Sadly, many sexual abuse and assault survivors experience the Second Wound, a combination of disbelief, minimization, shaming, victim-blaming, silencing, and ostracism by one’s own family.
In the wake of abuse or assault, this is a serious form of re-victimization and also a trauma in itself. Naturally, survivors frequently feel blindsided, confused, angry and hurt by these upside-down reactions. Understanding how the Second Wound works and realizing that your experience is, in fact, not unusual are the first steps toward healing. Reading accounts from fellow survivors’ and educating yourself about sexual abuse, family reactions, and narcissistic family behaviors is also helpful. (To join my Facebook secret support group: The Second Wound Conversation, visit The Second Wound Facebook page and send me a private message.)
It’s okay to keep your distance from toxic people
Staying away from dysfunctional family relationships can be a healthy choice and an important step in the healing process. Some survivors choose to go no contact when they decide that family attitudes and behaviors are so toxic they can no longer keep certain family members in their lives, or allow them to be near their children. Sometimes, a break from family members may not be permanent but is often needed to work on healing. For others, setting and keeping firm boundaries is the only healthy choice. The key is to make the choice that feels right for you, regardless of criticisms that may come your way.
The Second Wound is too much to go through alone. It’s important to find an understanding and trustworthy therapist who can remind you of your value, help you find your voice, offer a reality check in the face of confusing messages from family members, and walk you through the steps of protecting yourself from emotional harm. Therapeutic support groups can be highly beneficial in ways that are different from therapy alone. (They don’t have to be particular to abuse and assault survivors.) Finally, the value of supportive partners, caring friends, and–for some survivors–certain family members who care and understand cannot be underestimated as survivors work to heal from abuse/assault, and cope with The Second Wound.