CSA #4 : For Partners Part B

This fourth post on this blog series about Childhood Sexual Abuse will cover the second half of material for partners of people who have a history of childhood sexual abuse.

I want to make sure I’m being clear that this information I’m giving is just one fraction of what is out there. I am in no way an authority on this topic. This writing is the tip of some possibilities. This content is so complex. These are just SOME of the things that could possibly come up. My intention with these writings is not to tell you what is or is not true, but to spark a dialogue and ask “what does this mean for you?” and encourage you to ask those questions of people in your life too. Anytime information is cut down to be more digestible, it is natural that I would lose some of the depth and for that I apologize for anything that feels it misses you. Also, I am definitely not an expert in Childhood Sexual Abuse, I am saying “here is one piece, where will you go with this? Let’s get ourselves talking about it.” Constructive feedback is often the best kind, and I welcome it and I will keep going with all of it in mind because I find this so important. If you ever have feedback for me, I encourage you to bring it right to me. I would love to hear and I thank you for that.

This post will address more areas that may be helpful for partners of those who have a history with childhood sexual abuse. This can also apply to other relationships such as friendships, family, support, and more, but a lot of this will feel close to home for people who are closely and intimately involved. This is a really big topic , and is split up into two sub-sections (see the first half of “for partners” here if you’re interested). And click here for the list of all the topics I will cover.

Abusive Relationships
One of the most important pieces is to notice when a relationship has abusive tendencies. Many of us will repeat childhood patterns because that is what’s familiar to us. Many of us will also ignore it, think it will get better, think it’s okay since there’s nothing “extreme” going on. All people deserve and need partners who will relate to them as a courageous, vulnerable, strong person. These qualities of relationship below can help all of us notice if there are any abusive patterns happening in relationship, coming from either end. Although some are more extreme, noticing any of these patterns can help us see where we are with a relationship.

Physical– pushing, shoving, hitting, punching
– holding to keep one party from leaving or locking one out of the house
– slapped, biting, kicking, choking without consent (if the action is wanted and there’s consent, like BDSM play, this is a different story that I will write on in a different post)
– throwing objects at one another
– one person being abandoned in a dangerous place
– refusing to help someone who is sick, pregnant, injured
– one person being subjected to reckless driving or kept from driving
– threatening with a weapon

Sexual
– rape (intercourse / sexual contact that is unwanted or not agreed upon)
– demeaning remarks about yours or others’ bodies
– treating one person as a sexual object
– minimizing the important feelings surrounding sex
– sexual criticism
– withholding sex and affection
– name calling like “whore ” , “frigid”
– forced clothing removal / sexual acts

Emotional
– ignoring feelings
– insulted one party’s values / belief systems / identity
– withheld approval or affection as punishment
– insulting family or friends, humiliating the other
– control about money / work / making all decisions
– taking money or car keys away
– threatened to hurt the other or their family
– abused a pet to hurt the other
– punish or take their children when they are angry with the other

Separation
When we notice these patterns, sometimes there will be the urge to leave the relationship. Separating from an unsatisfying relationship can be very challenging, especially in certain circumstances. Breaking off these types of relationships can even feel life threatening to one’s body because is feels dangerous. Prioritizing oneself can be scary for many of us. Feeling lonely and lost can be part of it, even when we know we’re making room for something healthier. This limbo time can be painful and awkward.

Practice
If we choose relationships out of habit or pattern, we can break that repetition with awareness. Sometimes we have to figure out what we do not want to show us what we do want. There are probably times when many feel there is no choice about who to get into relationship with, but as self esteem grows, it will seem natural to choose and let go of relationships with more ease. Relationships, especially new ones, are a place to practice building intimacy in oneself. Relationships can be of service and worthwhile no matter their length. If there is a place to practice communication, give / receive, trust, and caring, there is a healthy basis to grow with that person.

Play
So many of us, no matter what our history, lose sight of play. Play is a crucial executive operating system that helps all of us function (if you’re curious about the executive operating systems, check out PET-C, a great model for working with relationships) !  If our play system is not online, anything will be challenging, especially recovering from childhood sexual abuse. “Work” on relationships added to recovering from abuse that often involves rage, grief, and unconscious memories coming to the surface can be too much. It’s hard for all of us to try to catch up when we’re running on empty. The first thing we lose is play, which does no help!  If you see your partner only when you crawl into bed and exhaustion takes over, both parties may forget what brought you together in the first place. If a healthy relationship is important to you, especially while one is dealing with CSA recovery, sculpting life to include play is paramount. Fun is a reward of the healing process, it may help to make sure it is included!

If you want to know what’s coming or what I started with, these are the topics I have / will cover in entirety with this series:

  • The effects in current time. Click here to read this post on the effects
  • Gender and sexual orientation stereotypes. Click here to read the post on gender and sexual stereotypes
  • Click here : For partners Part A
  • Sex
  • For kids & for families
  • How CSA can affect pregnancy, birthing, postpartum, and everything in between
  • The institutional piece (often missing from the CSA conversation)

Thank you for reading! Stay tuned for the last few posts (I’m about halfway through) and then I’ll be starting a different blog series topic next! With love, Alicia

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About Alicia Patterson

Alicia Patterson is a Psychotherapist / Dance Movement Therapist, Birth Doula, Energy Worker, Dance and Yoga Facilitator in the Boulder / Denver area.
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