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Supporting Your Wife After Rape or Sexual Abuse

Posted Aug 24 2008 6:16pm
One woman in three will be raped or abused as a child. Odds are, men, that your wife could be one of them. People who have been through sexual abuse display symptoms of anger, flashbacks, disassociation, guilt, grieving, lack of trust, low self esteem and more.



Victims of abuse need intense support in order to work through their pain and shame. Unfortunately many men seem to think that women should just "toughen up" and get past it. What many men, and anyone who hasn't been through abuse, don't understand is that you can't just get past it.



After speaking with many men who are married to women with wives who were abused as children, and speaking with some wives about their experiences, I humbly offer the following suggestions for supporting your wife:



Listen. Most victims of sexual assault won't want to talk about or do anything about their abuse at first. They need to know someone will listen to what happened to them, and believe them without judging.



Be patient. One friend of mine told me that his wife waited for years before she was willing to seek counseling, let alone confront her attacker. During this time their marriage suffered from the stress of dealing with the assault, but he was kind and loving to her. Eventually she was able to work through her problems and they now enjoy a happy marriage.



Don't push your spouse into intimacy. Victims of sexual trauma can go for years without experiencing aversion to intimacy. I'm not a psychologist, but what it comes down to is disassociating from the event. After a while a victim may let their guard down, and that's when they start to feel scared. You may notice that your spouse suddenly becomes averse to sex or touching. If this is the case, then you must be patient and allow things to proceed at her pace - even if that means forgoing sex for a while.



Be fiercely loyal. Some men like to make fun of their wives when out with the guys. Don't do this. When someone says something disparaging about women, say something complimentary. If someone makes a comment about your wife in particular, step in and make sure that person knows it is not okay to disparage your wife. When your wife knows that you are loyal to her, she will be more likely to trust you and your marriage will benefit because of it.



Avoid pornography. Linked to rape, abuse, incest, and a host of other evils, pornography is an insidious problem that causes women to be victimized and wives to despair .



Empower your spouse. Help her get counseling. Help her confront her abuser, but do it in her time and at her pace. Visit www.rainn.org for more details on how to help victims of sexual abuse.



A final note to women everywhere: You can get past your abuse experience. Healing is available, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Find the courage to seek that healing.
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