate Taboo: Child sexual abuse by women” stated that a survey done by Kidscape showed that “65% of the survivors who tried to tell a therapist, doctor, teacher, or other professional were not believed the first time they disclosed. Overall, 86% of those who tried to tell anyone were not believed the first time they disclosed.”
Other survivors have reported not just being disbelieved but being scorned or told they should have “liked it”. Their experience might be downplayed and they are told “it wasn’t that bad,” or told “to just get over it already,” and many other hurtful and demeaning comments. This leaves the survivor desperately trying to understand what has happened and that it is the survivors fault and not the fault of the perpetrator. The survivor is left believing the best thing to do is just not talk about it, which can be one of the most harmful things for the survivor’s recovery.This truth bears repeating again and again: You are not alone. There are people and places out there that can help. Finding these people and places can be difficult and frustrating at times as many don’t know where to even begin looking, but when you do, it can be very rewarding. You will find additional resources here to help you on your way. The path can be overwhelming and discouraging, but never forget that you are not alone.
Self care is important
Self care? What’s self care? Self-care is the steps, actions, and beliefs that allow you to take care of yourself. As you work through the trauma of sexual abuse, it is essential for you to take care of yourself—and it’s also very easy to forget to take care of yourself. Many people, including some survivors, forget how important basic self-care can be. We’ve heard it from our doctors, from the television and on the radio—diet, exercise, and sleep—we know it, but we need to make it a priority to put that knowledge into action. These things really are important if you are struggling with abuse issues. Self-care can be thought of as ingredients in a recipe. There is more than one ingredient and you need them all to really make the recipe work. There are several components to self-care and they are all needed.
Sleep. In today’s busy and often overstressed world, it’s easy to put off sleep believing this gives us more hours in the day. Sleep is essential and needs to be a priority. Your outlook on life can impacted when you do not get rest. To walk down the road of sexual abuse recovery, you will need to make rest, for body and mind, a priority.
Nutrition is another area that is often overlooked by people, but an area that is very important in helping to take care of ourselves. While everyone is different, it is important that you try and get adequate nutrition every day. Don’t hesitate to ask a doctor or nutritionist how to accomplish this goal.
Exercise is something most of us really don’t like, but is also really important in the equation of self care. Exercise, along with diet, nutrition, and proper medical care, can make tackling the tough issues much easier. This includes not just physical exercise, but also mental exercise.
>What do we mean when we refer to mental exercise or taking care of yourself psychologically and emotionally? Good question. It is common for abuse survivors to need specialized counseling and there is no shame in being involved in counseling as a way of taking care of yourself. You may not feel safe doing this right now, for many reasons, but it is is important to consider this option as soon as you feel safe enough to do so. There are many things that can be done as part of self-care. It’s important to remember that what I might find relaxing and soothing may not be what you find to be helpful. That’s ok. There is no manual on finding what works for you. It’s importatnt that whatever things you choose to do help calm you, provide the feeling of safety, and are not harmful to you. Some people like to journal, some like to do yoga, some like to meditate, and others like to take long hot baths or engage in creative outlets, such as music, art, or crafts. The options are numerous and it’s important to find something that works for you. Again, it is key to remember is to make sure it is safe and supportive of you and your needs.
Sometimes we need to be reminded that it is a good thing to say “no” in order to keep our lives manageable. For many survivors, “no” is a word that must be relearned as many found out that saying “no” did not stop their abuse. You can relearn to say “no” and it really is okay to use that world to help yourself. It might feel selfish, but this is about you and taking care of your needs. Try to not be afraid of setting limits on people in your life in order to take care of yourself, emotionally or otherwise.
When a survivor of abuse begins to sort out their needs and their relationships, it can be a difficult transition. You might not want to pull away from some people, even when they have hurt you. Many survivors experience this emotional tug, but taking care of you is the goal. Some relationships in our lives do not bring out the best in us or cause unnecessary stress and harm. Some relationships are just plain dangerous, emotionally and/or physically. This might even mean going no contact with some people while you are working towards helping yourself.
This can be hard to do, especially with family or close friends, and they might not always understand.
Sometimes, the need to have no contact can cause strain on the family, particularly if your abuser was a family member of family friend. Try to understand that when you were abused, the perpetrator(s) of your abuse gave up their right to be involved in a respect-based relationship with you. Even if it was a mother, sister, aunt, grandmother, pastor, teacher or any other such figure they still are no different than any other person and giving birth to someone does not a mother make. Respect is earned and when this person abused you they willing made a conscious decision to throw out that respect. You must do what is best and safe for you. People who are emotionally healthy will support you taking care of yourself with instilling boundaries, physically and emotionally, in order to take care of yourself.
It can be easy to feel guilty or numerous other emotions because of the constant societal messages we often are hit with. Things like “you should respect her because she is your _____ after all.” The truth is that feeling angry, hurt, confused, sad, and many other emotions towards the abuser is normal. Quite a few survivors struggle with the feelings of both loving and caring about their abuser while still feeling anger, grief, sadness and rage toward them all at the same time. This can be confusing, but it is not something of which to feel ashamed or guilt. It is normal.
How to find help
When searching for someone to help, it is always a good idea to be upfront with whomever you are speaking to that you are looking for someone with experience working with someone who has been sexually abused by a female. While there are many people who work with sexual abuse victims, there are significant differences between those abused by a male offender versus those who have been abused by a female offender. It is also wise to verify the therapist’s credentials, which can be done through the state’s licensing boards.
Most importantly, try to find someone you feel safe and with whom you can connect. Finding the right therapist for your needs can be challenging, but well worth the effort. Also remember that feeling connected and safe often takes one or more visits, but if you don’t feel safe, it is perfectly fine to try another therapist.
Below is a partial listing of some places in the US and UK that you can contact that might be able to help you locate the help you are seeking. You can also contact your local hospital, crisis center or crisis line. Always contact 911 or other emergency help lines if you feel like hurting yourself or others.
Stop It NOW!
Stop It Now! prevents the sexual abuse of children by mobilizing adults, families and communities to take actions that protect children before they are harmed.
Their Mission: To help men who have had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences in childhood live healthier, happier lives. This includes providing resources for people who care about them.
Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network
National Center for Victims of Crime
1-800-394-2255 M-F 8:30am – 8:30pm EST
National Domestic Violence Hotline
Making Daughters Safe Again
Making Daughters Safe Again
For survivors of mother/daughter sexual abuse.
For male survivors of sexual abuse
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