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Author Topic: Signs of Abuse
Jim007
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I'm not sure if this would be better under the body and soul or another section, but since it has to do with my girlfriend I figured it might do best in here:

The other day my girlfriend of almost 5 months hinted to me that she may have been abused when she was younger. I got this impression because after finding out that she has an aversion to the word b**** (someone called her one in a non-serious way after she had jokeingly called them a name, but they each knew the other was kidding and it was a pretty normal high school conversation between two friends just poking a little fun at eachother), I asked her why she hated the word so much, just being genuinely curious (i will agree that it is by no means a pleasant word, but when most people hear it, especially in the context of the conversation, they don't get really upset). Well she did, and naturally I wanted to see if there was anything i could do about it and such.

Well, when she answered my question about why she hates it so much (later that evening online), she said that she "was treated pretty bad" (based on the context I'm not sure if it was one incident or a series of incidents). Of course, this was a total shock to me, something i was completely not expecting. As it was online and since it seemed like a subject she didn't want to talk about (for obvious reasons), I told her that that was awful and that if she needed anything i was here for her.

My question basically comes down to this: is this a topic i should look into (as her boyfriend i kind of want to know what type of abuse it was, not necessarily the whole story, but if its something i should be concerned about, especially if further down the road we decide that we want to start having sex. I was going to bring up the topic but now i'm definatly going to wait a while as i want to see if she'd be ready. I definatly wouldn't want her to think i was pressuring her, especially if the abuse was of a sexual nature)? I'm assuming that she was in therapy or got treatment of some kind because she is completely normal and as far as i can see everything about her is perfect (no drugs, alcohol, etc. She's never broken a law, is involved with sports, does well in school, takes good care and is protective of her body, is beautiful, and is a really sweet girl with an awesome personality ). I really love her and i'm sure that that wouldn't change if I knew what happened, but as her boyfriend i don't know if her past is something i should look into.

If it is something i might want to know about, should I bring it up with her? Would it be better to ask one of her parents (I'm pretty close with them and its a stable family environment). The only problem with that is that I know that sometimes parents (I know i would) might feel responsible for these kinds of things, or that there was something they could've done to prevent it (her parents are wonderful people so i'm 100% sure that that would not have been the case, but there may still be some feeling of guilt inside of them). Maybe her best friend might know something, although if she doesn't I wouldn't want to hint at it or anything. The major concern I would have with bringing it up directly with my girlfriend is that I wouldn't want her to have to relive what is probably the most awful experience of her lifetime.

As you can see I'm really confused about all of this. I really care about her, I want to make sure she's alright, and I want to make sure that in the future i can avoid any possibly sticky topics or situations. This news really hurt me--I couldn't sleep the night I found out or eat the next day. Since then I've tried to act normal (we've only talked to eachother in school, and that isn't really an appropriate place to discuss this. The phone would be a bit better, but with something like this i think i would want to talk about it in person).

I'm really confused as to what i should do (if anything), and how to do it. Please help...i really care about this girl.

Thanks

[This message has been edited by Jim007 (edited 05-04-2004).]

[This message has been edited by Jim007 (edited 05-04-2004).]


Posts: 63 | From: U.S.A. | Registered: Apr 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Heather
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Asking around, with friends or family, about the buse history of a current partner isn't a good idea.

For those of us who have been abused -- be it physically, emotionally, sexually -- I can assure you that we don't forget about it when no one is asking: it's all there, and it needn't be horrifying either -- for plenty, those memories and situations are reminders that we made it though and are strong survivors, and to us, while we may recognize abuse for what it is, in many ways, it's normlized for us. So, someone asking about it kindly, sensitively, and with concern and care doesn't tend to trigger anything daily life wouldn't.

Being "treated pretty bad," and disliking a term that is, by its nature, not a nice word isn't indicative of much, so it's likely best you don't extrapolate too much from there yourself.

But yes: if a partner has been sexually abused, it's certainly something that likely should be addressed before sex, especially if that person has special needs or pacing because of the abuse.

So, best to simply ask her directly and kindly if she has abuse history. best bet there is not to prod or pry, just to let her know you're asking out of concern and curiosity, and that if she has, she can take whatever time she needs to talk to you about it, and let you know only what she's comfortable with.

For the record, a lot of abuse survivors haven't been afforded therapy or counseling. While it's certainly a huge help, even without it, we can excel at the same things others can, be law-abiding, be without drug or alcohol problems, care for ourselves, be beautiful, sweet and be "normal." Most abuse survivors aren't vegetables or characters on made-for-TV movies. We're normal people.

It's also worth realizing that while empathy and sympathy are great, and yes, if we do discover a partner has been abused or mistrated, it can make us feel sad, we do need to be aware of ourselves enough not to project what we think their pain might be unto ourselves. If there's one thing I can think of that makes talking about past abuse or assault with a partner difficult, it's when they internalize all of it and put it somehow on themselves, or you have to suddenly find yourself comforting THEM over something which happened to YOU. Make sense?

But again, before you take this too far in your head, talk to her, directly.


Posts: 68215 | From: An island near Seattle | Registered: May 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Jim007
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Thank you very much for the advice (and boy was that a quick response )

I'm sorry if i made it seem as if i was stereotyping that all abuse survivors are abnormal or by nature have a bunch of problems. In hindsight of looking at my post and your response, i realized that i have never actually had any experience (that i know of) with an abuse survivor. Everything i know about the topic i learned from the radio show "Loveline" hosted by Adam Corolla and Dr. Drew. I'm not sure if you're familiar or not with the show, but Adam is basically there for entertainment purposed but Dr. Drew is there because he is actually the one that provides assistance. How it works is that callers usually call in with a problem, and many times in one night Dr. Drew will often trace back the problem to some type of abuse. As these people are the only examples i have seen of people who have survived abuse, i guess i just assumed that problems usually came along with it. My apologies for the stereotype.

Thanks again for the help. I feel much better now, and will certainly bring up the topic with her in the manner in which you suggested. You probably hear this all the time, but this site really is a HUGE help. It is much easier to ask for help from a complete stranger whom we are not actually speaking to than in person to someone we know.

Thank you

[This message has been edited by Jim007 (edited 05-04-2004).]


Posts: 63 | From: U.S.A. | Registered: Apr 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Heather
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Hey, no need to apologize. A lot of people have funny ideas about what abuse survivors are really like: and if you've never met one, or read up on it, you can't be expected to know, eh?

(And I'm not a big fan of things like Loveline and other pop cuture psych stuff. Most of it is intrinsically about entertainment, not education, and yes,it's popular and easy to put any given problem on abuse as a cause. However, that's fairly unrealistic off the air. mass media tends to be a pretty crummy way to learn about anything, really.)

Glad we were of help to you. If it turns out your partner is an abuse or assault survivor, feel free to pop back in if you need some resources to get bonafide information or support, or just hit up your local library.


Posts: 68215 | From: An island near Seattle | Registered: May 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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