Family Secret - Revealing Abuse From In
One of the toughest bits of news a family can hear is from within. To learn that another has been, mistreated by a member of your family, a close relative you've understood all your life, is devastating. I understand because I have been on both sides of that coin, both recieving the news and declaring it to my own relatives. For the PTSD sufferer it's among the most courageous but most difficult steps towards recovery. By unveiling the secret, breaking the silence and placing your experiences and your spirit out in the open for those you love to question and hopefully understand, you are fixing. The decision to tell family members that you simply have PTSD - and possibly more significantly, what the trauma which caused it was - is one that many sufferers agonize around.
What if they don’t believe me? I'll create a rift in the family. I am upsetting the apple cart. It’s in the past so there’s no stage causing all this heartbreak -- these are only the beginnings of various trains of thought a sufferer is likely to go through when debating whether to ‘ tell not or ’. It is hard enough when the perpetrator isn't a member of the family, a buddy, maybe, in the case of sexual abuse. However, if the victim and the abuser share the same family, it becomes a great deal messier. Once the naming and shaming of the abuser is out there, and everyone knows what you as a survivor of abuse have been through, there’s no going back.
So, what if you’re the family member who’s just been sat in a front room, having made a pot of tea, simply to have the get together blasted into smithereens by your daughter, granddaughter, son, neice or nephew? They’ve not slept for weeks (PTSD plus the do-I, don’t-I argument), and now they’re silently sitting with the teacup still shaking on its saucer, anxiously anticipating your answer.
First, engage your brain before you speak. Your emotions are high, you don’t know what to think, and the picture of the man before you and the man who mistreated them has been shattered like glass on concrete. Blurting out “I don’t believe you” will ostricize the sufferer, maybe activate an emotional flashback, cause them to question themselves and their recollections and make you the target of hurt, frustration and rage. Perhaps you can’t reconcile the image of the accused with the accusation, but that doesn't mean it didn’t occur. So, think before you speak and do n’t undermine the courage it took for the sufferer to tell you.
Second, please, do not go and begin a fight with the accused. It helps nobody, least of all the sufferer. Going over there and having it out will result in everything being denied by the abuser, retaliating, possibly attacking yourself or the first casualty. If there's evidence that could be used in legal proceedings should they follow, the casualty has lost it.
Remember that ‘outing’ an abuser is a very brave choice for the sufferer, and they'll be exhausted. A match of 20 questions isn't proper right now! To have been trusted enough to learn that they have suffered from abuse and developed PTSD because of it places you in a privileged place. Remember that, and make an effort to refrain from asking about all the details of the maltreatment, the duration, if anyone else was involved, or the dreaded "why didn’t you tell us sooner?” Some of the responses won’t be clear to the sufferer (hint: specially the last one), and some of them hurt too much to discuss. Where you learn the facts of the injury and the impact on the sufferer’s life since the time will come. Is n’t it.
Enough of the do not’s. What should you do? Listening is important; being there and taking time to hear the sufferer is the best gift you can give them. Maybe the relief of having someone in the family understand will bring about an outpouring of emotion and grief. Be there for them, and allow them to understand that you're available to discuss with, if and when they want. Offer support and give them the safe space they'ven’t had to vent how they feel. On the flipside, the person with PTSD might completely freak out and not need to say another word. Listening is still significant, even in the silence. Make the person you love feel safe and supported and free to discuss, or not talk, ask for help, or not.
Do things that are normal with this person. Them having PTSD does not define them nor should disclosure of abuse it define your future relationship with them. Take them out, encourage them to meet-ups (without the abuser present) and appreciate them for who they're. As with bunches of mental illnesses, occasionally socializing looks not easy, but if you get ignored or rejected, continue encouraging them while also letting them know it is okay for them not to join. Empathy and patience is the name of the game.
Additionally, look after yourself. Odds are the news has come as a shock, and you are now struggling with conflicting emotions regarding the abuser, particularly when you are close to them and understood them well. It really is understandable to be confused and upset, so take a little time to process the information. Frequently it's helpful to speak to someone you know, about your feelings, such as a friend or counsellor. Getting an outside perspective from someone who doesn’t know the abuser or the PTSD sufferer can not be useless. It's not difficult to feel like anything you do or say will be wrong, but honestly, you understand the folks involved and the way to talk to them. Trust instinct and that knowledge.
I can only speak from personal experience, but there’s a nugget or two of guidance in this piece to assist you to hear about the abuse than can occur within.