Coping with our emotions is difficult for survivors of childhood abuse and our support people. How can someone they love cut themselves, attempt suicide, starve their bodies, drink and drug to obsession on top of other coping mechanisms. As survivors wonder ‘Will life ever get better?’our support wonder ‘Will she live to see tomorrow?”
Childhood Abuse and Support People
It takes a special person to support a survivor. I recently heard a doctor say, “If you have one good friend in a lifetime, you are very lucky, if you have two, it’s a miracle.” This quote referenced a non-DID, non-childhood abuse survivor. Add these two factors and it becomes impossible to find and keep friends throughout the most challenging time of our lives – surviving the memories of childhood abuse as adults. We need their continued support, because we need to be able to call someone regardless of the time of day, and reach out, to say we need help. And to have that help available.
Keeping a Friend
Often, friends pull away. Some at the mere mention of abuse, others after the fight leaves them. I’ve been fortunate to have a friend who has seen me through the worse of times, of hospital stays, of sickness and despair. When I wanted to die, she held me and told me she would love me until I could love myself. Today, our relationship is stronger and deeper having endured those early days of hell.
Losing a Friend
But, and I am not alone in the experience of losing friends (and I use the word very lightly) because of my surviving childhood abuse. One will always stand out for me. Her name, Sidney, lives in the same building as me. We shared a similar interest of writing and had known each other for a year or more when I made the fatal mistake. She drank and ate in my home countless times. She knew I was a survivor, however not dissociative. When I told her I was multiple the change in atmosphere felt like a bomb had been dropped. She asked me “Are you going to be violent towards me?”
I had never shown any aggression whatsoever towards this woman therefore, why would I now? She told me she had picked up a hitchhiker one night who told her she was multiple and was in the local hospital. This person told Sidney she attacked a nurse on duty. Therefore, from this I was presumed to do the same to this woman. It was preposterous!
She stopped coming over and calling. End of relationship. A year later she started to make friendly gestures towards me, however the damage was done. Trust broken, I wouldn’t go back. What she accomplished was hurtful and upsetting. There was no need to say that to me.
Survivor’s and Family Members
Many times, a survivor’s abuser is a family member and according to the Darkness to Light website,” approximately 30% of children who are sexually abused are abused by family members. The younger the victim, the more likely it is that the abuser is a family member. Of those molesting a child under six, 50% were family members. Family members also accounted for 23% of those abusing children ages 12 to 17.”
If the family member is a parent, the other parent can turn on the child and accuse her of lying. That parent may not want to face the fact that she or he married a pedophile or may need the abuser for financial support of other siblings and herself. If the survivor has siblings she can be blamed for breaking up the home or creating chaos. This creates a difficult dynamic leaving the survivor isolated, often for a lifetime from her parents and siblings. No one wants to know that a family member is an abuser, however, blaming the victim and stating it is her fault is always wrong and untrue.
Losing friends and family leads to loneliness to the survivor, especially if we experienced close relationships with them. Loneliness leads to isolation and as we have discussed before, can lead to poor coping skills. It’s never easy to have a friend leave us, but to have this happen because of childhood abuse adds to the misery and hurt we already feel.
Survivors are strong and resilient and will overcome anything in their path, but that path to healing doesn’t need be more difficult by misunderstanding friends and family.