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Healing From Abuse


I ’ve recently fallen in love. I’m afraid that if I tell my boyfriend I was sexually abused as a child, he’ll consider me damaged goods or see me as a victim. What should I do?

Your hesitancy about revealing the abuse you suffered is quite normal. Many survivors of sexual abuse wrestle with feelings of shame, guilt and fear. What happened doesn’t make you “damaged goods,” but rather an adult who’s trying to heal the hurt child inside. Keep in mind, though, that secrecy and silence are the enemies, and honesty is the healer. In her book No Secrets, No Lies: How Black Families Can Heal From Sexual Abuse (Broadway Books), Robin D. Stone explains that sexual-abuse survivors need to speak out about their experience and begin to move their lives forward. Sharing the truth may also move your relationship forward. A healthy relationship requires love, honesty and wholeness. Secrets only distort and damage it.

Choose a relaxing environment in which to talk to your boyfriend. Tell him about the experience, how it affected you, how you sought healing and how you survived. This encounter can be therapeutic, and his response will give you some insight into his character. You’ll learn whether he’s a compassionate, concerned human being or not. If he’s supportive, the two of you may achieve greater intimacy in your relationship. If he responds judgmentally, you could suggest that you both explore those feelings in couples therapy. But if he refuses, you may be better off without him.

If you find this situation too difficult, turn to a therapist for help. Speaking up about sexual abuse brings freedom for the survivor and an indictment of the abuser.

Send your questions about relationship, family and sexual problems to Between Us, ESSENCE, 1500 Broadway, New York, NY 10036, or via e-mail to askdrgrant@essence.com. We regret that we cannot reply individually to letter.