One of the hardest pieces of news a family can hear is from within. To discover that a close relative you have known all your life, a member of your family, has abused another, is devastating. I know because I ‘ve been on either side of that coin, both recieving the news and declaring it to my own relatives. For the PTSD sufferer it is one of the bravest but most ambitious steps towards recovery. By breaking the silence, unveiling the secret and placing your experiences and your soul out in the open for those you love to question and hopefully understand, you are healing. The choice to tell family members that you simply have PTSD – and perhaps more significantly, what the injury which caused it was – is one that many sufferers agonize around.
Imagine if they don’t believe me? I’ll create a rift in the family. I am upsetting the apple cart. So there’s no stage causing all this heartbreak it’s in days gone by, — these are only the beginnings of various trains of thought a sufferer is likely to go through when debating whether to tell ’ or not. It is hard when the perpetrator is not a member of the family, a friend, perhaps, in the instance of of sexual abuse. But when the abuser and the victim share the same family, it becomes a good deal more cluttered. Everyone knows what you as a survivor of abuse have been through, and once the naming and shaming of the abuser is out there, there’s no going back.
So, what if you’re the family member who’s just been sat in a front room, having made a pot of tea, only to have the get-together blasted into smithereens by your daughter, granddaughter, son, neice or nephew? They’ve not slept for weeks (PTSD plus the do-I, don’t-I argument), and now they’re mutely sitting with the teacup still shaking on its saucer, anxiously anticipating your reply.
Engage your brain before you speak. Your emotions are high, you don’t know what to disclosure of abuse think, and the picture of both the person who mistreated them and the person before you has been shattered like glass on concrete. Blurting out “I don’t believe you perhaps activate an emotional flashback, ” will ostricize the sufferer, cause them to doubt themselves and their memories and make you the target of frustration, rage and damage. Perhaps you can’t accommodate the image of the accused with the accusation, but that does not mean it didn’t occur. So, think before you do and speak n’t sabotage the guts it took for the sufferer to tell you.
Please, do not go and begin a fight with the accused. It helps nobody, least of all the sufferer. Going over there and having it out will result in the abuser denying everything, retaliating, perhaps assaulting yourself or the initial victim. The victim has lost it if there is evidence that could be used in legal proceedings should they follow.
Third, remember that ‘outing’ an abuser is a very brave decision for the sufferer, and they’ll be exhausted. A game of 20 questions isn’t proper right now! To have been trusted enough to discover that they developed PTSD because of it and have suffered from abuse puts you in a privileged position. Remember that, and make an effort to refrain from asking about each detail of the abuse, the duration, if anyone else was involved, or the dreaded “why didn’t you tell us earlier?” Some of the replies won’t be clear to the sufferer (hint: notably the last one), and some of them hurt too much to discuss. The time will come where you learn the facts of the injury and the impact on the sufferer’s life since. Is n’t it.
Enough of the don’t’s. What should you do? Listening is significant; being there and taking time to hear the sufferer is the greatest gift you’ll be able to give them. Perhaps the relief of having someone in the family understand will result in an outpouring of emotion and grief. Be there for them, and allow them to know that you are available to discuss with, if and when they want. Offer support and give them the safe space they’ven’t had to vent how they feel. On the flipside, the individual with PTSD might totally freak out and not need to say another word. Listening is still significant, even in the quiet. Make the person you love feel safe and supported and free to discuss, or not discuss, not, or request help.
Do normal things with this individual. Having PTSD doesn’t define them nor should it define your future relationship with them. Take them out, encourage them to meet-ups (without the abuser present) and appreciate them for who they are. As with lots of mental illnesses, occasionally socializing seems not easy, but even if you get ignored or rejected, continue encouraging them while also letting them know it is alright for them not to join. Empathy and patience is the name of the game.
Additionally, look after yourself. Chances are the news has come as a jolt, and you’re now fighting with conflicting emotions regarding the abuser, particularly when you are close to them and understood them. It really is clear to be bewildered and upset, so take a little time to process the information. Frequently it’s helpful to talk to someone you know, about your feelings, such as counsellor or a friend. Getting an outside view from someone who doesn’t know the PTSD sufferer or the abuser can not be useless. It is easy to feel like anything you say or do will be wrong, but frankly, you know the folks involved and the way to talk to them. Trust instinct and that knowledge.
I am only able to speak from personal experience, but there’s a nugget or two of advice in this piece to allow you to hear about the abuse that can happen within.