Support for Partners of Child Sexual Abuse Survivors
Child sexual abuse impacts relationships
The violation of childhood sexual abuse affects not only the survivor him/herself but also the relationship with a partner. The profound betrayal of trust that occurs when a child is sexually abused often creates a ripple effect of disruption and mistrust that extends into close adult relationships creating barriers to emotional and physical intimacy.
The unique needs of partners
Quite often, the needs of the partner are overlooked as the survivor struggles to work through the pain of sexual abuse. Partners may often find themselves balancing between the empathic desire to help and support their survivor partner and feeling neglected or even resentful that their needs are overshadowed in the relationship.
Many partners of survivors find that seeking out their own support through individual therapy with a knowledgeable therapist is helpful to provide a space to focus on their own personal and relationship struggles.
Partner Support Group
It is of particular value to join a support group for partners of survivors. Joining with other partners who are also dealing with the effects of childhood sexual abuse in their relationship can offer safety, validation, education, and support.
The Partner Support Groups at Shepherd’s offer partners a way to focus on their own needs within the context of their relationship with a survivor. Many partners find that the support and validation of the partner support group is invaluable in maintaining their own stability as their partner deals with the effects of childhood sexual abuse.
Shepherd’s has been a pioneer in acknowledging the unique needs of partners of survivors by offering a partner support group. This group is open to all partners of survivors whether or not your partner is an active client at Shepherd’s.
The format of the group includes sharing time, an educational component, and time to ask questions, all in a supportive space.
The partner support group meets on weekday evening for successive 6-week cycles. Group members can continue on to the next cycle, and new members can join the group at the 6-week break.
For more information about the group and our resources for partner support, contact our clinical coordinator, Brook Avidon, at 206.323.7131
Love Among the Ruins:
The impact of child sex abuse on relationships
Shepherd's Counseling Services was featured in the October 2008 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine as a pioneer in providing support for partners of survivors of childhood sexual abuse in an interview with Janice Palm, executive director.
Shepherd's has received a flood of responses from survivors and partners from across the U.S. and Canada reaching out for help and information about services. This tremendous plea for resources demonstrates how vital it is to help partners recognize and understand the damaging effects of childhood sexual abuse on relationships, and the need to gather their own support during the difficult and often long process of healing.
As Janice Palm says in David France's Special Report on sexually abused men and support for their women partners:
"Typically there is such shame and inadequacy attached to the abuse - it's the child logic of 'I feel bad, I am bad,' 'I feel dirty, I am dirty' - he likely doesn't want you to see him that way. Or he may be hesitant to expose you to the horror of what happened to him...When you see someone you love suffer and become vulnerable, it's very hard to take care of yourself - but it's crucial for both of you."
- Read "Was a Man in your Life Abused" (Sidebar article featuring Shepherd's Executive Director Janice Palm)