Sadly, many abuse, assault, or trauma survivors experience The Second Wound when they disclose their experiences: a combination of disbelief, minimization, shaming, victim-blaming, silencing, and ostracism.
This is a serious form of re-victimization and also a trauma in itself. Naturally, survivors frequently feel 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 abuse, hurtful reactions, and dysfunctional behaviors can also help.
It’s okay to keep your distance from toxic people
Staying away from dysfunctional relationships can be a healthy choice and an important step in the healing process. Some survivors choose to go no contact when they realize that some people’s attitudes and behaviors are so toxic they can no longer keep them in their lives. It may also be necessary to protect your children from their influence and behavior. Sometimes, a temporary break is in order. For others, setting and keeping permanent boundaries is the only healthy option. The key is to make the choice that feels right for you, regardless of judgment 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 others, 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), as can bodywork like yoga or acupuncture. Somatic experiencing, dance, and art therapy can also help to release emotions that are stored in the body. Finally, the value of supportive partners, caring friends, and (in some cases) supportive family members is enormously valuable as survivors work to heal and cope with The Second Wound.